Friday, October 26, 2012

Date Maamool or Semolina date cookies: The ultimate Eid cookie

Traditional Eid Cookie: Date Maamool
Every culture has its own version of celebratory desserts and cookies. I find this fascinating! In the Middle East, Maamool is the ultimate holiday cookie...any holiday...whether Christian or Muslim. These days almost everyone opts for store bought Maamool. I find this sad because Maamool making can be a great group activity.
I always imagine a gathering at the house, I, 20 pounds lighter, am in my dream kitchen equipped with double oven and double dishwasher (hey it doesnt hurt to have a perfect dream) with my sister, daughter and niece, teaching them the art of making Maamool. I like to imagine us in cute vintage style aprons that I made myself (more about that in future posts).  I like to imagine that my sister and I are telling them funny stories from their childhood and laughing away! A girl can dream! Now back to Maamool. Maamool is basically a semolina dough made into a shell with various stuffings. The most common stuffings of Maamool are: pistachios, dates and walnuts. My favorite is dates, then walnuts and if I am stuck with pistachio maamoul, I will eat them too. I love to eat Maamool with a cup of Arabic or Turkish coffee or tea. It is the ultimate dessert after a Eid feast. The first time I made Maamool was five years ago, they were dry and bland. This year, I gathered my courage again and made them for a Eid al Fitr Picnic. Talk about pressure! I made changes to the recipe and it was a hit! My sister said that they are the best Maamool she ever had! My husband gave me the thumb up. that means the world to me because my sister, just like me being born and raised in the Middle East, she had her fair share of Maamool; and my husband is not a big fan of Middle Eastern desserts. (dont worry, I am slowly converting him). 

1 cup butter room temperature
1/2 cup milk (I used 2% but you can use fat free or whole milk)
1 cup flour
2 cups semolina
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
1/2 teaspoon Maamool Essence: (ground dill, ground anis and ground mahlab)

Date mixture:
1.5 cup room temperature pressed date (around 13 oz or 375 g)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoon canola oil

Special tools:
Maamool mold

Yield to 35-40 cookies

Preheat 350 F or 180 C

I used packaged baking dates which are the proper kind of dates, pitted and pressed into a block with no additions. You can do it at home but I tried it before, it does not yield to smooth mixture. Knowing me, I will try again and let you know how it goes.
Store Bought Baking Dates
In a stand kitchen fitted with paddle attachment, mix the pressed dates, the oil and the cardamom until combined and softened. Transfer to a bowl.
The date cardamom mixture
Still working with the stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar, add the flour, semolina and maamool essence. Add milk and orange blossom. The dough will come together and will be very smooth. You dont have to use a stand mixer, you can use a wooden spoon and your hand.
Maamool Dough
Maamool forming process:

  • The size of the maamool cookies will depend on the size of your maamool mold. My maamool mold makes small maamool and in my opinion, it is the perfect size. Prepare the mold by sprinkling flour into the mold to prevent sticking. Repeat as necessary. Maamool molds are traditionally made of apricot tree wood.
  • Roll the date mixture into a small ball. Mind you that the date ball will be the stuffing of the maamool. So the size should be made accordingly.
  • Form the dough into a small ball depending on the size of your maamool mold.

Maamool dough rolled into balls

  • Place the ball inside the mold and spread it. By the way, there is a different mold for every variety of Maamool in order to distinguish them.

Place the maamool dough inside the mold and spread it

  • Make a dent in the middle of the ball using your thumb

Make a dent 

  • Place the date ball inside the dent

The date ball is nicely placed in the maamool shell

  • Fold the edges over to enclose the date and form the dough back into the mold

Fold the edges to enclose the date inside the shell
The maamool is ready to be released

  • Release the maamool by tapping the mold on the counter.

A beautiful Maamool cookie and the date maamool mold

  • Don't despair, it takes you couple of trials to first adjust the size of the dough and date balls respectively and to master the art of releasing the maamool from the mold.
  • Once you figured out the proper size of the dough and date balls, roll the rest of the dough into the right size balls. Do the same for the date mixture. Repeat the above maamool shaping process.
  • Place the maamool on a baking sheet covered with a silpat or a parchment paper. These cookies don't spread but I like to keep at least 1.5 inch apart.

Ready to be baked

  • Bake until golden, around 25 minutes. I originally baked the cookies for 15 minutes but they were undercooked, so I baked them for 10 more minutes. Baking time may differ from one oven to another, adjust the baking time in order to get golden Maamool!
  • Let maamool cool on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack. Once completely cooled, place in an air tight container in room temperature. If properly stored, they keep for 3 weeks. Some people like to sprinkle confectionary sugar on the maamool. I dont, I like to enjoy the beautiful design on the maamool.

Heavenly date maamool



  1. Excellent post Nadine! These sounds absolutely delicious. My wife, Kristin, and I have recently decided to go vegetarian and my daughter, Sarah, is vegan. We're all striving to cook more of our meals and with a milk substitute (almond or soy) I think these would even meet Sarah's vegan standards. Thanks!

  2. Thank you so much Mark! Middle Eastern cuisine is very rich with vegetarian and vegan dishes. Try the Sfoof dessert too. You can replace milk with almond or soy milk.

  3. I've always wanted to try making my own ma'mool. When we lived in Jeddah, there was a bakery that made delicious ma'mool bil qishta. Do you know what kind of cream or mixture is used in something like that? Also wondering what mahlab is :)

    1. Mahlab is a spice used in making mama and some other desserts. it is used in small amounts because it has a bitter taste, being the seed of a type of cherries. Genius is the person who decided to bring it along a culinary adventure! You can buy it as a whole seed or ground. It has no English transliteration, but you can find it under Mahlepi in Greek grocery market. As for the Quishta ma'amool, it is one my sister's dessert. In Lebanon we make it flat, rather than balls. The Quishta that is used is definitely not a fresh one because you can not cook the fresh Quishta. Instead you can make fake Quishta, it is made by adding sugar, cornstarch, rose water and or orange blossom water to full fat milk with cream cooked over heat(roe war or orange blossom is added with no heat). Some people add fresh ricotta to it to add the freshness factor. I shall make it soon and blog about it! Subscribe so you don't miss a post and thank you for visiting my blog!

  4. Lovely cookies. Thanks for linking it to my Virtual Eid Potluck party. I hope you had a wonderful Eid. If you would like to be included in the roundup post please add a backlink to my blog post.