Date bread with turmeric and cumin

Date bread with turmeric and cumin


Mark Roper

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. The addition of sweet, sticky dates turns this bread into an afternoon treat when served with a cup of fragrant tea.

We use a heart-shaped cutter here to make the buns, as this was the way we enjoyed them in Mahan. But, obviously, you can use any shape cutter of similar dimensions you like.


Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons dried yeast
50ml warm water
680g strong white flour
60g sugar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 heaped teaspoons sea salt
310ml tepid water
30ml olive oil
1 egg
15 fresh dates, pitted and cut into chunks
50g unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed
icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Dissolve the dried yeast in the 50 ml warm water and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, turmeric and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and make a well in the centre. Whisk the 310 ml tepid water, oil and whole egg in a bowl, then stir in the yeast mixture. Gradually work the yeast mixture into the flour mixture with your hands. Knead on a slow speed for 10 minutes until smooth and shiny. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Knock back the dough and leave to prove again in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Divide the dough into 8 even portions, then cut each in half. Working with one portion at a time, roll it out to a rectangle, about 17 cm x 11 cm (or roll as appropriate for your chosen cutter), and place it crosswise in front of you. Sit a 9 cm x 8 cm heart-shaped cutter on the left-hand side of the dough and place a few pieces of date inside it. Squish on a small piece of butter, then remove the cutter and fold the dough over, from right to left, to cover the filling. Cut out a heart shape and transfer to a baking tray. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough, then reroll the offcuts. You should get around 20 buns in total. Leave the buns to sit on the baking tray for 15 minutes, then brush lightly with the egg yolk and sprinkle on a good pinch of cumin seeds. Bake for 6–8 minutes until puffed and golden.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool briefly (if you have the willpower) on a wire rack before dusting with icing sugar and eating
Middle Eastern
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