On the second week of Ramadan, I purchased a large box of Tunisian Deglet Noor dates from my local store. Though they are great to snack on, I had other plans for them as soon as I got them home. It took all the patience in me to wait for Eid to start on this rich and buttery stuffed cookie from Chef in Disguise. Ma’amoul does require some advance planning and the dough preparation is made on the eve so that the semolina grains have enough time to soften and swell up in hot ghee. This traditional Lebanese cookie, usually filled with dates and nuts like almonds or pistachios or walnuts, is shaped in hand carved wooden molds. To improvise for the absence of these beautiful molds, which can be purchase online, I used my smallest tart molds lined with plastic wrap. They worked like a charm but I hope to be able to get hold of the real molds by next Eid-ul- Fitr for authentic-looking ma’mouls.
500 g fine semolina
150 g ghee, melted and hot
50 g unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup ground almonds
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom water
1/4 cup rosewater
For the Date Filling
500g pitted dates/date paste
250 g chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- For the crust, place the semolina in a bowl and add the butter/ghee and oil to it, starting with 1/8 cup.
- It is important for the ghee/butter to be melted and hot. Rub into semolina until completely absorbed.
- Mixture will resemble wet sand. Cover and leave over night so that semolina granules swell and soften.
- The next day add the flour, powdered milk and baking powder, then gradually add the ground almonds.
- Dissolve yeast in the water with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Wait for it to foam and add it to the semolina mix.
- Dissolve the 1/4 cup of sugar in the orange blossom and rosewater then add it to the semolina mixture.
- Mix gently till dough comes together and is homogenous. Cover mixture and allow to rest for one hour.
- Take small amount of dough and try rolling into a ball, if it crumbles you need to add some more water.
- Knead gently, cover and leave for 10 minutes. For date and nut filling, combine all ingredients together.
- Shape semolina dough into walnut sized pieces. Keep the dough covered to prevent it from drying out.
- Shape the date filling into small balls about half the size of the dough balls and flatten each dough ball.
- Place the date ball inside. Seal dough around the stuffing making sure the filling is completely enclosed.
- Shape it into a ball. For shaping the ma’amoul using molds, place the dough in a mold and press firmly.
- Do not over do or the ma’amoul will stick to the mold. Line the molds with a little piece of plastic wrap.
- Press the filled dough then use the plastic wrap to take the dough out of the mold before peeling it off.
- Invert the mold and tap the end of the mold on the kitchen towel and the formed ma’amoul will fall out.
- Bake on the middle rack of a preheated oven (230 C) till the edges are golden brown for 5 to 12 minutes.
- Then place them under the broiler till the tops are golden brown for 2 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
- Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Move them to a cooling rack because they are prone to crumble when they are still hot. Makes 15 pieces.