Pecan-Date Molasses Bites are a cross-cultural, sweet finger food that I developed this year as a new addition to our holidays’ cookies’ tray. These spices spiked bites bring together two distinct worlds in one bite. I serve them in cocktails party, at tea time or for dessert.
Over the years, my holiday cookies have evolved the same way I personally evolved as an immigrant.
When I first immigrated to the US, I loved baking American cookies. They are easy to make, delicious, and practical, compared to the time-consuming Middle Eastern ones that require hours of rolling, stuffing and pinching. Cookies that call for hard-to-find ingredients.
My all American cookie tray for the holidays unintentionally mirrored the relief I felt in a place that cherishes freedom, protects human rights, respects women and values time. A place where you liberally decide who you want to be!
When the Arab Spring erupted and the unrest prevailed, I found myself drifting towards my families’ traditional cookies for the holidays. I basically felt that my roots were threatened and shaken up! In the darkest and most precarious moments, I baked Gohriebeh and ma’amoul to fill my house with warm sweet aromas and to fill me with hope! It was my way to show solidarity, and to derive strength in the face of the disheartening daily news coming from a place that was once home!
By the time the news became old and havoc became the norm, I went back to my western repertoire. It was my outlet to escape the images of war and the disappointment of an auspicious spring that paradoxically turned into a devastating tsunami.
This year, my cookie tray is different from all the previous ones. My cookies are neither Middle Eastern nor pure traditional American. Yet, they are something new and fresh. They resemble the US cultural mosaic that I proudly became part of. They scream fusion and imply self-reconciliation. They are practical and easy to make, but they have a depth of flavors and layers of aromas and memories.
The recipe I developed of my “Date Molasses and Pecan Bites” is a cross between a pecan pie, gorayebah, and ma’amoul.
The crust of these bites is inspired by gorayebeh, the melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookie known across the Middle East. Instead of using regular American molasses, I replaced it with 100% date molasses, which is delicious and reminiscent of ma’amoul, the elaborate dates-filled semolina cookies. Toasted US pecans are arranged on the surface like jewels. Exactly like a pecan pie, each bite is adorned with this intricate nut. The bites are spiked with spices that are heavily used in both the Middle East as well as in the US Southern cuisine.
Say what you will, but I am so proud of my cookie tray!:)
Pecan-Date Molasses Bites
Inspired by “Carees Au Cafe at Aux Noix de Pecan” from “Le Grand Livre Marabout”
Makes 60 bites or 24 squares
- 125 grams butter, softened
- 55 grams sugar powder
- 184 grams all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
- Pinch of salt
The Pecan-Molasses Layer:
- 2 eggs
- 175 grams date molasses
- 75 grams light brown sugar
- 60 grams butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, sifted
- 250 grams toasted pecans
- Preheat the oven to 200°.
- Butter a 20×30 cm baking pan. Cut a length of parchment paper long enough to line the bottom of the pan with extra hanging over the sides.
- Using a stand or hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream the butter and the sugar until it becomes airy, light and creamy. Fold in the flour in two portions. Gently mix with a spatula or the paddle attachment until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the baking pan. Bake it for 10 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes.
- Lower the temperature to 180°. Prepare the Pecan-Molasses layer
The Pecan-Molasses Layer
- In a heat resistant pan, melt the butter, then add the molasses, the sugar, and the flour. Mix well until it reaches a homogenous consistency.
- Add the molasses mixture to the mold and arrange the pecans on top in one layer.
- Bake it for 25 minutes or until the molasses layer is set.
- Let it cool completely, place in the fridge for a couple of hours before cutting in small bites.
- These bites could be served at tea time, or as cocktail finger food, or dessert if sliced in squares instead of bites.
- Date Molasses is available at Middle Eastern grocery store and online. It makes a healthier and tastier substitute for regular molasses and dark corn syrup.