I don’t come across many traditional cookies made with whole wheat. The traditional kleeja cookie from Iraq is a tasty exception. Wheat has been cultivated in Iraq since prehistoric times and grains of some of the earliest strains, dating back almost 10,000 years, have been found in excavations there. So it is not strange to find that wheat and other grains are the basis of many dishes in Iraq. This simple Iraqi cookie has become very popular in the Arabic world and can be bought everywhere. Kleeja are crunchy cookies that are sometimes filled with date paste, but I prefer them just like this. These simple cookies remind me of British digestives but with the nice kick of fragrant cardamom. Don’t skimp on the baking powder when you make this cookie. It might seem quite a lot, but when I tried to make them with less they turned out rock hard and took forever to soften in a cup of hot tea. If you like this cookie, try my own variation: cardamom sandwich cookie.
Kleeja cookie from Iraq
For about 20 cookies
100 grams (½ cup) sugar
30 milliliters (2 tbsp) milk
180 grams (1½ cups) whole wheat flour
½ tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
75 grams (¼ cup) melted ghee or sunflower oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
In a little saucepan heat the sugar with the milk over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and take off the heat.
In a bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, salt and cardamom.
Add the melted ghee and rub between your fingertips until the mixture becomes grainy.
Add the milk and half of the egg and quickly knead into a smooth ball. Add some extra milk if the dough is too crumbly.
Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Roll out the dough into ¼ inch thick sheet. Cut out ø 8 cm / 3 inch round cookies with a cookie cutter or a glass. Roll out the remaining dough again and cut out more cookies. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Press in lines with the back of a knife and brush with the remaining egg. Bake in the middle in the oven for about 15-20 mins. until light brown. Take from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.
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