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Ingredients

Adjust Servings:
For the Dough
6 cups semolina
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup (300g) butter melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp yeast
3/4 cup water
4 Tbsp rose water
powdered sugar
For the Date Filling
1 lb dates pitted
1/2 cup water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the Nut Filling
1 lb walnuts
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

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Syria: Ma’amoul

Date and Walnut Stuffed Semolina Cookies

Cuisine:
  • Serves 50
  • Medium

Ingredients

  • For the Dough

  • For the Date Filling

  • For the Nut Filling

Directions

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Ma’amoul are semolina shortbread cookies popular across the Middle East.  They are filled with either dates or nuts – commonly walnut or pistachio.  They can be decorated by hand, but are prettiest when made using special wooden molds  tabu.  Lucky for me, my colleague Bushra’s mom has a whole collection of molds – both wooden and plastic – and was kind enough to let me borrow them, and give me a few tips on making ma’amoul! 

The cookies are available year round In Syria, but commonly eaten at religious holidays – by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.  For Muslims, they are commonly eaten during Eid al-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the fast that marks the end of Ramadan.  During the three days of Eid, you’ll find ma’amoul in nearly every household, offered with coffee or gifted in tins – which works, because it holds up quite well in an air-tight container.  Arab Christians commonly eat them on Easter, sometimes shaped into rings to symbolize the crown of Jesus.  Levantine Jews make a nut version to be eaten for Purim, but use flour rather than semolina.  It is said these cookies – which hide a rich nut filling – are representative of Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story who was forced to hide her Jewish origin.  How these cookies came to be associated with Easter and Eid is less clear, but say the cookies are meant to remind you that though fasting is hard like the ma’amoul’s outer shell, within it is a sweet reward.

I used a blend of semolina and flour, which resulted in the traditional texture and flavor of the semolina, but holds together a bit better with some flour in the mix.  Other variations include rosewater or orange blossom water in either the dough or the filling.  I personally don’t like orange blossom water, so I used rose – just enough to give a subtle flavor.  These are not a super sweet cookie, but are very buttery.  They are very good served with coffee or tea.  You want your ma’amoul to hold together, yet melt in your mouth.  Those I shared these cookies with seemed to be relatively split as to whether they prefer the nut or date filling – I personally prefer the date because it’s a bit sweeter.  Hands down the best compliment was from Bushra, who told me she was impressed at how similarly they turned out to the ones her mom makes!

Recipe Source: Chef in Disguise – Easy Authentic Middle Eastern Recipes

Steps

1
Done

Put the butter, oil and semolina in a bowl and rub the butter and oil into the semolina until they are completely absorbed by it. The semolina will resemble wet sand. Cover and leave over night. This will allow the semolina granules to swell and soften.

2
Done

The next day dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar and wait for it to foam and bubble. Add to the semolina mixture along with the flour, vanilla, baking powder and rosewater. Mix gently. You are not aiming for a smooth dough ball, just for a dough that comes together and is homogenous. Cover and let rest for an hour while you make the filling.

3
Done

For the date filling

Cut the dates into pieces. Put them in a sauce pan, cover with 1/2 cup water, and simmer for 5-7 minutes to let dates soften. Transfer to the food processor, add cinnamon, and puree into a paste. Let chill completely.

4
Done

For the nut filling

In a small bowl, combine chopped walnuts, cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

5
Done

To make the date ma'amoul

Take a walnut-sized piece of dough. Form the date puree into a small ball about half the size of the dough balls. Flatten the dough ball, place the date ball inside and seal the dough around the stuffing making sure the filling is completely enclosed by the dough and shape it into a ball. Place the dough in a mold and press firmly; use your fingers to push the dough inward so it isn't spread outside the mold. Use one hand to hold the handle of the mold, tap the wood above the mold on the counter and catch the cookie in your hand. Repeat with remaining cookies. For the walnut ones, spoon the filling into the hole and follow the same steps.

6
Done

Bake ma'amoul on the middle rack at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10- 15 minutes then move them to a cooling rack - they are prone to crumble if you move them when they are still hot. Once completely cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Johanna

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