(a hybrid from Pearl Metzelthin’s The World Wide Cook Book, William H. Wise & Co’s The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery. Special thanks to Kathryn Pauline of the blog, Cardamom and Tea, and Majed Ali, of the blog The Cinnaman, who constantly teach and inspire.)
For the dough-
½ cup fine semolina flour
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 oz. cold butter, cut into ½” pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
zest from one medium orange
1 large egg
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
⅛ teaspoon almond extract OR Mahlab* (the preferred spice, which is the small pit of a wild sour cherry ground until fine.
*available in some specialty food stores and Middle Eastern markets
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine semolina and all-purpose flour, salt, cold butter pieces, sugar, cardamom, and orange zest. Pulse several times to combine; the mixture should resemble coarse meal with a few larger pieces of butter. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of yogurt with 1 large egg. Add the yogurt/egg mixture to the flour/butter mixture, tossing with your fingertips until you have a soft dough. Do not over mix. Gather the dough together, divide it in two equal portions and shape each portion into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out. Prepare the filling.
For the date filling-
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup Medjool dates, halved and pitted
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the orange juice, dates, and cardamom. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the dates are soft. Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom water. Scrape the date mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until smooth, scrape the date puree into a bowl and let cool completely before assembling the hand pies.
When ready to roll out the dough, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fill a small custard cup or dish with cool water to seal the hand pies together. Retrieve the dough from the refrigerator.
On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll one portion of dough into a circle, about ⅛” thick. Repeat with the second portion of dough. If you do not have a mini pie mold or a Maamoul mold, use a 2½” fluted cutter to cut out 30 circles, 2 circles per hand pie. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place 15 circles of dough on the baking sheet. Place one rounded teaspoon of date filling in the center of each circle. Use a small pastry brush (or your pinky) to brush the edges of each filled circle with water. Flip the remaining circles of dough (the lids) and brush the edges with water. Cover the filled dough circles with a lid, gently pressing the moistened edges together, sealing the filling. Use a small fork to crimp the edges. Poke a few holes in the center of each filled pastry to allow steam to escape. (I used a cake tester.) Refrigerate the unbaked hand pies for 20 minutes. This will help them keep their shape in the oven.
Bake on the middle rack of the 425 degree F. preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, just until the hand pies are golden. Set on a rack to cool while you prepare the glaze.
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ cup finely ground toasted walnuts
Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cardamom into a small bowl. Add the orange juice, stirring together until smooth. In a small bowl, toss the orange zest with the ground walnuts. The glaze will solidify after you drizzle it, so use a fork to drizzle the glaze over one hand pie at a time, then immediately sprinkle with the zest and walnuts. Any leftovers should be stored in a cookie tin.