The first time I came across these Sephardi biscuits was at a minyan, a prayer ceremony after a funeral, in Sydney. The women of the community brought bags of freshly baked kakas (caraway biscuits) on each day of the seven days of mourning.
- 300 g (2 cups) self-raising flour
- 150 g (1 cup/5½ oz) plain flour
- 50 g (1¾ oz) caster sugar
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 85 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 160 ml (⅔ cup) tepid water
- 50 ml (2½ tablespoons) vegetable oil
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg, beaten, for eggwash
For kakas (caraway biscuits)
- ½ tsp caraway seeds
For babas (date biscuits)
- 250 g (1⅔ cups) pitted dried dates
- 3 tsp vegetable oil
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
- sesame seeds, to garnish
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Perhaps the circular shape represents ongoing life. The next time they appeared was when Rachel sent us her recipe. Her Sephardi community – who settled in India from Baghdad – made them at various Jewish festivals throughout the year. We think it’s really great to have a recipe for one dough that makes both a savoury and sweet biscuit.
~ Natanya, MMCC
Chilling time: 30 minutes
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line 2 large baking trays.
To make the dough, in an electric mixer, slowly beat together the flour, sugar, salt and butter until it resembles crumbs. Combine the water, oil and vanilla, add to the flour mixture and gently mix until it comes together. Separate the dough into 2 equal balls and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the kakas, take out a ball of dough. Add the caraway seeds to it and knead a couple of times to evenly distribute. Divide the dough into small walnut- sized balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a thin strand and form a ring, sealing the ends together. Place on a prepared tray.
Brush with the eggwash and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
To make the babas, place the dates, oil and half of the water in a heavy-based saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the remaining water and continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until the dates soften and have a jam-like consistency, squashing them with a wooden spoon to break them up. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
Take out the other ball of dough and divide into large walnut-sized balls. Take one and flatten it in the palm of your hand to form a 6cm disc. Spread one teaspoon of the date filling in the centre. Mould the disc around the filling, seal it at the top and reshape it into a ball, making sure all the filling is covered. Pat the filled ball down to flatten it into a thin disc.
Brush with the eggwash, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and prick the tops several times with a fork.
Place on the other prepared tray and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Store the biscuits in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
• Makes 30 kakas and 20 babas.
Recipe and image from It’s Always About the Food by the Monday Morning Cooking Club (Harper Collins, hb, $49.99).