Sunday, 3 January 2016

Maamoul - date and orange-filled Arabic cookies

The best thing about traveling? All the food I get to discover! And the second best? Getting to share them on my blog with you guys!

Here's another souvenir recipe from my latest trip to Middle East: maamoul cookies. In case the combination of orange, dates, cardamom and cinnamon is too Christmasey, save the recipe for later anyway. In Lebanon they actually make these specifically for Easter! 

There are two schools of though when it comes to maamoul cookies. The first only approves the use of semolina, whereas the other bakes theirs with regular flour. Semolina version truly is labour of love as the dough alone takes 2 days to make. But, just in case you have time and patience (and both fine semolina and coarse semolina and orange blossom water and rose water and mastic and mahlab...) feel free to try either one of these two recipes. 

The secret to their ornate shape is a particular maamoul mould, which are sold in just about every Arab market. Traditionally they're made of wood, but these days also plastic ones are available. In case you haven't got one yet (!) you could either pop into your local Middle Eastern shop or just flatten the cookie balls after filling and bake as they are. 

Depending on the size this recipe yields 20-25 cookies

Arabic maamoul cookies with orangey date filling


125 g butter at room temperature
0,5 dl oil (neutral-tasting, such as rapeseed or canola)
1 dl icing sugar
1 egg
1,25 dl orange juice (approximately the juice of 1 large orange), or water or milk if you prefer
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
6-8 dl all purpose flour

Orange and date filling:

300 g soft, pitted dates
75 g butter, at room temperature
1,5 tsp finely grated orange zest
1-1,5 tsp cardamom (according to taste)
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon (according to your taste)

Beat soft butter with oil and sugar until smooth. Add egg, vanilla and orange juice. Mix, until smooth,and then start adding flour 1 dl at a time (add baking powder into the first batch). Keep adding flour until you have soft, pliable dough that holds its shape and won't stick (make sure not to add too much flour, or you'll end up with hard, crumbly dough). Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour. Both the dough and filling can be made already the day before.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. Measure the ingredients into a blender and blizz until smooth. If needed, add a splash of orange juice to help the machine work its magic. Scoop into a small bowl and chill. 

Divide the dough into similar size pieces (the exact size depends on the size of the maamoul moulds). Keep rest of the dough covered as you're working on each portion.

Scoop a teaspoonful of the filling and roll each spoonful into a ball.

Flatten each portion of the dough into a flat disc on your palm (use a little flour if needed). Place the filling in the centre and wrap the dough around it. Pinch shut and roll into smooth balls. 

Place each ball into a maamoul mould, press down gently and then flip onto a tray lined with parchment. 

Bake at 220 until they almost start to get colour (depending on the oven about 6-7 minutes). Leave to cool, transfer off the tray, dust with icing sugar and serve. 

The filling alone is highly addictive and makes super quick and easy raw truffles too (use coconut oil instead of butter to keep it vegan, if needed!)

... oh, and the third best thing? Being home alone and getting to wolf down every single one of these all by myself!




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