Traditional Mediterranean cookies stuffed with dates or walnuts, exotically perfumed with rosewater. (Photo: susievision/flickr)

How to make ma’amoul cookies

Traditional Mediterranean cookies stuffed with dates or walnuts, exotically perfumed with rosewater.

The word ma’amoul means “filled.” To me, it evokes filling the mouth. It seems to me that people in this part of the world are especially fond of stuffed foods. Kids and grownups alike love vegetables and leaves filled with rice/meat combinations, from artichokes to zucchini – savory turnovers like sambusak with chickpeas (or meat, or potatoes) inside them, and sweets filled with dried fruit or nuts. Even dried fruit stuffed with nuts.

I wasn’t looking for them, but when I found molds for ma’amoul cookies, I was a goner.

How could I resist using those hand-held molds to create cookies? How could they not be delicious, being perfumed with rosewater and filled with dates as they are? Or walnuts, or pistachios. In fact, the design on the mold traditionally indicates which filling the cookie has, so you can choose between them without having to take a bite first. Not that biting into a tender, crumbly ma’amoul – in the interests of science – is any great punishment.

I loved making these cookies, handling dough scented with rosewater. It was fun to fill the molds and knock them out onto my baking pan, seeing the beautiful little design imprinted on each cookie as it came out. Making them by hand is easy, though.

Ma’amoul cookies (Photo: Miriam Kresh)

Ma’amoul cookies

Print
Prep1 hr 35 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Yield24 cookies

Ingredients

For the dough

  • ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp rosewater or orange flower water
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ cup coarse semolina
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar for dusting over finished cookies

For date filling

  • ¾ cup pitted dates
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp orange flower water plus 1 1/2 teaspoons rosewater or 3 teaspoons either flower water

For nut filling

  • 1 ½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pistachios
  • 2 tbsp rosewater or orange flower water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.
  • Add the rosewater or orange flower water.
  • Add the egg and melted, cooled butter or margarine.
  • Add the semolina and mix.
  • Add the sugar and salt; mix.
  • Add the flour, mixing till the dough holds together in a ball.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour.

Make date filling:

  • Place all the date filling ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Put the paste in a small bowl and set aside until you’re ready to stuff and bake the ma’amoul.

Make nut filling:

  • Simply mix everything up well. Put the filling in a small bowl and set aside.

To stuff and bake the ma’amoul:

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (190° C).
  • Prepare a cookie sheet by the method you prefer: line it with parchment, or grease it lightly, or lay a silicon sheet over the surface.
  • To make round, filled cookies: Use a tablespoon to take dough out – a level tablespoon each time. Flatten each piece onto the palm of your hand, and push it until it’s about a 3-inch circle.
  • Place 1" teaspoons of the nut filling on top of the dough. Bring up the edges of the dough with your fingertips and press them together to seal the filling. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Or, simply hold some dough in the palm of your hand, poke a hole in the middle, and fill. Roll the ball of dough between your palms – lightly – to seal the filling.
  • To mold the cookies with the special spoon molds: Oil or butter the mold. Stuff 1/2 tablespoon of dough into the mold, pressing lightly with your fingers to fill all the crevices with dough. Place 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the cavity of the dough. Cover the filling with another 1/2 tablespoon of dough, smoothing it level. Knock the spoon mold out onto a clean surface; it will emerge looking like a plump pillow etched with the design inside the mold.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until pale golden. Watch them after 20 minutes and don’t allow them to brown, as they will continue to harden while cooling. Transfer to a wire rack immediately. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

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