Cultural background

Maamoul are an ancient cookie from the Arab world. They are very popular in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine.

Ma’amoul means “stuffed” in Arabic. These flavorful cookies can be stuffed with a number of different fillings such as pistachios, orange. The recipe teaches how to make date filled cookies.

For Muslims, maamoul are traditionally made a few days before Eid, the three-day celebration that ends the Ramadan month of fasting. These cookies store well, so they’re perfect for keeping on hand as a treat. Maamoul are also enjoyed by Christians as a treat to celebrate Easter and the end of the Lenten fast.

Traditionally, maamoul are shaped using a mold called a tabbeh and contain a spice called mahlab. Don’t’ worry if you don’t have a mould or cannot find the mahlab, you can use almond extract and a little anise and use your imagination for the shape. We have tried these cookies as dessert during one of Association 2050’s  long meetings with tea and coffee. 

Culinary information

Ingredients for 4 people (simplified dough)

  • 400 g of flour
  • 80 ml of corn or sunflower oil or 100g of butter
  • 120 g of white or cane sugar
  • 120 ml of vegetable or cow’s milk
  • Rind of a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • Date filling: 300 gr dates, soft, pitted, chopped (or ready-made date paste)
  • 1 ½ tsp canola oil
  • 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • Pinch anise
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Dusting (optional): powdered sugar or finely ground almond meal

Preparation (one hour)

The dough

  • Start by pouring the flour into a large bowl
  • Add the sugar and mix well.
  • Combine the rind of a lemon (you  can also add other aromas such as vanilla or orange) and baking powder. Yeast is necessary in this shortcrust, since it contains no eggs, it helps a lot to make it crumbly.
  • Mix all the ingredients well.
  • Add the liquids: Start with the oil (or butter) and mix it well.
  • Add the milk a little at a time,
  • Work the dough with your hands until it forms a firm, non-sticky dough. If the dough is still a bit sticky, we can add some more flour.

The Filling

  • Place the chopped dates in a small saucepan along with the other filling ingredients.
  • Cover the saucepan and heat over medium heat, 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the dates soften and become jam-like.

Putting It All Together

Preheat your oven to 180 C.

  • Separate the dough and roll each section into a ball.
  • Flatten one ball of dough into a disc and place some filling on the center.
  • Fold the edges of the dough around the filling, pressing them together to seal in the filling.
  • Roll the filled cookie gently between your hands to bring it back to a nice ball shape.
  • Then, flatten the cookie slightly.
  • Decorate, if desired, using a fork or press the filled cookie into a floured mold and tap it out.
  • Place the filled and shaped cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 2 cm apart.
  • Bake the cookies for 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once during cooking. Remove the cookies when they are lightly golden brown.
  • Let the maamoul cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar.

Other aspects

  • Wash your hands carefully.   
  • Be careful with hot  pans and blenders.   
  • Most recipes for making date paste have you grind the dates in a food processor with some oil until they turn into a paste. If you don’t have access to a food processor, this is what you need to do:
    • Chop the dates finely
    • Place them in a saucepan
    • Add a little oil and water
    • Simmer until the dates soften into a paste.