Maamoul: Date and Semolina Cookies

Today I’m happy to share one of my all time favorite Arabic treats: maamoul. Beautifully patterned, crumbly semolina cookies filled with sweet dates. They’re quite often served as part of a traditional Easter meal… so why am I including them in this month’s feature of my favorite Ramadan foods? Because maamoul are an absolutely signature dessert/teatime snack throughout the Middle East, and though we were lucky to snack on them throughout the year, they always remind me of the sweet ending to iftar with family. So… not only are they delicious, they’re equal opportunity. What’s not to love? 
My cousin Mona has earned the crown of Homemade Maamoul Queen in our family. She and her husband have, in my not-so-humble opinion, perfected the recipe. But I was on a mission to make these ASAP, and since Mona is a busy lady and 14 hours behind, I did a quick search online and landed on Fouad’s recipe at The Food Blog. He’s Lebanese and based in Sydney, and has a blog full of fantastic Middle Eastern delights and photos to match.
Well, his recipe did not disappoint. It’s a labor of love (30 minutes of kneading a rough dough by hand!) but totally worth the effort. I’ve filled mine with date paste, which you can buy at most Middle Eastern stores (or, says Fouad, make at home by blitzing 2c dates with 1/2c butter in the food processor). Alternatively, maamoul are filled with ground pistachios or walnuts, always mixed with orange blossom and rose waters, cinnamon and butter. They can also be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes — the molds can be purchased at Middle Eastern stores as well, and I recommend the wooden ones over plastic, as they’re far more durable.
I encourage you to try this unique Arabic cookie. Few things come close to the nostalgia and delight that comes from eating them, crispy on the outside, melty and floral inside, just out of the oven. Look out for round 2 of these with walnuts and my dear Mona’s recipe, coming soon.

MAAMOUL: DATE AND SEMOLINA COOKIES

From Fouad’s (@thefoodblog) maamoul recipe. Originally makes 30 – I halved this recipe.

Provisions:
900g coarse semolina
250g fine semolina
450g good quality butter at room temperature
125ml rosewater (maward)
30ml orange blossom water (mazaher)
1/2 cup milk
Date paste (or alternative fillings listed above)
Method:
Using your hands, knead the coarse and fine semolinas together with the butter until combined. Gradually add the rosewater, then the orange blossom water, kneading until well incorporated. Knead for 30 minutes (I did this by hand, as the dough was too crumby to come together in my mixer). Wrap in plastic wrap, and rest 12 hours or overnight.
After resting, knead the dough one more time, this time wetting your fingertips with the milk and kneading through to moisten the dough until all the milk has been added. Preheat oven to 220C / 425 F.
Now, prepare a mise-en-place to assemble the cookies. Create small teaspoon-sized balls of date paste, and an equal number of balls of dough. Fold a tea towel in half, then half again (to absorb the impact of removing the cookie from the mold).
Hold the dough in your palm, and make a hole in the center, pressing the “sides” out to even thickness. Place the date paste in the center and close the dough around it. Continue until all dough is used.
Press the maamoul into the cookie mold, enough to take shape of the cutout. Invert the mold and strike the tip against the tea towel to release the maamoul. Continue until all cookies are formed, then place on a lined baking sheet, and bake 15-20 minutes until very light golden brown (too brown and they’ll dry out). Perfect served alongside a strong Arabic coffee.
Audio pairing: Nima Gorji, “Arabic Groove”
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08540872180823771651 Lauren aka Ms Baklover

    Yay maamoul! You know, these have never been a favourite of mine (only had the huge ones wrapped in wax paper stacked on counter of baklava shops and they always seem too dry) but the pic is gorgeous. The recipe seems almost shortbread-y!

    Ramadan Mubarak!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16327344027557036250 Candace

    What a beautiful cookie, Yasmeen! I absolutely love dates so I can only imagine how wonderful they must taste. Your photos of them are fantastic! Thank you for sharing them!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02265240462060082738 leaf (the indolent cook)

    Gorgeous cookies… looking forward to Round 2! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14896399490504189192 PFx

    Looks like a crumbly side of goodness! I’m quite intrigued by your middle-eastern treats, I’m hungry for more Yasmeen! I reckon it’s the new hip thing after Japanese cuisine.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17921891926536652584 Yasmeen

    Thanks guys! I appreciate your support in interest in my heritage cuisine. My favorite posts of yours are the cultural ones too, no doubt.

    Lauren — this recipe IS almost shortbready. It’s not crumbly as sand, like some of them are (and I love them like that too). It’s actually a nice change.

  • http://www.thedailypalette.com/ Annapet

    What beautiful cookies! Which reminds me, I have to get a mold [or two].

    You just inspired me to write a cultural post. Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09239534250673530315 Luv’n Spoonfuls

    OH, these look SO lovely! Now I need the special cookie press (like I need any excuse at all to run down to my favorite ethnic market) ;-) What a great recipe to share with all of us…

  • http://www.ledelicieux.com/ Jennifer (Delicieux)

    Such gorgeous cookies, and it definitely looks like your labour of love paid off. I’ve never had maamoul before, but the flavour combinations sound fantastic.

  • http://foodrehab.com.au/ Adrian (Food Rehab)

    I’ve never had these before- I’ve seen it at a few shops along Sydney Road, but am always distracted by baklava and end up getting a box of that instead!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16949599141577685866 Nuha

    we always make maamoul the night before eid.. it can be a long process, but i absolutely love sitting around with my mom sisters ( and friends!) to make these

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17091286576114972885 sarah nicole

    These look so beautiful and sound so delicious!

    xo,

    Sarah

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11565636836191062193 Angela Brian

    well goodness.

    those look amazing!

    oh. wow. your pictures are beautiful!

    i. am. loving. your. blog!

    -angie

    brians {and bryn} in bethel

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17133232352924060797 Joanne

    I adore dates and the thought of all that delicious date filling…makes me want to bake a batch of these immediately!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11133856580894772055 Mehwish

    oh I love these! I used to these a lot when I lived in Saudi Arabia.
    I nevr thought of making ‘em. Thank u for the recipe :)

  • http://driftwoodandroses.wordpress.com/ driftwoodandroses

    These look delicious! Love recipes that use rosewater. Your blog is gorgeous and so inspiring! Nel (flying e-course) x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09695802387052777539 Shells

    Hi, Your blog looks great. Have you ever this food blog which is based in Perth? Michelle (flying e-courser too)

    http://www.thefoodpornographer.com/

  • http://sinfullyspicy.com/ Tanvi@SinfullySpicy

    Oh my…those are just my kind of cookies..Love dates to the Tee..I cant wait to try these.Thanks so so much for sharing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16747318257734206478 Martin @PhotoLifeSite

    Yummy…

  • Antony66

    these are not “Arabic cookie ”. These are “Lebanese cookie” made for Easter celebration, and they call them “Maamoul”. And my suggestion is to never call a Lebanese an “Arab”,  he feel very insulted.

  • http://www.wanderingspice.com/ Yasmeen

    Hi Antony, thanks for your suggestion. My family is Palestinian and Lebanese, and we consider ourselves Arab (as opposed to Phoenician). My cousin Mona, the resident maamoul expert in our family, gets her dates directly from her uncle in Saida.

    I appreciate that each person or family feels differently, but this recipe is reflective of how we see ourselves in our own family.

  • http://www.threecleversisters.com/ Sara

    Wow, these do look delicious but I can’t believe 30 minutes of kneading!  I can imagine the wooden molds would make for a lovely collection as well.

  • http://www.vintagekitchennotes.blogspot.com/ Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes

    I hadn´t seen these in a long time and I love them! I don´t even mind that I don´t have the wooden mold, I will make them anyway.

  • Pingback: Arabic Seven Spice Hot Chocolate | Wandering Spice

  • http://twitter.com/OrgasmicChef Maureen

    I’ve got the recipe to go with the hot chocolate now :)

  • Anise

    I’ve been looking for a recipe for orange blossom water and this looks delicious! Where did you find the cookie mold?!

  • Bissan

    Hi Yasmeen,

    With Eid coming around the corner, I thought I would check out a ma’amoul recipe from my favourite recipe website! I will be attempting this tomorrow, God willing, but I’m just curious as to whether you were able to sneak in some time with your busy cousin Mona and get her ma’amoul recipe. If so, it would me much appreciated if you could share it with us :) On a separate note, I would like to say that as a Palestinian I’m very proud of you for having such amazing cooking skills and sharing it with the world!

    Thanks again and Happy Eid!

    Bissan (your Palestinian fan that is currently residing in Canada)

    • http://www.wanderingspice.com/ Yasmeen

      Hi Bissan, I have no idea how it is only now that I am seeing this beautiful comment. Thank you so much for your support – I’m glad I can represent Palestine :)

      As Easter is coming up, I have contacted Mona and have her recipe in hand, ready to go. A new maamoul post will be coming up shortly. Thank you again and I am so sorry for this ridiculously late reply!

  • Nicole

    Hi Yasmeen,
    A few questions:
    - Can the kneeding be done in a stand mixer?
    - Have you tried using other types of flour?