Aljerk (Bread Stuffed With Dates and Spices)

Michal Bouton and Ana Shapiro

2 hours

10 pastries

Ring-shaped pastry with sesame seeds on gray tray

Photo by Dor Kedmi

Photo by Dor Kedmi

This filled bread takes its name from the word “zherk” in Arabic, meaning ring. Similarly to the dough of the Jewish Sabbath bread, this dough is enriched with eggs and, in the modern age, with milk as well. The most common filling is dried dates, cheese and herbs can also be used. The churek, sold today in Turkey and Iraq, is from the same family of pastries. This filled pastry is still sold from carts in the market of Jerusalem’s Old City. Today, it’s called “maruk,” and generally has a yellowish hue, which comes from the use of turmeric in the dough.

Confectioners Michal Bouton and Ana Shapiro, who have begun integrating local techniques and ingredients into the European baking tradition that is widespread in Israel, have created a modern recipe inspired by the traditional bread.


  • For the filling
  • 1.1 pound / 500 grams Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons / 40 grams melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • For the dough
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons / 150 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons / 30 grams yogurt
  • ¼ cup / 50 grams sugar
  • 4 cups / 440 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 grams baking powder
  • 1 generous teaspoon / 5 grams active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons / 50 grams melted butter
  • For the topping
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 teaspoons sesame seeds


  1. Prepare the filling: Place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and knead by hand to combine. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, place all the ingredients except for the melted butter, and mix at medium speed, until a dough forms. While continuously kneading, gradually add the butter. Increase to high speed and knead for 3 minutes to a smooth and flexible dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, divide the filling into 10 pieces, weighing 1.7-ounces / 50 grams each. Roll each piece to a log 4½-in / 12-cm long.
  5. Divide the risen dough into balls weighing 2½-ounces / 70 grams each. Roll each ball into a rectangle that’s 2½x5½-inches / 14×7-cm.
  6. Place a date log on one end of the rectangle, and wrap the dough around it to a log stuffed with date filling. Pinch the dough along the length and the edges to prevent it from opening while baking.
  7. Bring the edges together to form a ring, and seal tightly. Stretch the ring to enlarge it slightly and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  8. Repeat these steps with the remaining dough and filling. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Using scissors, make shallow cuts in the outer edge of each ring at 1-in / 3-cm intervals to expose the filling.
  10. Brush the pastries with the beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake until the dough is risen and golden, about 20 minutes.

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