Lebanese cuisine, a very rich and varied cuisine, has the distinction of often featuring recipes that are simple to make yet full of flavor. However, the maamoul recipe is not the easiest. The ingredients and preparation may be elementary, but shaping a maamoul is definitely an art.
Making Middle Eastern pastries is definitely an art. Patience and thoroughness are two qualities you need in order to master the majority of these tasty treats.
What is maamoul?
Maamoul is a typical Lebanese shortbread, usually stuffed with dates, but which can also be filled with pistachios, almonds or walnuts. This small pastry that melts in your mouth is very popular in the Middle East. It is often found on holiday tables, including Eid al-Fitr.
How to make maamoul?
Making these little sculpted cakes is long and requires the use of special maamoul mold, usually wood or plastic spoons. These pastries can take many shapes as they differ by the impressions left by the molds.
Regarding the maamoul dough, as simple as it is, you need to follow specific steps to get a crumbly texture and a beautiful appearance. To obtain this melting effect so specific to maamoul, the composition of the dough should be balanced between the flour, semolina, butter on one side and liquid on the other side. And getting the right balance can only be felt by kneading with your fingers.
So I left my faithful robot for once and went for my most loyal utensils: my 2 hands! Rest assured, it is quite possible to make maamoul without the moldings. Just make a ball of dough, stuff it and roll it using the palm of your hand. You can then decorate with tongs or a fork.
In Lebanon, the tradition is that women (neighbors, sisters, cousins, etc.) meet and make these maamoul in very large quantities.
At home, it was the success I expected!
Maamoul are typical Lebanese shortbreads, usually stuffed with dates, but which can also be filled with pistachios, almonds or walnuts.
- 3¼ cups extra-fine durum wheat flour (or semolina)
- 2¼ cups flour
- 1 cup softened butter
- ¾ cup icing sugar + some for dusting
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup orange blossom water , rose water or a mixture of both
- 8 oz. date paste
- 3 tablespoons toasted walnuts
- 5 tablespoons toasted pistachios
- 3 tablespoons toasted almonds
Mix all ingredients together or separate all the dried fruits and mix each of them with date paste.
In a large container, place the extra fine semolina, the flour, icing sugar, softened butter, baking powder. Mix well until reaching a dough that feels like sand.
Add the milk and then the required amount of orange blossom water and/or rose water. Form a ball of dough. It should be smooth, not sticky.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
Form balls of about ½ oz.
Stuff each ball of dough with the date and nuts. Roll the ball so the filling is fully coated with dough.
Shape the balls using a maamoul mold. Put the dough inside the maamoul mold and pack well, turn the mold over and give a quick tap to unmold.
Place the maamoul on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook in a preheated oven at 350 F for 15-20 minutes. Pastries must remain very white.
As you take them out of the oven, sprinkle with icing sugar.
Maamoul can be kept for eight days in an airtight container.