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Ba'abe or Date Pastries, from Clemence Horesh

Adapted from A Blessing of Bread: Jewish Bread Baking Around the World, by Maggie Glezer
Makes: about 16 date-filled pastries

For the pastry:
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup warm water
2/3 cup semolina (a.k.a. pasta flour)
1-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
140g (10 tablespoons or 2/3 cup) melted butter or margarine

For the filling:
2 pkg date filling
or
1 cup pitted soft Medjool dates
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds to coat

Make the dough: Stir the salt into the water until it dissolves. Mix the semolina and the flour, then stir in the melted butter or oil until it is well distributed and the mixture clumps together. Add the water and mix; the dough will feel very soft at first and then firm up. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two more water to make a smooth, soft dough, or a tablespoon or two more flour to firm it up. Wrap the dough in a plastic bag and let it rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Make the filling if you can't find packaged date filling: In a sauté pan over low heat, heat the dates just until they are warm to the touch, then turn off the heat. Using your hands, knead the dates into the oil in the pan. When the filling is smooth and cohesive, roll the filling up into 16 tablespoon-sized balls with your hands, setting the balls on a plate.

Shape and bake the ba'abe: Arrange the oven racks on the upper- and lower-third positions. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly flour a work surface and have more flour available. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, or oil or butter them. Have ready the date balls, the beaten egg and the sesame seeds.

Roll out the dough into an 18-inch-square. Using a 3- to 4-inch-diameter glass, teacup or cookie cutter, cut out circles of the dough. Put a slightly flattened date ball in the center of each and seal the dough around the ball. Pinching each pastry by the seal, dip the smooth half first in the beaten egg, then in the sesame seeds. On your work surface, with the seeded-side up, flatten each pastry into a 2-inch disk with a rolling pin. Punch a decorative pattern into the pastry with the end of a wooden spoon or a skewer.

Arrange the ba'abe on the baking sheet, leaving room for expansion. Bake for about 20 minutes or until light brown. Cool thoroughly on a rack, then store them in a sealed container.

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