Maamoul; stuffed Easter cookies


PIN - Maamoul Stuffed Easter Cookie - cookin5m2 -9919Maamoul Stuffed Easter Cookie - cookin5m2 -9893

UPDATE: I updated the post photos with recent ones (2017) with the new branding.

After posting about Kaak Asfar, I promised to share another Easter speciality, and since i am a man of my word, here it is: Maamoul. This is an annual recipe we enjoy making, or try to stay away from as much as possible, but we fail. The process is as good as the final product. For those who are not familiar with Maamoul, it is fragrant semolina cookie shells stuffed with slightly sweetened ground dates, pistachios or walnuts with aromas of rose water and orange blossom water. 

Maamoul is only made as an Easter delicacy by Middle Eastern Christians. Taking into consideration the Lebanese sweets shops and brands war over who ruled the billboards, maamoul has got good exposure in the past couple of years. Still, maamoul is scary for all those health freaks and those with health issues: dietitians warning you how much calories one cookie has, your trainer informing you about how many hours on the treadmill you need to burn one cookie, or your cholesterol-filled heart and arteries scream from the fat you eat all year long at the sight of a maamoul cookie. It is so desired yet very much hated. Have you given its feelings a thought? Have you? HAVE YOU? Is that how you treat the guest that only comes once a year?
You only think about yourselves, you selfish fatties!

EAT THOSE COOKIES. I know you want to.
We still have some (a month after easter) if you want, and they are still as good as when sealed in an airtight container.

Mom, my sister and Zakiyé making maamoul during the holy week

Mom, my sister and Zakiyé making maamoul during the holy week

There was a time when everyone used to make their own maamoul. Those who didn’t know how, used to pay someone to make them a batch. Nowadays, most people prefer to buy a kilogram “mshakkal” (assorted) and avoid the lovely hassle around making maamoul and the aromas that fill the house and the neighborhood as you walk in the streets.

In the old days, the whole week before Easter was reserved for Maamoul making. Each day, a group of neighbors and friends gather at the house of one of them to help. The next day they help another. By the end of the week, each one of them gets a good fun and company for a week and a big batch of maamoul. This is what our old neighbor Zakiyé tells us. Zakiyé used to work as a cook for a wealthy family in Beirut. Despite leaving them a long time ago because of her age, they still call her to check up on her and ask her to help them with Maamoul. 

For the past couple of years, Zakiyé has been mom’s partner in the Easter Maamoul fiesta. Mom is never left alone on this day. It is always a gathering; a few years ago, mom was overwhelmed when her brother and 2 sisters were helping her and the next day they all moved to her sister’s house to make her a batch. This is how it used to be done back in the old days. Sadly, few families are keeping this tradition alive.

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With Zakiyé helping mom with the maamoul, she convinced her into decorating them by hand instead of the classical wood molds used everywhere. The molds give these cookies a nice uniform finish while pinching them by hand gives them this random homey finish with no two cookies looking alike. Our molds, and so is the identifiable shapes of the cookies, are round with a star in the middle for dates, oval with stripes going down the center for pistachios and dome shaped with stripes for the walnuts. Mom and Zakiyé used the same shapes for their own but they used small serrated pinchers to pinch patterns on the filled and shaped cookies.

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Let me talk about the dough for a bit. Even though I haven’t made the dough myself yet, I have witnessed and helped numerous times, I have consumed maamoul for… let’s say ever since I had teeth. Good maamoul, and I am describing homemade ones here, are those with a generous filling that is sweet yet not overpowering the flavor of the thick-enough dough shell holding everything together. The dough should be crumbly to the bite but holds itself if you wish to take it slow with 3 or more bites. Precise butter/ghee measurements with the well-studied proportions of fine and coarse semolina will neither give you I-have-a-whole-crumbled-maamoul-cookie-on-my-lap after the first bite, nor I-broke-a-tooth maamoul. It all depends on the perfect proportions. Don’t get me started on the fragrances added. You’ve got the miské (mastica), rose and orange blossom water and mom’s special maamoul incense. They all bond together in the dough that is left to rest and infuse overnight to give the cookies this aromatic flavor. The same goes for the filling.

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Zakiyé is our old neighbor who never got married. She worked her entire life and helped her close family and relatives and now she is living by herself in a small house. Mom is like the daughter she never had. Zakiyé is a good cook. I have taken a few cooking tips from her. I love how she loves food and enjoys big fatty recipes like Moghrabieh cooked with lamb bones. She also loves peanut butter, which is somehow unusual for an old lady who doesn’t go out much considering how relatively new peanut butter in our middle eastern market. As a part of generation recipe exchange, I will try to get some authentic old recipes she used to cook or got from her family.

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Maamoul Stuffed Easter Cookie - cookin5m2 -9910Maamoul Stuffed Easter Cookie - cookin5m2 -9882

Maamoul

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 750g fine semolina (farkha)
  • 250g coarse semolina
  • 450g butter (1 pack)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp mahlab
  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • 1/2 cup orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • Rose incense special for maamoul
  • And mom’s secret ingredient (which she refused to tell me about)

For the filling

Dates (for 1kg combined semolina dough):

  • 1 kg Dates paste, or
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp mahlab

Pistachio (for 500g combined semolina dough):

  • 500g pistachios (finely ground)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp mahlab
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • Mom’s secret ingredient

Walnuts (for 500g combined semolina dough):

  • 500g walnuts (finely ground)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 mahlab
  • 1/4 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • Mom’s secret ingredient

Procedure

  • Rub the butter, 1/4 cup rose water, 1/4 cup orange blossom water, sugar, mahlab and both of the semolina between both hands until all of it is covered in butter
  • Leave it covered with plastic wrap for 10 hours or overnight
  • The next day, add the yeast, and the rest of the rose and orange blossom water and mix well and knead with your hands until it forms a dough
  • Light a coal, put it in an incense burner or coffee plate and put a piece of the incense. Place on top of the dough and cover with a piece of cloth for around 15 minutes, or until the incense stops burning
  • Mix the filling by adding all the ingredients of each filling in a separate bowl
  • For the dates filling, ball the dates mix and set aside
  • Prepare the dough by balling the dough into pingpong ball size and setting aside
  • Poke the dough to form a hole in it
  • For the dates filling, place the dates mix ball in the dough and close firmly, press to form a thick disk then with the small round end of a wooden spoon press the center of the disk all the way till it forms a mini bagel-shaped cookie
  • For the other fillings, scoop a teaspoon of the dough and close the dough firmly
  • If you’re using a mold, fit the mold in clean stockings and push the dough in the mold. Smack the edge on the table with your hand under it to catch it as it fall
  • If pinching by hand, pinch a pattern on the cookies as shown in the pictures
  • Set directly in a baking tray and bake in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes until the top and bottom and golden
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired

 Maamoul Stuffed Easter Cookie - cookin5m2 -9869Maamoul Stuffed Easter Cookie - cookin5m2 -9896

Replace sugar in the filling with ground raisins or dried apricots for a natural sweetener

Some stuff these cookies with almonds instead of walnuts.

43 thoughts on “Maamoul; stuffed Easter cookies

  1. Oh wow. This is all too gorgeous and moving to be commented. I love everything about this post. I wish I could sit there among those beautiful ladies and learn from them.

    Like

  2. hello!
    love the recipe and the beautiful pictures ! your mom’s maamoul look gorgeous!
    would love to join too for some tips .
    what’s your mom’s secret ingredient for the filling ? 🙂 so we can have the same authentic taste

    Like

    • Thank you for stopping by. She refused to tell me what that secret ingredient was. Not even I know it. Even when I was proofreading the ingredients with her I asked her to tell me to check if I haven’t written it by mistake. She still refused and assured (unfortunately) that I didn’t include it.

      Like

  3. i understand ,it’s a family recipe that she wants to keep. it’s okay . i’m making mhallabiyeh at the moment ^_^ . any plans for your next post ?

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    • I’m might be posting the homemade burger and burger buns I shared a week earlier on Instagram. Or a salad and pasta dish that I haven’t shared yet.

      Share a photo of your mhallabiyeh on the blog’s page on Facebook. I still have never tried it, but I might be making riz b-halib for a friend soon.

      Like

  4. here’s the recipe :
    4 cups milk
    6 Tbsp cornstarch
    1 Tbsp orange blossom water
    1 tsp rose water
    6 Tbsp granulated sugar
    ground pistachios, to garnish
    1. In a saucepan, over medium heat pour the milk and sugar (save 3/4 cup milk to dissolve the cornstarch in). Stir to dissolve the sugar; dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk; when the mixture starts to steam pour the cornstarch mixture and stir continuously until the pudding thickens; add the flavoring at the end; pour the pudding into individual cups and cool on the counter; refrigerate. Garnish with ground pistachios if desired.
    it’s time to give it a try ! 🙂

    Like

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  9. Thank you for the post. I was so pleased to see the metal pinchers. I was lucky to be give one while in Egypt and have seen them in use here in the USA.

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  10. Love this post forever. Amazing tutorial, just like I remember my aunties filling tray after tray of these gems some 50 years ago. Two years later after you posted this recipe and I wonder if you ever got to know what the secret ingredient is….? Any guesses there?

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    • It is super hearwarming to read those words. I have a deep appreciation to those who still do such recipes as traditionally as possible.
      I still haven’t known what that secret ingredient is. I have to tell mom to keep it somewhere I can find it after she decides to leave this world (hopefuly long time from now)

      Like

      • Got all the ingredients ready, minus the rose incense, I still have no clue as to what that could be. The temperature for the oven is listed as 200, is it Celcius or Farentheit? Any tips for the baking part of it? Thanks a million.

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        • Hey!
          The rose incense is an extra thing. You can ask at a spice shop if they have any incense pieces they recommend for food, or Maamoul specifically. Not many people know about this and few who do it.
          The oven temperature is in Celsius.
          Bake them on the middle rack, and keep an eye on the bottoms. They need to get golden a bit to firm up, but it’s not to have the tops to be slightly colored and crumbly. I’m here if you’d like to ask anything else

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  12. It’s a real shame when people get caught up in modern life and give up on these types of traditions. In Spain we also have a lot of Easter sweets which are made in groups; it’s a great opportunity to learn from the older generation, have a good gossip and then get rewarded with sweet delights lol Perhaps your mom’s secret ingredient is love? hehe Happy Easter (with a minor delay…) :p

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  13. Hello ! Hope you are doing good !
    This is one of my favorite posts ever , my mom used to make maamoul with her friend , i remember coming back from school to see hundreds of maamoul chilling in the kitchen .the smell was just heavenly ..
    I am going to make some maamoul tomorrow (about 30 ) , my fingers are crossed ! What about you ? Are you planning to make some this year ?
    Have a great weekend ahead .kisses

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  15. Hi dear H, once again time to make some cookies, but I have a great request to make, if you’d allow me. Can you tell your mom I have been wishing for her ‘ secret ingredient ‘ for 3 years now, to please have pity on your very ‘foreign-English-speaking-far-away-cooking-misfit’ blog follower, so at least once in my life I can have the pleasure of baking the best ever maamool? Please…? Begging from the coast of Florida with my soul in Lebanon❤️

    Like

    • Hahahahaha. I begged already.
      She’s not willing to give it up already. I asked her though to include it in her will.
      She said the recipe can work without the secret ingredient. It’s just an extra flavor that’s her special touch

      Like

      • Again I will suffer silently sans l’ingrédient secrète…just let her know i will beg at your blog next year just in case she feels pity for this, by now and after all this yearning, long-lost-some-kind-of-2-thousand-miles-away-removed-relative. Cheers!

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        • Hahahahahahahahahaha haha
          I’m so sorry. People tell me that I shouldn’t share my secret recipes online, but I can’t bit share. But this is my mom’s and I can’t help it

          Like

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