June 24, 2014

We Knead To Bake #18 : Komaj (Persian Date Bread With Turmeric & Cumin)

For this month, the We Knead To Bake group is baking Komaj. Komaj is a Persian (now Iranian) turmeric and cumin bread that’s filled with chopped dates. I came across the Komaj a little while back when I was looking for something to make with dates, as I had a small box of it sitting in the fridge. It goes without saying that I love baking bread, but what drew me to this bread in particular was the mention of turmeric and cumin, both spices that are used extensively in Indian cooking. I also happen to like cumin in breads, and the dates were the clincher.

Unfortunately, beyond the fact that this sweet and savoury bread is served with tea, I wasn’t able to find any other information about it. The recipe is taken from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s  book, Saraban – A Chef’sJourney Through Persia, and here’s what they have to say about Komaj.
“This is our interpretation of a wonderful savoury–sweet bread we tasted in the oasis town of Mahan in the south-east of Iran. Cumin is grown in abundance in the region and is used to flavour many of the local dishes, often in combination with turmeric. “
They cut their Komaj into heart shaped buns because that was the way they ate it in Iran. I chose to use square and round cookie cutters. One other thing is that this dough has three rises instead of the usual two.

It might seem odd to pair savoury spices like cumin and turmeric with something sweet like dates, but this is a combination that really works, in my opinion. Of course, there will be people who do not like this combination especially those who don’t particularly like dates. My daughter is one of those who will steer clear of dates, and she said “It’s okay” when I asked her how she liked these golden buns. Knowing her, I read that to mean I didn’t really like them, but I don’t want to say so and hurt your feelings!

The dates to be used are the dehydrated ones that are still a little soft, and can be sliced through easily with a knife.

Komaj  (Persian Date Bread With Turmeric & Cumin)


For the dough:

1 tsp active dried yeast
1/8 cup warm water
3 3/4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 1/2 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)
2/3 cups warm milk
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

For the filling:

12 to 15 dried dates, pitted and cut into chunks (the slightly soft kind)
25 gm unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered 

Milk/ cream for brushing dough
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and keep it aside for 10 minutes and it will have bubbled up a little.
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 mixture and the egg and run the processor again, till it is incorporated.
Now add the milk 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 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 n one half of the rectangle to guide you to put the filling.

At this point, I brushed a little water over the entire surface to make sure the dough would stick 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. 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 two more buns making a total of 10 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 minutes.
Then brush them with a little milk (or egg wash if you use it) 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 10 Komaj.

These Komaj Buns are being YeastSpotted!