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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
Replace sugar in the filling with ground raisins or dried apricots for a natural sweetener
Some stuff these cookies with almonds instead of walnuts.
47 thoughts on “Maamoul; stuffed Easter cookies”
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.
Come and spend your Easter vacation here in Lebanon and you’re welcome to join 🙂
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
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.
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 ?
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.
oh cool! i will be waiting to see your next posts 🙂
i only have a twitter account . i’m not a fb fan ;p
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 ! 🙂
I think I’ll try it now. How about we connect on Twitter and we’ll share photos of our outcome there?
sure !no prob . I just added you
Beautiful post, beautiful story, beautiful pictures and I love how your mum refused to tell you the secret ingredient :))
Mum got me some when they visited for Easter, and I had the last one just yesterday.
Again love this post
Thank you Christele,
I’m gonna ask about the secret ingredient next year or sneak behind her to see what it is.
We still have some maamoul, if you’d like 😛
Sahtein 🙂 for the ingredient even if she tells you, keep it a secret. Maybe one day, you have your restaurant/ shop and it’s her maamoul that lures in the customers :))
But is it nutmeg ? Hehe 😉
this is truly a wonderful idea with different syles of trying mamoul.. mine is too simple do have a look Mamoul cookies lovely space you have
This is absolutely delicious!
Thank you ☺
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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.
You’re welcome! That’s very interesting to know that they’re available in the US.
Tag me in some photo in case you do some Maamoul yourself
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?
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)
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.
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
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
haha. She promised me to leave that for me. She won’t tell.
I took a look at your blog and saw some of the Spanish specialty. Keep it up 🙂
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Shukran kteer 🙂
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
Good to hear back from you Lara
We will be making a small batch this year. I feel that making these cookies is a bliss
Totally agree ! I get very nostalgic when i see these cookies ..
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Could the secret ingredient be Arabic gum (mastic)?
It could be. I’ll have to pay close attention this year when mom is preparing maamoul, or take it to a lab and have it analyzed 😋
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❤️
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
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!
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
i totally understand :). What are my chances of being included in the will, then? Lol, thanks for the laughs…have a great summer!
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Hello , my step grandmother was from Lebanon , they had a little store in Canton ohio and lived above it , they lived 4 hours from us so I only got to see them on holidays , she made a type of bread or yeast roll that had a I think walnut mixture that was sweet but not to sweet I could eat them all I kn ok w they called it pardon my spelling but cockie was how it was pronounced, any clue what this was , and a recipe for it ?
The description is a bit vague. But it kind of reminded me of this mouwaraka that a bakery in Lebanon makes.
I looked up a photo and maybe this is what your step-grandmother made?
I don’t have a recipe but I could try and make it some time
I come back to this post every.single.year no matter how many maamoul posts I come across !! Some of wich are mediocre , needless to say
I get nostalgic of a time I used to help my mom and our neighbour .
I hope you are keeping this tradition alive in your family and that old lady , I hope she is doing well
Happy easter hicham , to many more
Marlene, I am so happy to read your comment. To be honest, this is the first year ever I handle the mammoul from scratch, mom helped me with the quantities only as she was busy and away during the Holy Week. My sisters came over and helped me get the batch done, it was great.
I will keep making maamoul myself as long as I can, and I would love to have people around helping.
Unfortunately the old lady passed away a couple of years ago, but she will always be remembered in these photos and in her perseverance in asking and helping mom shape the maamoul by hand and not by the molds