Caer Galen Midwinter Feast:
An Evening in Arabian Lands

December 9, 2000

Fourth Dish (Sweets):

Hais (Date Kabobs)

(al-Baghdadi p. 214/14) 
    Redaction by Maredudd (using many of Cariadoc's quantities) 

    Take fine dry bread, or biscuit, and grind up well. Take a ratl of this, and three quarters of a ratl of fresh or preserved dates with the stones removed, together with three uqiya of ground almonds and pistachios. Knead all together very well with the hands. Refine two uqiya of sesame-oil, and pour over, working with the hand until it is mixed in. Make into cabobs, and dust with fine-ground sugar. If desired, instead of sesame-oil use butter. This is excellent for travellers.

    2 c bread crumbs 
    2 c pitted dates -- about 1 lb. 
    1/3 c almonds -- ground 
    1/3 c pistachio nuts -- ground 
    10 Tbsp. melted butter -- or sesame oil 

    Grind nuts in food processor. Combine with bread crumbs. Chop dates in food processor; I found that they chop to a fine consistency when a half cup of the bread crumb-nut mixture was added to the bowl of the food processor with the dates. Mix it all together well. Melt the butter and add to the bread crumb-nut-date mixture.  Form the mixture into bite-sized balls or ovals and roll in sugar. 

    Maredudd's Notes: We used commercial bread crumbs which I suspect are somewhat drier than the ones that you might make yourself. The type of breadcrumbs that you use will determine how much butter you'll need. Home made breadcrumbs will require less butter than this recipe calls for. We find that it holds together better if you let it set for an hour or more. 
    (See Picture)

Khushkananaj (Almond Cake)

From Cariadoc's Miscellany:

al-Baghdadi p. 212/14

    Take fine white flour, and with every ratl mix three uqiya of sesame-oil (one part oil to four of flour), kneading into a firm paste. Leave to rise; then make into long loaves. Put into the middle of each loaf a suitable quantity of ground almonds and scented sugar mixed with rose water, using half as much almonds as sugar. Press together as usual, bake in the oven, remove.

    2 c white +1 c whole wheat flour
    1/2 c sesame oil (from untoasted sesame!!!)
    6 oz almonds = 1 c before chopping
    additional flour for rolling out dough
    12 oz = 1 1/2 c sugar
    1 T rose water
    3/4 to 7/8 c cold water or 1/2 c water, 1/2 c sourdough starter

    "Leave to rise" is a puzzle, since the recipe includes neither yeast nor water. The recipe does not seem to work without water; perhaps the author took it for granted that making a paste implied adding water. We originally developed the recipe without leavening, but currently use sourdough, which is our best guess at what the original intended (and also seems to work a little better). The two versions are:

    Without leavening: Mix the flour, stir in the oil. Sprinkle the water onto the dough, stir in. Knead briefly  together.

    Sourdough: Mix the flour, stir in the oil. Mix the water and the sour dough starter together. Add gradually to the flour/oil mixture, and knead briefly together. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise about 8 hours in a warm place, then knead a little more.

    We also have two interpretations of how the loaves are made; they are:

    Almost Baklava: Divide in four parts. Roll each one out to about 8"x16" on a floured board. Grind almonds, combine with sugar and rose water. Spread the mixture over the rolled out dough and roll up like a jelly roll, sealing the ends and edges (use a wet finger if necessary). You may want to roll out the dough in one place and roll it up in another, so as not to have bits of nuts on the board you are trying to roll it out on. You can vary how thin you roll the dough and how much filling you use over a considerable range, to your own taste.

    Long thin loaves: Divide the dough into six or eight parts, roll each out to a long loaf (about 16"), flatten down the middle so that you can fill it with the sugar and almond mixture, then seal it together over the filling. You end up with a tube of dough with filling in the middle.

    Bake at 350deg. about 45-50 minutes.

    Notes: At least some of the almonds should be only coarsely ground, for texture. The sesame oil is the Middle Eastern version, which is almost flavorless; you can get something similar at health food stores. Chinese sesame oil, made from toasted sesame seeds, is very strongly flavored and results in a nearly inedible pastry. We do not know what scented sugar contained.

    -- From the electronic version of Cariadoc's Miscellany, available on-line at:

    Maredudd's Notes:

    We used commercial bread dough due to the scale of making this for a feast; here is the recipe as adjusted for this:

    2 loaves commercial white bread dough 
    6 oz ground almonds 
    flour for rolling out dough 
    1 ½ c sugar -- 12 oz 
    1 Tbsp. rose water 

    Divide each loaf in two parts. Roll each one out as thin as possible on a floured board. Grind almonds, combine with sugar and rose water.   Follow directions as for "Almost Baklava," above (spreading mixture over dough, and rolling as a jelly roll.)

    Bake at 350 deg. about 20 minutes. 

    This is really good! But I didn't pay attention to the "seal the ends and edges" part. All the filling ran out.  

    (See Picture)

Cheese and flour cake 

From Cariadoc's Miscellany:

al-Andalusi no. 79 p. C-2 (Good)

    Knead the necessary quantity of flour, one time with water, another with oil, and to it add yeast and milk until it has the same consistency as the dough of fritters, and leave it until it has next risen. Next grease with oil a large earthen pot, stretch in it a piece of dough, and over it a bit of cheese, and over the cheese a bit of dough, and so a little of one, and a bit of the other until the last of the dough and cheese. Next cover it with dough as you did in the previous recipe and cook it in the same way in the oven. Afterwards, drizzle it with honey, sprinkle it with sugar and pepper and eat it.

    2 c flour (1/3 whole wheat)
    1/2-3/4 c water
    3 T oil
    1 1/2 t yeast
    3 T milk
    12 oz cheese
    6 T honey
    1 T sugar
    1/4 t pepper

    Knead flour and water to a very dry dough, mix warm milk and yeast, let sit five minutes, add oil to dough, knead in. Knead milk and yeast into the dough for about 5-10 minutes, until fairly uniform. Leave 45 minutes to rise in a warm place. Divide dough in about 8 equal portions, flour and pat, stretch, or roll out to size of pan (about 4"x7"); if you roll it out you can use 12 equal portions. Layer with sliced cheese. Bake 45 minutes at 350deg. . Drizzle the honey over it. Serve with mixed sugar and pepper for the guests to sprinkle over to taste. This should probably be done with sourdough instead of yeast, but we have not tried it that way yet.

    -- From the electronic version of Cariadoc's Miscellany, available on-line at:

    Maredudd's Notes:

    Once again, we used commercial bread dough due to the scale of making this for a feast; here is the recipe as adjusted for this:

    2 loaves Commercial frozen bread dough 
    12 oz cheese 
    6 Tbsp. honey 
    1 Tbsp. sugar 
    ¼ tsp. pepper 

    Follow directions above from "Divide dough in about 8 equal portions..."

    I baked this is a large pan, expecting to cut it into bite-sized pieces. Boy, was I wrong! If you're going to make this, use a smaller pan, maybe 8" x 8". The center of my big pan never did get beyond doughy. I recommend using farmer's cheese (available at Cub Foods at $3.99 a pound) for the cheese; it's a good modern equavalent to period cheese. Use white pepper in your pepper-sugar mix. It sounds a bit weird, but it really is good! 

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