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3 April 2010

Ma’amoul – Middle Eastern Cookies Stuffed with Pistachios, Dates & Walnuts

 
LR PS07-maamoul-shortbread-cookies

I recently called my father in search of a ma’amoul recipe. A bit perplexed he proclaimed in Arabic: “Why do you want to trouble yourself with making ma’amoul. It’s so much work and anyway I don’t like ma’amoul. Really it’s too much effort for nothing. Shou baddeek bi ha shaghle”

See my father is not a baker. A fantastic cook but definitely not a baker. Also, the majority of people in Lebanon don’t make ma’amoul anymore given the widespread availability of good quality sweet shops that dot the country.

Ma’amoul are small shortbread pastries filled with pistachios, walnuts and dates. They are popular around the Middle East where they are available year around although they are mostly consumed during different religious holidays. For example, in Lebanon the Christians consume them at Easter and the Muslims during Ramadan. Ma’amoul cookies are extremely moreish and once you pop you really can’t stop! I love the fact that they are a combination of sweet and savory.

As you may know I don’t reside in Lebanon anymore so I’m not lucky enough to have these little beauties available to me at a moment’s notice. And even if I did, I would still choose to make them since I actually enjoy baking and find it soothing, relaxing and therapeutic. After all they really don’t take more than two to three hours to make and they are also one of my favorite sweets so I can’t particularly understand what my father was going on about.

A quick phone call to one of my aunts and I was on my way to making Ma’amoul. In keeping with my impulsive and tinkering nature, I made a few changes to the recipe. I was interested to use ferkha (farina) instead of only semolina as well as adding mahlab as I’ve seen it used several times before in other recipes. I also omitted the rose water and replaced it with orange blossom water.

Update: The molds can be found in any Middle Eastern specialty store. For those in the U.S they are available for purchase in the U.S from here. For those of you in the rest of the world you may try here.

Ma'amoul - Middle Eastern Cookies Stuffed with Pistachios, Dates & Walnuts
 
Author:
Serves: Makes 75

Ingredients
For the dough
  • 850g semolina or about 5.5 cups
  • 200g of ferkha (farina or potato starch) or about 1.5 cups
  • 450g of butter, melted
  • 250ml or 1 cup of orange blossom water
  • 200g of caster sugar or 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon mahlab
  • 3 maamoul molds (oval for pistachios, circle for walnuts and the one that resembles the sun for dates)
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Walnut Filling
  • 200g walnuts (about 2 cups)
  • 80g of sugar (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
Pistachio Filling
  • 200g pistachios (about 2 cups)
  • 80g of sugar (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
Date Filling
  • 250g dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 50g of walnuts (about ½ cup)

Instructions
  1. Mix the semolina, farina, mahlab, sugar and butter together.
  2. Now slowly add the orange blossom water a tablespoon at a time, kneading and working it into a soft sticky dough. It’s not supposed to stick to your fingers though. Cover the dough and let it sit 2 hours.
  3. While the dough rests, prepare the fillings. I used a food processor and just whizzed everything for a minute or two.
  4. Knead dough one more time and then divide the dough into three even quantities.
  5. Roll out each third into a long thin rod like form. Each third will be used for a filling.
  6. Pinch off small lumps off the dough, I pinched off about 1 inch pieces. Using the palm of your hand flatten the dough and make sure it is quite thin but not too thin that it will tear.
  7. Place the flatten dough into the mold of choice and add the filling associated to that mold, gently pressing down and make sure it’s quite compact. Don’t exert too much pressure as you don’t want to tear the dough. You can use the mold you like for the filling you like but traditionally these molds and their designs have been used as standards so that one can determine the filling.
  8. Bring the edges together and seal well. Now pinch off any excess dough, gently remove from the mold and roll into a ball.
  9. Dip the ball in farina and then press into the mold. Release by tapping the mold on the table to remove the ma’amoul cookie.
  10. Your ma’amoul cookie should look like the below, clearly stamped with the design. Dust a baking tray with semolina or farina and bake in a preheated oven 400F/200C/6G until the sides are slightly pinkish in color. It will vary depending on oven. It took me about 20 mn. Leave aside to cool then sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
Note: there are also two different ways to make these cookies. I like to add the filling using the mold because I found it to yield more consistent results. However, you could just flatten the dough in the palm of your hand while making a hole in the paste then stuff it with the filling, seal the edges, roll it into a ball then finally press it into the molds for shape. And if you don’t have the molds, you could just use a fork to create design of choice that will differentiate the cookies from each other depending on filling.
Ma’amoul cookies with the date filling are not sprinkled with powdered sugar. Baking time will vary but Ma’amoul should spend the least time in the oven to avoid the drying. Therefore a hot oven is important to keeping their baking time short.
Ma’amoul cookies will keep, unrefrigerated but well sealed for up to one month, if they last longer than a day.

 

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62 thoughts on “Ma’amoul – Middle Eastern Cookies Stuffed with Pistachios, Dates & Walnuts

  1. As ever i am very fortunate to be close to the kitchen and i can truly tell you all they are very addictive…

  2. Wow, I’m really impressed at seeing how these pastries are made! Do you know where I could buy these molds? I’d really like to try these out! They look absolutely delicious!

  3. The molds can be found in any Middle Eastern specialty store. For those in the U.S they are available for purchase in the U.S from here. For those of you in the rest of the world you may try here.

    1. Hi Bethany I tried to order maamoul moulds from the States only landed up with a virus in mijn computer, do you know where I can safely buy the moulds ? I live in Holland

  4. Love the swapping of orange blossom water for rose (not my favorite essence) and when using semolina, can you just swap in the entire amount in place of the flour/potato starch. I’m also thinking a mix, maybe…So excited. FYI: The have the best ones at La Grande Mosquee de Paris, just in case you’re ever in the vicinity!

    1. Thanks everyone for your lovely comments! Much appreciated
      Rachel- yes there are recipes that are only semolina based. If not you may also find what is called cream of wheat and use that in place of potato starch
      Tony- LOL 🙂 Typical ay?!

  5. what about ,yeast of baking powder.i realized you didn’t use that

    wow that’s amazing.by the way,thank you for taking your time and sharing your receipe.

    i’ve always wanted to make (ka3ek) they usually make those during easter also.

    we call them (ka3ek bel 7aliib).

    w merci

    1. Moudira- you are right you may use it and my other aunts recipe actually calls for it too (she uses baking powder)

  6. i like the step by step you used to show us the way to make maamoul.thank you it is very close to my recipe but i use one pinch of yeast..and i live the dough stand over night.happy easter to all the christians all over the world.

  7. I agree with you, it is so delicious, all my friends who are not Arabs love it , so i always make for them..
    I always use Cream of Wheat as that is what is available
    here in Trinidad, and i use vanilla escence, as i do not like the rose water. If you have any other recipes i would love to read them. Shukram Thank you.

  8. yeslam eedaki Bethany — they look beautiful! Happy Easter to you and your family!
    I love the “Shou baddeek bi ha shaghle” 😀 I sometimes get this response from my family in Halab who wonder why I can’t just go 3al souk and buy some fresh and delicious mamoul whenever a craving strikes (like now) haha

  9. This almost sounds like a shortbread. It sounds amazing! I love the addition of pistachios and dates – will make this one day. There are sweets from the Philippines that I also ask my Mum for recipes but she says the same – why go through the hassle of making when you can buy them – but unfortunately in Sydney I can’t so I know what you mean.

  10. Bethany,
    as always your recipes are mouthwatering . Since I reside in USA I will use the cream of wheat,however,my question is that there are 2 kinds of Semolina ; the white and the yellow ?
    which one to use fro this recipe ?
    thanks ,
    Happy Easter

  11. Ooooooh how delicious looking are these? I am certain this is something I could nibble on all day as I love all the flavors you have used :o) Also love those gorgeous moulds!! xx

  12. Beth

    I will have you know that this is the same recipe my teta used-proportion-wise! I did not make ma’amoul this year because I like to make them with a friend, in which case said friend was unavailable and so forget it! Love yours and applaud your efforts! It is great that us expats do not let these important food traditions die out!

  13. aren’t those molds simply gorgeous? They look like Chinese/Japanese cake/wagashi molds. I’m not familiar with Middle Eastern sweets in all honesty but if there’s pistachio, I’m sure to love it!

  14. Beth, these are wonderful! And I love the Middle Eastern flavors of these mouthfuls! They are beautiful, too. Now I need these molds but I may try making these without. Too delicious!

  15. Oh so that’s what those moulds are for! They’re great! 🙂

    I love stuffed cookies. The flavours of these must be a mingling of Middle Eastern flavours, truly a representation of what we’re familar with! 🙂 Looks great, bet they’re delish.

  16. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a nice comment:)
    Your cookies look absolutely stunning! I also like your detailed photo instructions.
    Lebanese food sounds really interesting!!!
    Cheers!

  17. i love ma’amoul almost as much as i love baklava, but i had no idea how to make it! those molds are awesome, and the components of the filling make these beauties worth going to a little effort to create!

  18. I found ma’amoul molds awhile back in Jaffa and then again in Nazareth. I made pistachio, walnut and date ma’amouls using just white flour without semolina (a recipe by Claudia Roden).
    Now I know why the ma’amouls I bought in an Arab bakery in Jaffa were so different. To me they tasted like curry because of the heavy dose of fenugreek. I didn’t realize then that fenugreek is a traditional ingredient in some ma’amouls. I added orange blossom water and rose water to my own. Such a wonderful smell. I never added mahlab, that I used for the ka’ak I made.
    Great Ma’amoul tuturial. Hope the FBC was a great success!

    1. Hey Sarah! Missed you at FBC! Hope to see you next year. I keep hearing about Claudia Roden’s book so I’m off to buy it tomorrow.

  19. Beth, I love anything shortbread style. You then add to it fancy looking little gems. I am hooked. Lovely moulds..I might have to get them and then set up a day in my calendar to bake these lovely treats. I am so loving reading your blog. It’s a gem.

  20. nice estren cookies .How did you make the shape? nice idea of putting the surger on some of them. ok love you aunty xoxoxoxoxoxo

  21. Brilliant clear instructions – very inspiring. I’m wondering if I can get these moulds in Dubai – I’ve never seen them, but maybe I wasn’t looking!

  22. Hi Bethany,

    I just found your websiteb& I am cooking through all your delicious recipes.

    Could you please post recipies for Namoora (Baked Semolina Slice) and Kibbeh torpedoes.

    Yum!

    Thank you in advance,

  23. Hi,

    Sorry I can’t seem to enter the link as it wont open, I am interested in buying the molds I live outside the USA. Could you please advise the website.

    Thanks

  24. Thanks for this recipe. I don’t wish to make 70 cookies though. Will the recipe come out good if I half or quarter it? I’m not keen on dividing baking recipes but I wish to give this a try with smaller quantities.

    1. Hello, this recipe is scaled by half in my new cookbook “The Jewelled Kitchen” available in all bookstores or on Amazon.

      1. Ok thanks Bethany! Also, if I do use cream of wheat, will I not need baking powder? Do you know how much I should use?

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