Semolina Ma’amoul : stuffed cookies with dates and nuts

maamoul cookies and molds

Semolina maamoul cookies and moulds

As we near the end of Ramadan, the buzz of Eid fills the air. Markets are full of people buying new cloths, decorations and sweets. Mosques are full of worshipers trying to make the best out of the precious final days of the month.  The effects of the long days of fasting and nights of worship are evident on everyone you meet, yet people are smiling. Asking you cheerfully about your preparations for Eid. Did you finish your shopping? did you start on the maamoul? Where will you go for the Eid prayer? Do you think Eid will be Friday or Thursday?

Kids are hyper excited, checking out their new cloths, sneaking into the kitchen to snatch some maamoul when mum isn’t looking, making long lists of places to go and things to do in Eid.

Chef in disguise :walnut maamoul

In many homes, it isn’t Eid if the house is not full of the smell of mastic and spices from the baking ma’amoul. There is something about those little decorated cookies that is enough to make you smile just by the mere smell of them. Maybe it is the childhood memories, maybe it is the feeling that the journey you have been on for the past 30 days is nearing its end, the feeling that you have been transformed, something inside you feels so fresh and empowered. I met the challenge, and I made it through.

Maamoul moulds

Last year I shared my recipe for the maamoul made with flour, this year I am sharing my recipe for semolina maamoul, The debate of which is better is kind of like the muffin/ cupcake one. There are those who love flour maamoul and those who swear by semolina maamoul. I for one like both. Some semolina maamoul purists (yes, the debate is that bad) will say that any semolina maamoul recipe should not have any trace of flour. I have found that the addition of a little flour improves the texture of the maamoul, semolina alone results in a cookie that is very crumbly. Add a little flour and the result is a cookie that takes on the imprints of the mould’s carving better, looks better and holds up better.

I will be sharing two maamoul recipes today. One is a little on the crunchy side, closer to a cookie in texture and a little lighter. The first maamoul cookie is also one without milk because I received many requests for a maamoul recipe with no milk. The second recipe is for maamoul that melts in your mouth, buttery and rich.

Before I get to the recipe I wanted to thank Kyna the wonderfully talented lady behind my cookie mold for sending me two wonderful bread presses.

Moulds

So many of you have asked me about the maamoul moulds and where you can buy them. Kyna can custom design cookie molds to your liking. I am going to work with her on designing a set of maamoul molds that will be available through her website , she can ship them world wide. This is not something that I will get paid for, it is just something I thought I could do to help out all my wonderful readers who want these beautiful molds but can’t find them 🙂

 

Ma’amouls-Middle Eastern Filled Cookies

maamoul cookies and molds

No milk maamoul

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram fine semolina
  • 300 grams butter, softened or ghee melted
  •  1/2 cup vegetable oil
  •  1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon mastic ground with 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mahlab
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup orange blossom water (can be replaced with water or milk)
  • 1/2 cup of rosewater(can be replaced with water or milk)

Instructions

Making the crust

In a bowl place the semolina and add the butter/ghee and oil to it

Rub the butter and oil into the semolina until they are completely absorbed by it. The semolina will resemble wet sand.

rub semolina

Cover and leave over night. This will allow the semolina granules to swell and soften

The next day add the flour, mastic, mahlab, vanilla and baking powder.

Dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar and wait for it to foam and bubble

Add it to the semolina mix and add the orange blossom and rosewater.

Mix gently, you take a lump of dough and then crumble it between your fingers and then repeat.

At first you will get clumps then the dough will come together. You are not aiming for a smooth dough ball. Just for a dough that comes together and is homogenous

knead

Do not mix longer since this will develop the gluten and cause the maamoul to be tough.

Cover and allow to rest for one hour

maamoul molds and baked maamoul

Melt in your mouth maamoul

Ingredient

  • 1 kilogram fine semolina (farkha)
  • 300 grams (1 and 1/2 cups) ghee, melted and hot
  • 100 grams (1 stick) (1/2 cup) melted butter
  •  1/4  to 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  •  1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon mastic ground with 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground mahlab
  • 2 teaspoons ground anise (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (for proofing the yeast)
  • 1/4  to 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange blossom water (can be replaced with water or milk)
  • 1/2 cup of rosewater(can be replaced with water or milk)

Instructions

Making the crust

In a bowl place the semolina and add the butter/ghee and oil to it (start with 1/4 cup of oil with the butter and ghee). It is very important for the ghee or butter to be melted not softened and hot

Rub the butter and oil into the semolina until they are completely absorbed by it. The semolina will resemble wet sand.

Cover and leave over night. This will allow the semolina granules to swell and soften

The next day add the flour, mastic, mahlab, powdered milk, anise and baking powder.

Dissolve the yeast in the water with the 1 teaspoon of sugar and wait for it to foam and bubble

Add it to the semolina mix

Dissolve the 1/2 cup of sugar in the orange blossom and rosewater then add it to the semolina

Mix gently, you take a lump of dough and then crumble it between your fingers and then repeat.

At first you will get clumps then the dough will come together. You are not aiming for a smooth dough ball. Just for a dough that comes together and is homogenous

Do not mix longer since this will develop the gluten and cause the maamoul to be tough.

Cover and allow to rest for one hour

Take a small amount of dough and try rolling it into a ball, if it crumbles you need to add 1/4 cup water and knead gently, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Try to roll it again if it is still crumbly add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil and knead very gently

Maamoul Filling options

Semolina maamoul

Date filling

You can use ground dates that are sold as a paste or you can use regular dates that you pit and knead with some butter or olive oil. If your dates are on the dry side, soak them with some hot water for 30 minutes then drain them

1 kg  pitted dates/date paste

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of cardamom

Nut filling

  • 500 gm chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons orange blossom water, 2 tablespoons butter or ghee and 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 500 gm coarsely ground pistachios and 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons orange blossom water and 2 tablespoons melted butter or ghee

Orange blossom water, cardamom and cinnamon are added for flavor and are entirely optional

Taste the filling and adjust the sweetness and spices according to your taste, just remember that there is not sugar in the crust so the filling has to be on the extra sweet side

You can replace half of the sugar with 1/4 cup of simple syrup. I find that the addition of the syrup keeps the filling from drying out while baking and makes it more flavorful

Making the maamoul

Take a walnut size piece of dough

Keep the rest of the dough covered or it will dry out

If you find that the dough is a little dry or it cracks when you try to form it, add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and knead it lightly into the dough

If making date maamoul:

Form the kneaded date puree into small balls about half the size of the dough balls

Flatten the dough ball , place the date ball inside and seal the dough around the stuffing making sure the filling is completely enclosed by the dough and shape it into a ball.

Shaping the Maamoul using the molds

Place the dough in a mold, press firmly but do not over do it or the maamoul will stick to the mold (see the notes for a trick that will help you get the cookies out of the molds whole every time)

Place a kitchen towel on a cutting board or your kitchen table

Then invert the mold and tap the end of the mold  on the kitchen towel and the formed cookie will fall out.

If making pistachio or walnut maamoul

Form a small cup of dough using your thumb to make a hole and pinching the sides thin. Stuff with desired filling so it comes 3/4 of the way up and close carefully, rolling smooth.

Baking Maamoul

semolina maamoul before baking

I bake maamoul on the middle rack of a preheated oven (230 C) till the edges are golden brown (5-12 minutes) and then place them under the broiler till the tops are golden brown (2-5 minutes)

Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10- 15 minutes then move them to a cooling rack because they are prone to crumble if you move them when they are still hot

Chef in disguise :walnut maamoul

Important notes about making maamoul:

  • You can bake maamoul without shaping it, just form the stuffed cookies into balls and arrange them on a baking sheet and bake them, they will be just as tasty without the molds or decorations
  • To make it easier to get the cookies out of the molds, I 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 mould then peel off the plastic wrap
  • Maamoul bakes really quickly, don’t walk away from the oven while the cookies are baking they can go from white to black in a couple of minutes.
  • Kept in an airtight container these cookies will last for 3 weeks, it will last even longer to store it in the fridge.
  • The fat content  in any maamoul recipe determines the texture of the finished cookie. the rule is you need 450-500 grams fat (butter, ghee and oil) for each kilogram maamoul. Use less and you will get a crunchy maamoul. Use more and you will get a melt in your mouth buttery maamoul
  • Rosewater and orange blossom water are optional, you can replace them with water or milk.

Maamoul making trouble shoot

My maamoul cracks when I bake it

  • The fat content in the recipe you are using is less than what is required
  • you are adding too much filling leaving a thin layer of dough to cover it

My maamoul is crunchy and dry

  • You over baked the maamoul
  • you left the maamoul out, leaving it in a container that is not air tight will cause it to dry
  • The fat content in your recipe is too little
  • You over worked the dough while kneading it

My maamoul is crumbly, it falls apart when you try to hold a cookie

  • your recipe contains too much fat