‘Ma'amoul are small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts (or occasionally almonds, figs, or other fillings). They are popular in Levantine cuisine and in the Gulf countries. They may be in the shape of balls or of domed or flattened cookies. They can either be decorated by hand or be made in special wooden moulds.
Many households keep a stock of them all year round, but they are particularly used on religious festivals. Muslims eat them at night during Ramadan, and Arabic-speaking Christians eat them at Easter.’
I made the version which is filled with walnuts and pistachios. Of course I did not have the wooden moulds so I relied on my palms and the use of a fork and I also used a ridged part which came out from one of my nephew’s toys.
400 grams fine semolina,
200 grams frozen butter,
10 grams refined flour,
1 tsp baking powder,
100 grams icing sugar + extra for dusting,
2 tbsp milk,
1 tsp orange essence,
175 grams of a mixture or walnuts and pistachios,
50 grams sugar,
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
Mix together the semolina, flour, baking powder and icing sugar in a bowl.
Cut the frozen butter into cubes and add it to the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingers till it resembles bread crumbs. Add the milk and orange essence and make a dough. Let it stand covered for about 3-4 hours. This is an important step as it makes the dough workable.
Blend the nuts, cinnamon powder and sugar into a coarse blend.
There are two methods to make the actual cookie:
Method 1 – Take a walnut-sized ball of the dough and flatten it on your palm, then make a cup shape and fill it with the filling. Get the edges of the cup together and join them to form a dough ball filled with the stuffing.
Method 2 – Take two dough balls one small and one big. Take the bigger dough ball and flatten it into a disc and make a slight depression in the centre. Flatten the smaller dough ball into a disc too. Place some filling in the depression of the bigger disc and place the smaller disc on top and seal the edges. Shape into a flat cookie.
Then make ridges on the cookie (irrespective of the method you follow for the cookie making) using a fork or any other tool you find handy.
Preheat the oven to 180oC. Bake for 25 minutes at 180oC.
Let them cool completely and then dust with the remaining icing sugar.