Assyrian Holiday Cookies (Kileche/Kleicha)
Servings Prep Time
150pieces (approximate) All Day!Clear your schedule!
Cook Time
30minutes per batch
Servings Prep Time
150pieces (approximate) All Day!Clear your schedule!
Cook Time
30minutes per batch
Kileche Dough
Walnut Filling
Coconut Filing
Date Filling
  1. Mix yeast into warm milk and sprinkle with one tablespoon sugar, set aside.
  2. Add 10 cups of flour to a large bowl. (I use a bowl that my mom used to make her kileche in. Since it’s made of metal, there’s no chance of me breaking it with my clumsy ways. I hope to one day pass it down to my daughter, Nena. Maybe one day she will attempt baking)? Mix in the remaining dry dough ingredients.
  3. Add melted butter and mix in with your hands, until crumbly.
  4. Work in milk, followed by the yogurt.
  5. Add the beaten eggs and knead by hand, until the dough is soft and smooth, approximately 10 minutes.
  6. Score with a Cross, cover, and allow to rest for one hour. (Christians have been persecuted in the Middle East throughout history. Mom shared that a cross was scored into the dough to symbolize that their faith could not be shaken).
  1. While the dough is resting, prefare the fillings. Mix the ground walnuts with the sugar and cardamom and set aside. Do the same with the coconut filling ingredients. The rose water helps the dry coconut to bind together, making it easier to work with. It also adds that classic rose flavor.
  2. For the date filling, heat vegetable oil in a small pan. Add the date paste (see note below the recipe about making your own). Sprinkle the dates with the cardamom. Stir and mix, over medium heat, until the dates, oil, and cardamom are throughly mixed. Frying the dates really brings out their flavor!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  1. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. I use one section for each filing, and I use the last portion of dough as needed to use up whatever filling is remaining. Any extra dough can be rolled into braids, and wreaths, and baked as is.
  1. To make the walnut kileche, take a small portion of dough and roll it into a ball.
  2. Flatten using your thumbs and pointer fingers. Mold the dough into a bowl shape.
  3. Fill the bowl with the walnut filling.
  4. Fold the dough in half and press the edges together.
  5. Make small folds all around the edges, as shown in the picture. Continue until all the filling is used up.
  6. Place the kileche on a cookie sheet as you make them.
  7. When you have a full pan of kileche, pierce them with a fork. Beat the glaze ingredients together and brush generously over the kileche. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove kileche when nicely browned, then get back to work!
  9. Making the coconut kileche is similar to the walnut ones. The main difference will be the shape.
  10. Once the dough is filled, pinch the dough together into a ball.
  11. With the pinched portion facing up, press into the maamoul mold.
  12. Tap mold onto your work surface to dislodge the kileche. If you don’t have a mold, shape by hand into a circle.
  13. Continue until you have used up the coconut filling, glazing and baking as you go.
  14. Remove when golden brown and move on to the date kileche.
  15. Place half of the date paste on a long sections of wax paper.
  16. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and roll out, using a rolling pin, into an approximately 9″ x 14″ layer.
  17. Divide the dough piece reserved for the date kileche into two sections. Roll one piece into the same size of your date layer.
  18. Line up the date layer over the dough and peel back on one section of waxed paper. Turn the exposed dates towards the dough and press to adhere the dates to the dough. Peel back the remaining sheet of waxed paper.
  19. If some of the date paste sticks to the waxed paper, scrape off using a spatula, and fill in the dates where needed on the dough.
  20. Roll the dough into a long tube.
  21. Pinch the dough end to seal the roll. Flatten either by pressing down gently with your hands, or use a rolling pin. Make sure the sealed side is facing down.
  22. Cut into one inch sections with a crinkle cutter.
  23. If you prefer, use a plain-edged pastry cutter.
  24. Brush pierce, glaze, and bake. Follow the same steps using the remaining date paste, and other half of the dough.
  25. As mentioned earlier, the extra dough can be rolled into different shapes and baked as is.
  26. Remove the date kileche from the oven, and take a moment to appreciate your mad baking skills!
  27. Now take a well deserved rest, as you enjoy the fruits of your labor, with a hot cup of chai, of course! Merry Christmas!
Recipe Notes

To make date paste, place 3 cups of dates in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Allow to soften for five minutes, then drain. Process in a food processor until smooth. Tell me, does it get any easier?

I managed to sneak in my two favorite nutcrackers into the blog post. I had given the male nutcracker to my mom for Christmas in 2006. The following year, we pulled it out with the rest of her Christmas decorations, and set him up on the mantle. While I was out shopping a few days later, I found a female nutcracker, dated 2006. I decided to purchase her to go with mom’s other nutcracker. Besides, what are the chances that they would be selling a nutcracker from the previous year?

Mom was so excited when I gave her the female nutcracker. She asked how I knew that she was wishing for a “wife” for her male nutcracker. Mom told me that I was in her heart, and knew what she wanted without having to say it. That’s just the kind of bond we had. I sure do miss her! If your mom is still around, be sure to appreciate every moment you have together, and show her some extra love this Christmas!

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