These imqaret buns are soft sweet breads stuffed with an aromatic date filling, replicating the taste of an iconic Maltese dessert!
Recently I stumbled upon the popular Syrian dessert eaten during Ramadan, Ma’arouk. These are fragrant brioche buns stuffed with dates. This intrigued me as they reminded me of the imqaret but in a soft bun instead of being fried and crispy. Therefore, I inspired myself to create a version of these buns with the traditional Maltese filling. Basically, I have used my repeatedly go to soft buns dough and stuffed them with the citrusy date paste I make for the imqaret. The result ended up being the perfect sweet bun to be enjoyed with a warm cup of tea or some cold milk!
How to make the brioche buns?
The recipe for these brioche buns is quite straightforward, however you need patience in order for the dough to produce enough gluten in it, which will then become a light and fluffy bun. Ideally, the dough is worked in a stand mixer with a dough hook and is left to knead for a while so that this gluten develops. To check whether the dough is ready, I recommend to use the windowpane test.
What is the windowpane test?
To carry out the windowpane test, take a small amount of dough and hold it with both hands (using the thumbs and first two fingers). Gently, spread open your hands so to stretch the dough. Keep stretching gently until the centre part of the dough is translucent. If the dough doesn’t break that means that the gluten has developed and you can prepare your dough for the rising part. However, if the dough breaks easily when you open your fingers, the gluten hasn’t yet fully developed. Therefore, transfer the dough ball back to the main dough and let it knead for more minutes. Try again until the dough passes the windowpane test.
How to make the date filling for the imqaret buns?
This imqaret filling is made of a thick date paste mixed with spices and citrus. For the best results it’s best to chop the pitted dates into small pieces and let soak for about 30 minutes before cooking. On low heat then cook the dates together with the orange blossom water, orange zest and spices. Gently add some water to help the dates dissolve and become a paste. Once ready, it’s important to let the paste cool completely as this will make it even thicker.
How to shape these buns
You can shape them as you like! However for these ones, I wanted to experiment something completely out of my comfort zone! They turned out so beautiful and extremely soft! After dividing the dough into 12 equal balls, I flattened each ball into an oblong. I filled one of the edges with the date paste and added some of the chopped walnuts. Then, I rolled over part of the dough, until the filling was covered. With a pizza cutter I made lengthwise stripes with the remaining dough. Gently I folded the filled side over the cut stripes and secured everything tightly.
How to store these buns?
Ideally these buns are eaten on the same day that they are baked. However, you can store these buns in an airtight container for not more than 3 days. I like to slightly warm them up before serving if they are day old leftovers.
- 370 g strong bread flour
- 150 ml milk lukewarm
- 25 g castor sugar
- 11 g active dry yeast
- 1 eggs
- 75 g cubed butter room temperature
- 1 tsp salt
- Egg wash – 1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water
For the Date filling
- 400 g dates pitted
- zest of an orange
- 1 tbsp orange flower water
- 125 ml water
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp aniseed
- 60 g chopped walnuts optional
For the filling
- Chop the dates into small pieces and place in a bowl of water for about half an hour.
- Remove the dates from the water and place them in a pot on low heat. Keep the water and set aside.
- Together with the dates add all the other ingredients, except the walnuts, and cook gently on low heat. While constantly mixing the mixture add the water. Keep cooking until the dates break down and a thick mixture is formed. Place the paste in the fridge for about an hour.
For the Dough
- In a mixer bowl activate the yeast by adding the yeast, milk and sugar. Let the mixture foam for about 15 minutes.
- To a mixer with a dough hook, add all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix on a low speed for about 5 minutes, then increase the speed to medium and mix for a further 12 minutes. Until the dough comes away from the bowl. If you are kneading by hand, knead until you get a soft and smooth dough, after about 15 minutes of kneading.
- Form the dough into a ball and let it rest in a warm place covered for an hour until it doubles in size.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Once the dough is doubled in size, transfer it to a well floured surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and form into balls. Open and flatten each ball into an oblong. Fill one of the edges with the date paste and add some of the chopped walnuts. Roll over part of the dough, until the filling is just covered. With a pizza cutter make lengthwise stripes with the remaining dough. Fold the filled side over the cut stripes and secure tightly.
- Place the buns on the prepared tray keeping a good amount of space between each one. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F.
- Brush the buns with the egg wash and bake them for about 20 minutes, until golden.
- Before transferring the buns to a cooling rack, let rest for about 5 minutes on the baking tray.
- Store rolls in an airtight container. These imqaret buns can be enjoyed at room temperature or slightly warmed up before serving.
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
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