Maamoul, ma’amoul or maamul, is a typical Middle Eastern dessert, very like a cookie filled with nuts, and scented with orange blossom or rose water. The Maamoul is usually made with a mold, designed for it, that's why they have such beautiful shapes. However, it is possible to find many different presentations and flavors. Even in most countries in the Middle East, you can find packaged Maamoul, in the same style as cookies in the West.
This dessert is linked to the religious festivals of the Middle East. Muslims eat these cookies, in the evenings during Ramadan and at the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha celebrations. Christians of Arab origin consume them at Easter. Jews eat them on Purim, and ma’amoul stuffed with dates are eaten on Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.
It is not known for sure, how Maamoul was associated with religious festivals. But there is a popular legend that tells that Maamoul is meant to remind people that fasting is hard, but it has a sweet filling inside. So, these cookies full of butter and nuts are usually a pleasant reward during the nights, in Ramadan.
How to make Maamoul?
Although there may be many recipes and variants of Maamoul, almost all keep some common characteristics. They look like light-colored dough buns, with a little powdered sugar or sesame seeds on top. In general, they are very aromatic desserts, thanks to the orange blossom water. The fillings are equally varied, the most common being dates, pistachios, or almonds.
The traditional way of making Maamoul is by making the dough out of semolina, wheat flour, or a mixture of both. This mass is then compacted with the help of a press for designs. It is important to note that the Maamoul dough is very like the sable dough, it does not need much kneading. If you knead too much, the gluten in the wheat may be activated and the cookies will become very hard. You only knead what is necessary to integrate the ingredients well.
If you do not have a press, you can buy it in Arabic products stores, or use chocolate molds. You can also make the Maamoul in the shape of a roll or as a cupcake. There is even a very special version of Maamoul called Karabij, which are mamaul served in blocks in the shape of pyramids, covered with naatiffe. Naatiffe is powdered sugar and egg white glaze scented with saponaria.
These bites are then baked, and when cold they are covered in powdered sugar. These snacks can keep for up to a week, soft and crunchy. In case you are not going to consume the Maamoul immediately, you can keep them frozen, uncooked for up to a month in the fridge.
to make the delicious Middle Eastern cookies, Maamoul stuffed with dates.Without mold.
1 ¾ cups of semolina, 250 g.
2 ¼ cup all-purpose wheat flour, 250 g.
½ cup of melted butter, 120 g.
⅓ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup of milk, 75 ml
1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
400g seedless dates
½ cup rose water, 120 ml
1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ cup sesame seeds
For the filling
The night before preparing the Maamoul, place the dates and rose water in a container with a lid to soak. If possible, gently shake the container from time to time so that all dates are hydrated.
Preheat the oven to 150 ° C / 300 ° F. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the semolina, wheat flour, and powdered sugar. Stir with a spoon until everything is well combined.
Add the milk, the melted butter and the orange blossom water on top. Mix with a spoon and blend as best you can. When you can't mix any more, proceed to knead with your hands, until you get a compact and homogeneous dough.
Place the dough in a container with a lid and store it in the freezer for approximately thirty minutes, so that it can be handled more easily and does not stick to your hands.
While the dough is cooling, place the rose water-soaked dates in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling: the orange blossom water, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Blend until you get a smooth, moldable paste.
Remove the dough from the fridge, sprinkle a table or flat surface with flour. Divide the dough into three equal portions. Take the first portion and roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangular shape. Make a rectangle 5 cm wide by 40 cm long.
Divide the filling into three equal parts, take a portion and form a ball. Then stretch it into a thick cord. Repeat this procedure with the two remaining stuffing balls. Reserve the filler cords.
Place the first thick cord of dates on the dough. Fold the sides of the dough covering the stuffed, so that all the filling is inside the dough. Close the dough well. Roll the cord gently on the table to perfect the closure.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds on top, then cut into approximately 5 cm pieces to form the Maamoul. Repeat this procedure with the dough and leftover filling.
Place the Maamoul on the tray with enough space from each other. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to brown them.
Note: Date stuffed Maamoul are already sweet enough to sprinkle with powdered sugar. So, they are usually consumed without anything on top or with sesame seeds.