Friday, April 10, 2009

Maamoul - Lebanese Easter Cookies

Happy Easter every one
Joyeuses Paques
Al Massih Kam .. Hakan Kam... ( in Arabic)
Koum Moran Min Kabrouh (in Aramic)

Maamoul are Middle Eastern cookies which are traditionally served at festivals and on holidays. They make popular Ramadan or Easter treats. The dough used to make maamoul is like semolina shortbread and the cookies are filled with sweetened mixtures of nuts. Traditionally, the cookies are made in decorative molds which stamp distinctive patterns onto the finished products; certain patterns and shapes are used to indicate specific fillings.
These light golden crumbly sweets are very popular in the Middle East, and although they are particularly associated with festivals, it is not uncommon to find maamoul around the house at other times as well. The cookies are often offered to visitors and honoured guests along with coffee and tea, and other beverages, depending on the region. Many bakeries carry maamoul and they can also be found packaged at various markets. The cookies can also be made at home; molds are helpful, although not required if you are using tweezers or crimpers.
This recipe does not change, you can divide the recipe in half, or third, but make sure you are using the same portioned amounts and ingredients to get the real flavour of the Lebanese Maamoul.
I used the same amount, and divided the dough in thirds, one part to be stuffed with dates, the second with a mix of walnuts and almonds (walnuts by it can be used) and the third for pistachios filling

Mother maamoul dough for all stuffing (Recipe updated)
Ingredients :
  • 1000 grams or 1 kg coarse semolina (from a Middle Eastern Stores) 
  • 1000 grams or kg medium farina (mix the two or use whatever is available in your market)
  • 1000 grams or 1 kg of sweet butter (clarified butter is better, or mixed with Semen)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. of mistake gum finely grounded with tsp.  sugar 
  • ground mix spices for date maamoul (1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 cardamom, 1/2 tsp of all spice)
  • 2 tsp. ground mahleb you find it at the middle eastern store
  • 2 tsp. of instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup of a mix orange blossom and rose water
  • around 1/2 cup of warm water for kneading the next day.

In a heavy bottom pot, on a low heat, dissolve the butter and the sugar to melt but don't boil , add the spices if you are making date maamoul only. or prepare the dough the next day divide and add the spices for the date maamoul dough.
Pour the butter over the semolina flour in a large mixing bowl, use your hands and mix the ingredients, making sure all the semolina flour is soaked with the butter. You can grab the semolina in the palm of your hands and rub it so that no lumps left.   It will take around 15-20 minutes to rub the butter and semen in the semolina to mix well. 

Cover the dough with a plastic wrap, then cover with a towel and leave it on the table overnight or if you mix it in the morning, wait 6 - 8 hours at least for the semolina to soak and fluff.

The second day, sprinkle the yeast over the semolina, add ½ cup of the flavoured water (rose water + orange blossom) mahleb and mistake gum and mix well for the new spices to combine.   Divide the dough into portions and start kneading using warm water to make a nice smooth dough easy to work with , when you take some dough in your hand and squeeze it should hold and doesn't break apart, this means its ready for stuffing. and its feels that its mixed well, and not crumbly in your hands.  If you prefer you can use your kitchen aid to mix it in several batches (kneading a little portion of the dough separately is easy and doesn't dry the dough, as I mentioned earlier you can portion the dough for every flavour and knead it , then let it rest around 10 minutes so the semolina fluff and become easier and softer to work with.

If you have wooden molds , wash them and dry well, then sprinkle the molds with some semolina and tap the excess out.  The molds also comes in plastic  (its easier to use for beginners) with similar designs each represents a flavour: the square for dates, egg shell for pistachio and the round for walnuts.
I prefer to shape the maamoul by hand, taking a piece of dough the size of a walnut. Dipping your index finger in water then insert into the center of  the dough, and start turning and pressing the dough to open at the same time with the remaining fingers are surrounding the dough to keep it from flatten , it will start taking the shape of an egg, or kibbee balls - add one tbsp of the stuffing inside the shell and then close the top by gathering the dough closer to close, you can shape it into a round ball for walnuts, egg shape for pistachio or bracelet for dates (for dates I mix it with some butter and the spices in the micro to soften it then shape them into round balls , I stuff the dough turn it into a round ball flatten it by hand and then use your finger to press in the centre and make a hole, fix the edges to become the same thickness all around, and using a fondant crimper or cookie tweezers decorate the cookie according to your taste.

If you are using a mold you can also open a piece of dough in the palm of your hand , add the stuffing, and close the sides around the stuffing turning it to a small ball. Pack ball into the mold. Level off cookie even with the lip of the mold. Make sure your dough is closed around the filling and nothing is coming out, the sugar in the filling will cook caramelized and sometimes burns , it will ruin your maamoul.

Transfer cookies to baking sheets lines with parchments, bake in a preheated 350F oven till light brown , don't over bake them.

Dates Maamoul
Apricot Maamoul is a new flavour
Date Stuffing:
You need the same amount of date as the dough. Add the dates in a heat proof bowl, add to it couple of spoons of sweet butter, and warm it in the microwave for 40 seconds, to soften, then add 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 of nutmeg or cardamom or the three spices, mix well by hand to soften, and let it cool to use. Dates are very good, full of healthy nutrition.
for dates: you can roll a thick rope on the working board then flatten by hand, roll a date rope thinner than your dough with the same length, put it in the center and close both ends, and re roll to close. cut diagonals and use a fork to prick some designs on top. this is a simple and easy design.

Nuts Stuffing:
for one kilogram of dough you need 600 gms of chopped walnuts/almond or walnuts , same for pistachios
Chop the nuts in food processor , half of the amount is chopped very fine and the other half is a bit coarser. add couple spoons of rose water + orange blossom and 1/4 cup of sugar . mix well and stuff your maamoul.

 Date Stuffing: for every kilo of maamoul dough one kilo of dates.  I like to spice the date dough and the dates stuffing with spices you can use the spices I mentioned in your dough, then add one spice or more in the date with a piece of butter depends on the amount, and I put them in the microwave to soften the dates and melt the butter , then I mix well so all the flavours are mixed and use it for stuffing.

Serving the Maamoul :  when serving your maamoul cookies you can dust the top with powder sugar, the dates doesn't need as its sweet enough.  

Here is a smaller recipe I scale it as per several requests
3 cup of semolina or 480 gm
heaping 1 cup of semen + clarified butter or sweet butter or 216 gm
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of yeast
1 tbsp each of flavoured water (Rose Water + Orange Blossom)
1/2 tsp mahleb + (1 1/2 tsp spices for the dates)
2 pieces of mistake gum grounded with tablespoon of sugar
for nut stuffing : 2 1/2 cup of chopped nuts + 4 tbsp of flavoured water + 2 tbsp sugar
Dates stuffing : even amount for dough and dates, same weight. spices according to your taste.
I know it takes time, but worth every bite of these awesome cookies.
Enjoy.. Happy Easter

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lebanese Easter Cookies

"These cookies are made in my mom's home village - Baalbek, in Lebanon, a week before Easter. They are such a hit, everyone asks for the recipe.


recipe makes around 100 cookies
600 gm all purpose flour
1400 gm semolina
570 gm sweet butter preferable if half butter and half ghee or all clarified butter
640 gm sugar
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¾ tsp Mahleb (available at Middle Eastern stores)
½ tsp cloves
1tbsp cinnamon
¾ tsp cardamom
¾ tsp all spice
½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ tbsp commercial yeast
425ml water
½ cup of black sesame seeds – kalungy
½ cup of rose water + orange blossoms

.In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar ,continue stirring to dissolve sugar. Do not boil. Add the flavored water mix.
2.Measure flours and spices in a large bowl. Add the warm melted butter mix
Stirring well so that the flour mix soaks the butter, knead with both hands.
Rest for 30 minutes, the mix will be crumbly. Warm the water and start kneading to make a soft pliable dough. At this time you can wash the black sesame seeds and add them to the cookies, or to half of the mix. Or leave without. Rest the dough for 1 hour .
3.Prepare 5 baking sheets set aside. On a cutting board or large plate, cut the dough into walnut size balls, and roll each into a rope and make wreath-shape cookies pinching the ends together. You can use a cookie cutter if you prefer. Rest the cookie on the baking sheets leaving small space between them. Cover with clean towels and leave on the table till the next day.

For Klisha Cookies

same dough, add extra tbsp of black pepper and one tsp all spice, and two tbsp dry yeast.
Leave the dough in the bowl to double. knead again and leave it till morning. the more it rises and you work on it, the spongier it will become. The next day knead again, then rest for 30 minutes then start cutting them into small walnut size balls and shaping them. You can bake them right away

4-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake cookies in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

These cookies are good any time; they have a nice crunch, not too sweet, serve them with coffee or tea, or snaks. We also eat them with Halloumi cheese


Add butter mix and spices to the flours

Add the butter mixture and mix well to coat the flours with the butter

Add the warm water and knead well to get a pliable dough, dont worry if its wet, it will dry soon.

wreath shape cookies

flower cookies

Butterflies cookies sprinkled with black sesame seeds - kulungi

If you like to use tweezers, go ahead and let your imagination work

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves is one of my favourite foods, either with ground meat stuffing or with vegetables.
Since we are at the last week of Lent, and we are eating vegetarian food I prepared this dish and I like to share it with you, as I know several readers love stuffed grape leaves, also this is a healthy meal for vegetarians. Its healthy full of nutrition, and the stuffing is very similar to the Tabbouleh salad, instead of using burghul we add rice.
The Leaves must be rolled firmly because the vegetables shrink after they cook; if the leaf is loose it will not hold and falls apart. As for the meat I suggest that we roll the leaves loosely giving the rice the space to expand and soak the liquid. It will stay firm and juicy.
Vegetable Grape Leaves are mostly served as part of a mezza, also can be served as main course.

Ingredients : 4 main course servings , or for 15 appetizers

1 large bunch of parsley
1 package of mint (if you have a bunch similar size to parsley use half)
1 bunch of green onions
2 pounds or around 5 tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp of pomegranate molasses
Dash of cinnamon
Around 3/4 of good olive oil
1cup of water
Around 1 pound of frozen grape leaves
Or a store bought jar


Pick the parsley & mint and wash several times. Clean the green onions and wash as well. Drain the vegetables completely from water before finely chopped.
Add the dressings and spices and mix well. Use a fine sieve and drain the juice and keep it aside. I have a grape tree in my garden, and I pick my own leaves in the summer, wash them, then freeze them in small freezer bags, they are very tender, they dont require lots of cooking as soon as the rice is cooked the food is done.

boil water and cook the leaves for several minutes specially if you are using store bought jar they are tough, (separate the leaves one by one and drop them in water, this will be easier for you to work with later) they need several minutes in hot water, for hand picked leaves one minute is more than enough to soften them, strain them in a colander to drain before using.
These are my step by step photos to help you during preparation, it will easier if you clean all the veggies the night before and left in the fridge in a strainer. the second day you continue
with the rest.
Ingredients for Vegetarian Grape Leaves

Make sure to pick the vegetables and wash them several times
chop the vegetables and defrost the grapeleaves before boiling them

Using a fine sievestrain the liquid and keep in a clean bowl,
after the leaves defrosted cook couple of minutes in boiling water,drain on a colander

if the leaf is a torn add another one to cover
If its small add another one in the center to make it larger to hold the stuffing

add the juice and enough water to cover the leaves

add a plate to keep rolls in shape during cooking

taste if rice is cooked

this meal is served at room temperature, any time !!!!!!!!! Yummmy
I wish you are here to smell the aroma.