Friday, December 14, 2007

Maamoul: Middle Eastern Treat

I found these cookies on the 2004 list of the Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies. Maamoul are Middle Eastern cookies that are typically served during special occasions/holidays. The three most traditional fillings are dates, walnuts, or pistachios. They are normally molded into specific shapes, but these are made by hand.

I had some dates in my pantry, so I thought I would give them a shot. They weren't too difficult to make once I got the hang of it, but they aren't as universally appealing as some of the cookies I included in my holiday gift packages... not everyone likes dates! Still, I wanted to include them so I would have a little more variety in my treats. I think next time I may try the alternative filling of apricot and raisin (listed at the bottom).

I did take the time to poke the tops of my cookies (with a toothpick), but by the time the powdered sugar went on top, you couldn't really make any of the designs out. So, next time I'll just save myself the hassle and omit that step altogether, or use something larger like a skewer.

Maamoul: Stuffed Date-Orange Cookies
From Food Network Kitchens

1/2 pound pitted soft Medjool dates
2 tablespoons water
Pinch fine salt
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, plus about 1/2 to 2 cups more for dusting
Pinch fine salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil, such as canola
1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

To make the filling: Puree the filling ingredients in a food processor until evenly combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Clean the processor bowl.

Put the flour, baking powder, the 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, and salt in the bowl of food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times to mix. Add the butter, oil, and milk pulsing until the dough just comes together. Take care not to overwork the dough; it will be slightly wet.

Remove dough from the processor, and roll into 20 equally sized balls. In the palm of your hand, press and pat each ball of dough into a 2 3/4-inch round. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling (I used a cookie scoop to save time) in the center of each round and draw the edges up and around the filling. Pinch the dough together to make a sealed ball, and then carefully roll the cookie between your palms to make a smooth round ball (see my tips below). Press gently to flatten the cookie slightly, then place them seamed side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Gently prick the cookies with a fork or a wooden skewer in a decorative pattern taking care not to pierce the dough to the filling.

I found that the easiest way to make these was to start by pushing up the 'north' and 'south' ends of the cookie dough circle:

Then, push up the 'west' and 'east' ends of the circle:

Then, push the 'NW', 'SW,' 'NE', and 'SE' edges of the circle over the top of the filling and then pinch everything together to seal it.

Bake the cookies until firm and slightly puffed, and the tops are pale but the bottoms are just beginning to turn slightly golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Dust generously with confectioners' sugar, cool and dust again.

Alternative fillings:

Apricot Golden Raisin Nut Filling:
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (other nuts can be substituted)
1/3 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons apricot jam
Pinch fine salt

Puree in a food processor until evenly combined.

Quince-Walnut Filling:
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup quince jam
Pinch fine salt

Puree in a food processor until evenly combined.


  1. OH MY GOSH!! Ma'amoul is my FAAAAAVORITE! I'm so glad you made them!!! I love it!

  2. I recently discovered dates. The date and orange combo sounds good. The crystallized ginger sounds interesting. I will have to find some and try it.