march: anna’s ma’amoul cookies (middle eastern date filled cookies)

I’d never tasted (or even heard of!) ma’amoul cookies before, but I came across them while doing some research for Easter sweets. They are a type of Middle Eastern pastry, made for special occasions, in particular Easter. The dough is made out of flour and semolina, and is stuffed with dates and nuts. I love dates, but what swayed me is the beautiful look of the cookies! The dough is wrapped around the filling and then pressed into a wooden mold, to create the shape and design of the cookie. I don’t own a ma’amoul mold, but it looked like one I have for making Chinese-style “kueh”, or sweets. The “ang koo kueh” that this particular wooden mold is used for is made from glutinous rice flour and filled with sweet mung bean filling. Like ma’amoul, it is also made for / eaten on special occasions!

Image from Food Bridge:

My wooden mold:

easter ma'amouls

Most of the recipes I found online use rose or orange blossom water in the cookie dough, but I’m not a big fan of floral flavors, so I substituted this with some orange juice and zest. The other missing ingredient is mahlab, which is a spice made from grinding the insides of cherry seeds from a particular type of cherry. It’s supposed to add a subtle but fruity and rich flavor to the cookies. I wasn’t able to find it locally, so I went without. With the semolina in the cookie dough, the texture of the cookies came out a little drier than I would have liked, so I brushed them with a few coats of orange juice to provide a bit more moisture. Like macarons, the flavor and texture actually seemed to be better after a couple of days, as I think some of the moisture from the date filling absorbed into the cookie!

date almond ma'amoulsI would definitely give these cookies another go if I can find mahlab and get my hands on a proper wooden mold! Find the recipe here

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