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Maamoul cookies have always held a special place in my heart. They were a staple in our family during special occasions, and now I’ve learned to recreate them using my mom’s recipe to share with my family. I’ve always been fascinated by the traditional way of using a maamoul cookie mold to shape them, and their intricate designs are so beautiful and unique.
Table of Contents
- What is maamoul
- Why you’ll love these maamoul cookies
- Ingredients to make maamoul cookies
- How to make maamoul cookies with different fillings
- Tips for making the best maamoul cookies
- Popular substitutions & additions
- How to store maamoul
- Frequently asked questions
- More Lebanese Dessert recipes:
- Maamoul Recipe
Maamoul is not your ordinary cookie! It’s a delicious cookie rooted in tradition and culture and found in many Middle Eastern cuisines, such as Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. These cookies are crisp, and buttery and stuffed with either nuts or dates. They’re very lightly sweetened and have a unique preparation and presentation, making them definitely a labor of love.
What is maamoul
The word “maamoul” in Arabic means “filled,” which is exactly what this recipe is – a cookie stuffed with a mixture and then pressed into a wooden mold.
Maamoul is a traditional Middle Eastern cookie typically served during special occasions like Eid al-Fitr and Easter. The cookie dough combines semolina, butter, sugar, and yeast with a hint of fragrant orange blossom water and filled with either a crunchy nuts mixture (using walnuts or pistachios) or a sticky date paste. What gives it is iconic look is the wooden mold used to create elaborate designs and shapes.
Why you’ll love these maamoul cookies
- Unique Recipe: What I love about this recipe is that it goes beyond baking and gives you an art project too – similar to making Christmas sugar cookies. You can use different wooden molds for different fillings and some people even decorate these by hands using special pins for creating the designs.
- Amazing flavor and texture. This maamoul recipe has a crumbly texture similar to shortbread cookies and a sweet, nutty flavor from using fine semolina in the dough. When it’s paired with different fillings, you’ll have a delicious contrast in textures and flavors.
- Authentic recipe. These date and walnut-filled cookies are the real deal, using traditional ingredients and methods to create an authentic Middle Eastern treat.
Ingredients to make maamoul cookies
- Semolina flour: Semolina flour is the essential ingredient in maamoul cookies, providing its unique texture. It’s readily available at most Middle Eastern markets and should be available at your local grocery store or online.
- Mahlab: This fragrant spice is made from the cherry pit of a wild cherry called St. Lucy. It can also be found in most Middle Eastern markets and online. You could also substitute ground cardamom or fennel or mix together ground cinnamon and clove in a pinch. The flavor won’t be exactly the same but it will add just the right amount of aromatic flavor.
- Unsalted butter: Use unsalted butter and add salt instead. If you use salted butter, just be sure to skip the added salt in this recipe. You could also use ghee or coconut oil for a vegan maamoul recipe.
- Dry active yeast: Because this recipe uses dry active yeast, it will need to go through the proofing stage when added to the flour and butter mixture, which only takes about 15 minutes.
- Salt and sugar: Salt balances flavors, and the small amount of sugar adds a hint of sweetness, which keeps these cookies a little on the savory side.
- Orange blossom water: The fragrant addition of orange blossom water is a classic Middle Eastern addition to many recipes. You could also swap it for rose water or a different flavoring, such as almond extract.
How to make maamoul cookies with different fillings
The maamoul dough is prepared first and then allowed to rest for at least a few hours, but really it’s better overnight so all the moisture is absorbed. You’ll make the filling separately, and once the dough is ready, you’ll then just be shaping, filling, and pressing the cookies into shapes using the mold.
How to make the dough for maamoul cookies
- The night before, melt the butter in a large bowl and stir in the semolina, mahlab, and salt until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature.
- The next day, stir the warm water with the sugar and yeast and wait until it gets foamy. Transfer the yeast mixture on top of the semolina mixture with the orange blossom water.
- Stir until it forms a smooth dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rest.
- Measure out the dough into balls by either using a measuring spoon or a scale for more accuracy.
How to make date maamoul
- Press the dough balls to flatten them.
- Place the date paste into however many cookies you are filling. I split the recipe and did half, or 16, cookies with date paste.
- Fold the dough around the date paste and pinch the seams together to seal them.
- Place each of the stuffed dough balls one at a time into the maamoul mold.
- Then, use your hand to press and pack the dough lightly into the mold. You want to make sure it gets into all the crevices of the mold to get the best shape and design.
- Turn the mold over and tap the top of the maamoul mold firm over parchment paper or a surface to release the cookie. Repeat this step with the remaining cookies.
How to make walnut maamoul
- Roll the dough into a ball.
- Use your finger to press down in the center to form a “cup” for the filling to go in.
- Make the walnut filling by combining the walnuts with powdered sugar and orange blossom water. Then add it to the center of the dough.
- Use your fingers to close the dough around the walnut mixture.
- Place the stuffed cookie dough into your mold and press down firmly with the palm of your hand.
- Turn the mold over and firmly tap it on a surface to release the cookie.
bake Your cookies
- Spread the filled cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake until the bottoms are golden. The tops should still be pale white with just slightly crisped edges. Dust them off with powdered sugar when they cool slightly.
Tips for making the best maamoul cookies
- Let the dough rest. After preparing the dough, it’ll take several hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors to meld together. This is key to softening the semolina.
- Skip the mold. If you really want to try this recipe but can’t get your hands on a mold, there’s still a way! You can easily shape these cookies with your hands. They just won’t have the design the mold offers.
- Don’t overfill the dough. Adding too much filling can cause the maamoul to break apart during baking.
- Use a plastic wrap on the cookie mold. If you want to avoid tapping the mold on the surface 36 times, you can simply line with a thin plastic wrap and then lift the plastic to release the cookie.
- Make the nut mixture in a food processor. The mixture will hold better together if you pulse it to make sure it’s finely chopped.
Popular substitutions & additions
- Make you own date paste. If you can’t find date paste or you’d like to make your own from scratch, just pit 1 cup dates and heat them on a stove top with 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon butter until they soften. Allow to cool completely before using.
- Try a different filling. While walnuts , pistachios and dates are the most common, you can also use another nut filling, such as almonds, or even hazelnuts. Some people like to add shredded coconut, figs or apricots.
- Add spice to the dough. You can incorporate cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg into the dough to add extra flavor.
- Experiment with the presentation. The maamoul mold is traditional, but you can also shape the dough into balls or crescents or even cut them into fun shapes using cookie cutters. Just make sure the dough covers the filling.
How to store maamoul
Allow them to cool completely after baking, and then store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also freeze maamoul for longer storage.
How long will maamoul last on the counter?
Maamoul cookies can last up to 2 weeks when stored properly.
Can I freeze stuffed semolina cookies?
Yes. To freeze your filled semolina cookies, start by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap and then placing them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Frozen maamoul can be stored for up to three months. When ready to enjoy, simply thaw them at room temperature before serving.
Frequently asked questions
A maamoul mold is a tool used to shape the stuffed dough by pressing it into the mold’s cavity. It creates equal-sized cookies, usually with a design carved into them, and can be made of wood or plastic. I found mine at a local Middle Eastern store, but you can also find many maamoul molds with varying designs online.
Yes, you can use a variety of different fillings for maamoul, such as pistachios, almonds, or figs.
No, it is not necessary, and it is best not to oil the mold. It should release easily from the butter in the cookie dough.
Date maamoul and walnut maamoul are two yummy versions of this classic Middle Eastern cookie that will definitely leave a lasting impression. The crisp buttery exterior with the sweet or nutty filling is such a treat for the whole family and they look forward to it during the holidays!
More Lebanese Dessert recipes:
- How to Make Ashta
- Lebanese Rice Pudding
- Namoura (Semolina Cake)
- Ghraybeh Cookies
- Lebanese Baklava
- Sesame Tahini Cookies
- Homemade Lebanese Kanafa
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For date filling
- 6 ounces date paste
- The night before, melt the butter in a large bowl and stir in the semolina, mahlab and salt until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature.
- The next day, stir the warm water with the sugar and yeast and wait 5 minutes to allow it to get foamy. Transfer on top of the semolina mixture along with the orange blossom water and stir until it forms a smooth ball of dough. Cover with the plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, powdered sugar and orange blossom water to make the nut filling
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove 1 tablespoon of dough (about 24 grams) and continue until you have 32 dough balls. Press each dough ball to flatten it. Place 2 teaspoons of the date paste into 16 of them and 2 teaspoons of the nut filling into the remaining 16. Pinch the dough over it to seal.
- Place the dough ball inside the maamoul mold and pack well. Turn the mold over and tap the opposite side to remove from the mold. Repeat with remaining stuffed dough and place the maamoul on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart
- Bake until the bottoms are golden, but the tops remain pale white, about 15 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the top immediately and allow them to cool before serving
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.