Date Turnovers


Freshly baked, these date turnovers make a highly satisfying morning pastry or dessert. The date filling adds almost all the sweetness for these little pockets of love.  My grandma's family called this recipe "Araz." Sometimes they would make them without any filling at all, and eat them with Armenian string cheese on top. 

I had a difficult time finding any other recipes quite like it, although I finally discovered a similar one with a different spelling called "Aros" in Sitto's Kitchen Cookbook. This cookbook contains a collection of Syrian recipes from the same region that my grandmother's family came from (in Aleppo, Syria). Although my own grandmother married an Armenian, my grandmother's mother was half-Syrian and half-Armenian, so our family recipes are influenced by both cultures and the region in which they lived.

What Ingredients Do I Need to Make Date Turnovers?

Since I know that many of these ingredients may be more difficult to find in a regular grocery store, I have provided links to show what you are looking for.

Some improvisations could also be made. For example, you could substitute Cream of Wheat for plain "farina." You could process pitted Medjool dates in place of date paste. Mahlab, which is made from ground cherry seeds, has a unique flavor, but you could try substituting cinnamon, which wouldn't have the same taste, but would also impart a nice flavor.  In place of rose water, you could try orange zest. 

Is clarified butter necessary?

Although I am tempted to say "no," because clarified butter does have a more authentic, nuttier taste and has a lower smoke point, which allows these Date Turnovers to be baked at a high temperature, I know that it clarifying butter is sometimes a step we want to skip in a rush.  If you're planning to eat these right away, you could probably get away with just using regular butter.  Keep in mind that baked goods made with clarified butter also preserve better because they lack the milk solids. And clarifying butter is very easy:

Cut the butter up and warm it in a saucepan.  Simmer on very low without stirring the butter for a few minutes.  The clarified butter with have three layers: milk solids on bottom, pure clarified butter in middle a.k.a. "liquid gold" and the frothy whey proteins on top. Carefully pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer just until the point and before the milk solids pour through.  Leave those in the saucepan.  Alternatively, you could pre-skim the top layer of whey with a fine mesh skimmer spoon before pouring the clarified "liquid gold" portion into another container. This is the method that I prefer. The milk solids could be saved for other cooking.  They would be good tossed with pasta, vegetables or popcorn. 

How Do I Make Date Turnovers?

First, mix all of the dry ingredients together. Then, gradually add warm water and knead together until the mixture is the consistency of a typical bread dough. Add the melted clarified butter and knead until the butter is incorporated into the dough. Don't over knead the mixture. Let the dough rise in a bowl for 60-90 minutes or until about double in size.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. First, chop the walnuts finely. Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Roughly chop up date paste.

Add dates, rose water and walnuts (if desired)  to pan and stir with melted butter.  It may help to place the lid on the pan and turn off the heat for 5 minutes to help soften the date paste without drying out the filling. Then, remove the lid, turn the heat on low again and stir until all the ingredients are combined.  Finally, remove the date filling from the heat and cover until ready to fill turnovers.

Roll dough until about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Use a round container about 4 1/2 inches wide to cut the dough into circles, as you do with sugar cookies. (I used a mini food processor container, which I also used to chop the walnuts finely.) Re-roll the excess dough and cut out more circles.  You can also roll the remaining dough into balls and then roll those balls flat. 

Take a heaping teaspoon of date filling and place just above the center of one of the circle cutouts.  Fold dough in half, sealing the rounded side of the half moon by pinching the dough between your thumb and index finger. Take the tines of a fork and press around the edges on one side.  Lay this side down on a baking tray, covered with parchment paper.

Let the dough rest, covered with greased plastic wrap for another 45-60 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and use the tines of the fork to decorate the top edge of the turnovers just before baking. (If you do this before it rises, the decorative effect will mostly disappear.)

Bake turnovers in the middle of the oven heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit until lightly golden, approximately 15 minutes. Start checking at 12 minutes so they don't overbake.

Serve Date Turnovers warm for best experience.  You can also freeze leftovers and warm in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes. They are also great reheated in the microwave. Serve for dessert or breakfast!

Note: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I could earn a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.



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