These date filled cookies were my favorite of grandma’s treats when I was a kid. My new version is gluten-free, egg-free and has no added sugar. Dried medjool dates provide all the sweetness these cookies need.
One of my grandmothers came from Aleppo, Syria. She cooked amazing, elaborate feasts around the holidays for my large extended family. There were hand made noodles, stuffed zucchini, perfect meatballs and pastries, including these date filled cookies which we called “half moons” – in Arabic they are erass b-adjwah.
These date filled cookies traditionally have a semolina flour (wheat based, not gluten-free) and flour, almost shortbread outside, filled with with a date puree. They are rolled and formed into a crescent. There are many similar pastries from the Middle east with a date filling.
Gluten-Free Half Moons
Over the years I have tried to find a way to make a gluten-free version of these “half moons.” Semolina flour gives the dough a slightly rustic, grainy texture, but semolina comes from wheat. So I have experimented with corn meal to try to create that same texture.
I finally came up with a dough that is pliable enough, can be rolled out and has the right taste and texture. The magic formula is a combination of a gluten-free flour mix, a little corn meal along with cornstarch to help with binding.
A little vegan yogurt (Kite Hill Almond Milk Yogurt highly recommended) worked well to add more moisture. Since gluten-free dough is more difficult to manipulate, I fold the dough creating a pocket, instead of a crescent. Other than the shape, the resemblance is remarkable.
Gluten-Free Flour – I tested this recipe with several different gluten-free flours for baking and it worked best with King Arthur Flour’s Measure for Measure Flour. Cup4Cup (best price usually at Target) and Pamela’s Artisan Blend are similar and should work well too.
If you prefer to mix up your own gluten-free flour, see the notes in the recipe for a simple DIY gluten-free flour blend or my blog post on gluten-free flour mixes. It takes a little extra time, but it is a huge cost saver.
The date filling has just a few ingredients including dates, orange, cinnamon and salt. That’s it, no sugar added! The naturally sweet dates, the tang of orange, pop of cinnamon and salt are a perfect flavor combo. My grandmother added pine nuts but they have gotten out of control expensive, so I leave them out. Chopped walnuts are a good substitution if you like some texture in the filling. Add 1/4 c chopped walnuts to the pureed date mixture.
Rolling Out the Dough
I have tried to provide helpful tips to make sure that your dough is the best consistency for rolling out. Different brands of gluten-free flour and weather may cause different results. So don’t hesitate to work in a little flour if it is very sticky or a little vegan yogurt if it is too dry. Just be sure to add A LITTLE at a time. One teaspoon can make a huge difference.
To avoid adding too much flour, I put the dough on a lightly dusted kitchen silicone mat, then top the dough with a sheet of plastic wrap. This will keep it from sticking to the rolling pin and make your life much easier when making these cookies!
Be sure to check out my full list of gluten-free cookie recipes including my chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free chocolate mint cookies and my most popular gluten-free butter cookies.