Pastry for the Elite (Shakmiyyat Al-Khawas)

Copyright (2023) from A History of the World in 10 Dinners: 2,000 Years, 100 Recipes (Rizzoli)

Shakmiyyat Al-Khawas

Serves 6 to 8  This is a rich, honey-soaked bread that is stuffed with dried fruits and nuts. Apricots, dates, and almonds are suggested, but feel free to use your favorite nuts and dried fruits.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 egg whites

¼ cup sesame oil, plus more for coating bowl

⅓ cup blanched almonds

⅓ cup dried apricots or other
dried fruit

⅓ cup pitted dates

½ cup lard or vegetable shortening,
at room temperature

1½ cups honey

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing 

1 tablespoon rose syrup 

Add the flour, yeast, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or dough hook and mix for 1 minute to combine. Add ¾ cup lukewarm water and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, then mix for 1 additional minute to develop gluten. Add the egg whites and mix until fully incorporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and set in a warm place for 1 hour to rise.

Roughly chop the almonds and dried fruits but keep them separate.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Thickly grease a 6 x 12-inch loaf pan with the shortening. It will seem like too much, but it will be absorbed as it bakes. Add the sesame oil to the bottom of the pan. Transfer the dough (which will be very runny) into the pan using a bowl scraper. Try to keep it in one piece.

Bake for 15 minutes; it should be firmly set. Remove the pan from the oven (leave the oven on) and, using a small pastry ring or cutter, the tip of a pointed spoon, or the end of a dowel, punch a parallel series of 8 to 12 holes in the loaf. Be careful, as the dough will be quite hot! Fill each hole with the nuts and dried fruits, alternating them so that they stay separate. Pour the honey over the top and tilt the pan gently so the honey covers the surface and runs down the sides. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 additional minutes. 

Let the pan cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Carefully (the honey will still be very hot) remove the pastry from the pan and transfer to a serving tray. The pastry can be served warm or you can allow it to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and drizzle with the rose syrup just before serving.