Phoinikota are Cypriot kourambiedes, shortbread cookies, (without nuts in the dough) that are stuffed with a sweet surprise in their center. The most common fillings are either a date paste or an aromatic nut mixture. My favorite has to be the walnut filling because the cookies end up tasting like baklava.
These beautiful and tasty cookies are very similar to Maamoul date filed cookies that are common in Syria and Lebanon. A maamoul mold can be purchased on Amazon to decorate the Phoinikota. I do not have one so, I used a fork and the result was very nice. Here are some links if you’d like to purchase one from my Amazon partner:
The flavoring options are many. I like to stick to a classic vanilla flavored cookie to go with my favorite walnut filling. The sweet, floral vanilla pairs well with warm cinnamon and cloves that are in the walnut filling. However, the date and pistachio filling goes great with rosewater flavored cookies. If you’re making and almond filling, then add a teaspoon of pure almond extract to the cookie dough along with the vanilla to bring out the flavor even more.
It doesn’t matter which way you choose to make these beautiful cookies, make them, warm up a pot of tea and call some friends over to share the goodness. These make perfect little party favors as well as thoughtful hostess gifts! Enjoy!
For the cookie dough:
- • ½ pound unsalted butter softened
- • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- • 2 egg yolks
- • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- • 2 cups all-purpose flour
- • ¼ teaspoon salt
- • ½ teaspoon baking powder
- • 1 teaspoon orange zest
For the Date filling:
- • 295 grams dates, pitted
- • ½ cup ground unsalted pistachios
- • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the walnut filling:
- • 125 grams ground walnuts
- • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- • 2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- • 2 tablespoons water or rose water
- Notes: Here are some alternate flavor combinations for the cookie dough:
- • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract plus 1 teaspoon almond extract
- • 1 tablespoon rosewater plus ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C.
- Make the cookie dough:
- Combine the butter, granulated sugar, and the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until thick and creamy. About 3 minutes.
- Add the vanilla extract along with the eggs and beat until incorporated.
- Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and orange zest in a bowl and whisk together. Add the flour mixture, in a few batches, to the butter mixture while beating on low speed. Beat until a dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.
- Roll out balls of dough weighing approximately 30 grams each.
- Note: The cookies may be filled with either the date filling or the walnut filling. You can split the fillings in half to make 2 kinds of filled cookies. It’s up to you! Also, the date balls can alternatively be rolled in ground walnuts, almonds, or pecans. This recipe is very versatile. The walnut filling can also be made with pecans, pistachios, almonds, or a combination of your favorite nuts.
- Make the date filling by placing the pitted dates in a food processor and pulsing until a paste is formed. Transfer the paste to a work surface or bowl and add the olive oil. Mix until incorporated. Roll out balls weighing approximately 15 grams. Roll the date balls in the ground pistachios and set aside.
- Make the walnut filling by combining all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix together until combined and set aside.
- Fill the cookies:
- Take a ball of cookie dough and place it in your palm. Flatten it and place a date ball or a teaspoon full of the walnut filling in the center. Bring the ends in together to cover the filling and pinch together. Press it down slightly and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Decorate the cookies with the tines of a fork by pressing them into the sides of the cookie, making little holes on the tops, or pressing the tines on the top of each cookie. Get creative!
- Bake the cookies until the bottoms and sides are golden but the top should still be pale.
- Cool completely, dust with confectioners’ sugar, then serve with tea or coffee. Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!