I recently joined a bread baking group on Facebook, called ‘We Knead to Bake’. This is run by Aparna from ‘My Diverse Kitchen‘ and it is essentially a group of like-minded bread enthusiasts, who get to do a common new bread recipe every month and share their results.
This month’s selection was Komaj. These are Persian buns, made with turmeric and cumin in an enriched dough and stuffed with chopped dates and cardamom. They’re a lovely combination of sweet and savoury, and despite my initial misgivings, actually turned out to be a wonderful treat. They are apparently meant to be served with tea, and I can imagine them making a perfect addition to any afternoon tea party.
The recipe that Aparna provided is is taken from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s book, Saraban – A Chef’s Journey Through Persia. An unusual thing about this recipe is that it calls for three rounds of proving of the dough rather than the usual two. I did a few modifications when made this. I chose to go with a round cookie cutter to shape the buns, but a lot of people have used heart-shaped ones too. I reduced the sugar in the dough by a third and also avoided the final dusting of icing sugar. Instead, I opted to go for just a final dusting of toasted, crushed cumin.
For the dough:
- 1.5 tsp instant active dried yeast
- 1/8 cup warm water
- 3 3/4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg (optional)
- 3/4 cups warm milk (semi-skimmed)
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
For the filling:
- 20 dried dates, pitted and chopped into chunks (the slightly soft kind)
- 25 gm unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
- 8 to 10 pods cardamom, seeded, toasted and powdered
- 1 egg, beaten for egg wash on the dough (or Milk) – optional
- icing sugar, for dusting – optional
- Put the flour, 2 tsp of the crushed cumin, sugar, turmeric and salt in the bowl of your food processor and run a couple of times to mix. Then add the yeast and the egg and run the processor again, till it is incorporated.
- Now add the milk, water and olive oil, and knead until you have a smooth and pliable dough that’s not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl, turn to coat the dough and then cover loosely and let it rise till it has doubled (about an hour or so).
- When the dough has risen, deflate it and then shape into a round. Put it back in the bowl for a second rise till it has doubled (an hour or so). In the meanwhile prepare the filling by mixing together the chopped dates, soft butter and cardamom together in a bowl.
- Divide the dough in to 4 equal portions, and divide each in half so you have 8 portions. Working with one portion at a time, roll each one out into a rough rectangle that is about between 1/4″ and 1/8” thick. Choose a cookie cutter that is about 8cm at the widest. Press it down lightly on one half of the rectangle to guide you to put the filling. At this point, brush a little water over the entire surface to make sure the dough sticks well when folded over.
- Then place about 1 tsp (more than this is not necessary) in the centre of the cookie outline and then fold the other half of the rectangle over the filling so that it’s now a covered square. try and press around the filling to make sure you get rid of any air gaps in the dough. Then using the cookie cutter cut, with the filling in the centre, cut out the bun making sure the sides are neat and well-sealed. If the sides are not well sealed, the bun will swell and open up during baking. It will taste good but look weird!
- Repeat with the remaining portions of dough, then reroll the scraps and you should be able to make four more buns making a total of 12 buns. Place them on a lightly greased baking tray leaving space between them because they will puff up on baking. Let them sit for about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Then brush them with the egg wash (or milk if you prefer) and sprinkle the remaining ½ tsp of crushed cumin on top, pressing it down a little with your fingers. Bake the Komaj at 200C (400F) for about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Let them cool on a rack a little and dust with icing sugar if you like. Serve them warm with tea or coffee. These are best eaten the day they’re made. Leftovers can be reheated and eaten the next day.
This recipe makes 12-14 Komaj.