These pretty cookies are more like mini pastries. To reach the sticky date or pistachio filling you have to bite into a crumbly shortbread. Not a punishment at all! I love the shapes that they are formed into by special wooden moulds. Every filling has its traditional shape so you know what you are biting into. Date filled versions usually are dome shaped with a flat top and pistachio ones are mostly oblong. But you can also just use little pastry cases or shape them into balls like I did. The taste will be just the same. Ma’amoul or maamoul are very popular in Lebanon, but are also made in Jordan, Palestine, Syria, southern Turkey and northen Irak. Traditionally, muslims eat them at night during ramadan and christians bake them during easter. As with any classic cookie there are many variations. I liked this one -made with fine semolina- the best.
(for about 25 cookies)
For the dough
250 grams fine semolina
25 grams of sugar
pinch of salt
50 grams butter
40 milliliter orange water
½ teaspoon yeast
For the filling
250 grams unpitted dates
25 grams soft butter
115 grams pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix the semolina with the sugar and the salt. Melt the butter and mix with the semolina and the orange water. Leave to rest overnight or at least 6 hours so the semolina can soak up the liquid. The next day mix in the yeast. Add enough water to form a dough that is soft and just slightly sticky. Leave to stand for 2 hours.
Blend together the dates with the butter until smooth. Chop the nuts with the sugar and ½ teaspoon of water in the food processor to a rough paste.
Form balls 3 cm out of the dough. Form balls of 1,5 cm out of the date paste and the pistachio paste.
Flatten the dough balls into circles of about 7 cm diameter and place a filling ball in the middle. Make sure the filling is covered completely and roll into a ball. I used little tartlette forms and spread some cling film over them to prevent the dough from sticking. Gently push in the ball of dough. Take them out and prick a few holes in the dough (be carefull not to prick to deep, or the filling will spill out when baking).
Preheat the oven to 160 °C or 325 °F . Cover a cookie sheet with baking paper and bake the cookies about 15 min. They should stay nice and pale. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool. Rub the cookies with some icing sugar.
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