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Ground Meat-Filled Semolina Half-Moons

Updated February 23, 2016
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Aleppian Jews make savory filled pastries in both round and crescent shapes. The traditional shape for meat-filled bastels is round so that everyone can distinguish the pastry from the crescent-shaped sambousak (Buttery Cheese-Filled Sesame Pastries) and avoid eating a dairy pastry and a meat-filled one at the same sitting, which is against kashrut laws.

4 dozen, 12 to 14 servings

Cooking Methodbaking, sauteeing

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursehors d'oeuvre, snack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free

Mealdinner, snack

Taste and Texturechewy, crisp, crunchy, meaty, nutty, savory, spiced

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup smead (semolina)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks margarine (½ pound), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the filling, sauté the onion in the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until transparent. Add the meat and brown, breaking it up constantly with a fork. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Cool and add the Aleppo pepper, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pine nuts. Set aside.

To make the dough, combine the flour, smead, and salt. Fold in the margarine and add the vegetable oil. Blend well with your fingertips. Add 2 to 3 ounces of water slowly, stirring to form a smooth dough. Knead well. The dough should be soft and moist.

To make crescent-shaped bastels, first break off a small walnut-size ball of dough and flatten it into a 3-inch round with a tortilla press lined with wax paper or plastic wrap (to prevent sticking). Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to ensure that the bastel is perfectly round and the exact same size as the rest. Place 1 teaspoon of filling on the circle. Fold the round in half and press to close, making sure the edges are tightly sealed. Make the remaining bastels the same way.

Alternatively, to make round bastels, press your finger into a walnut-size ball of dough to form a rounded shell with one open end. The thinner you can make the shell, the better; this a tricky step that requires some practice. Fill the hollowed-out shell with about 1 teaspoon of filling. Close by pinching the shell firmly and smoothing with a little water until no crease is visible. Flute the edges for a more refined appearance. Make the remaining bastels.

Brush the top of each bastel with water and dredge in the sesame seeds. (At this point, you may freeze the bastels to bake at a later date, but be sure to store in one layer in a tightly sealed container lined with waxed paper.) Bake for about 15 minutes, or for 20 minutes if frozen, until they are slightly golden.

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