Ma’amoul

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These dried fruit-filled semolina cookies are a staple for both Eid and Easter in the Levantine region. The filling can vary from dates to figs, and nuts like pistachios, walnuts or almonds are also used. The buttery crust contains semolina, which makes it delightfully crumbly in your mouth. Traditional ma’amoul recipes call for resting the semolina and ghee dough for one to two days in the refrigerator before mixing in a small amount of yeast. This recipe skips the chilling and uses baking powder instead, so the cookies are ready to enjoy within about an hour. You can buy special ma'amoul molds to print the patterns on the cookies (mooncake molds also work well). Or you can simply flatten the dough into disks and press in a pattern on top using a fork. It’s easiest to make the filling with store-bought date paste (labeled baking dates at local Middle Eastern and Mediterranean shops and online), but you can make your own with Medjool dates if you prefer.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 45 min
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: about 45 small cookies
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Ingredients

Dough:

Date Filling:

Directions

Special equipment:
a ma'amoul cookie mold, optional
  1. For the dough: Put the semolina, flour, granulated sugar and baking powder in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. (It’s important not to use your hands to make the dough because the natural heat of your hands will make the dough release oil, resulting in dry dough.) Mix in the ghee. The mixture will feel and look like crumbs. Add the milk slowly (2 tablespoons at a time) and mix to combine until you have a soft dough that you can make into small balls. It’s best to add the milk slowly so the dough doesn't come together before all the milk is added.
  2. For the date filling: Put the baking dates, ghee, cinnamon and cardamom in a medium bowl and mix with a spoon until the ghee and spices are combined well with the dates. Rub some ghee or vegetable oil on your palms to avoid sticking and shape the date filling into 40 to 45 small balls for a small ma'amoul mold. If using a larger mold, shape the balls accordingly.
  3. Preheat the oven 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Roll the semolina dough into 40 to 45 balls as well.
  5. Flatten a semolina dough ball and place a date ball in the middle of it. Bring the dough together to cover the date ball and roll in your hands to smooth the cracks. Place the ball in the ma'amoul mold and gently press it so the pattern prints on it. Bang the mold against a cutting board to release the cookie and place it smooth-side down on the prepared baking sheet. If you don’t own a mold, simply flatten the stuffed dough ball into a 1/2-inch-thick disk and make a simple pattern by pressing a fork gently on the dough to make a crisscross. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. You can place the cookies quite close to each other since they won’t spread.
  6. Bake until the cookies are slightly golden brown around the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Let them cool completely, then dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Cook’s Note

You can use melted butter instead of ghee. I prefer ghee because of its texture and nutty flavor. The amount of date paste used in this recipe depends on the size of cookies you decide to make. If you have any extra date filling, store it in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 6 months. You can use it later for another batch of ma’amoul. If making the date paste from scratch, put 14 to 16 pitted Medjool dates in a food processor with 1 tablespoon ghee, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and blend until smooth.