Ma’amoul are small shortbread cookies traditionally filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts and the dough is flavored with orange blossom or rose water. They are popular in Levantine cuisine (Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). These are so delicious, the whole thing melts in your mouth with great textures and flavors. One thing I know for sure about Maamoul, you can never stop at just one!
When you buy Maamoul in Middle Easter markets, they are usually decorated with a kind of pastry pincer to make an attractive pattern. Presumably this is to hold the confectioner’s sugar they are sprinkled. I find that pricking the tops with fork in a regular pattern accomplishes the same thing.
2 C pitted dates, finely chopped
2 Tbsp water
1/2 C pecans, walnuts or pistachios finely chopped
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
12 Tbsp (1 and 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter – use vegan butter if you want it vegan
2 tsp rose water or orange flower water
2 tbsp milk
Set the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
For the Filling: Put the dates and water in a medium saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally and reduce, stirring often until the consistency is thick and jam-like. Spread the filling out on a plate and combine the chopped nuts and cardamom.
For the Dough: In a bowl or a food processor fitted with steel blade, place the flour and butter and pulse about a dozen times or until it’s finely mixed in. Take the cover off the machine and put the rose water and milk. Pulse again until the dough just forms a ball. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, then press it together and roll it into a cylinder 15 inches long. Slice the dough every 1/2 inch to make 30 pieces of dough. To form, roll a piece of dough into a sphere then insert an index finger into the sphere to make a hole. Use your thumbs to enlarge the hole so that the dough becomes a little cup. Fill with a spoonful of the filling then close the dough around the filling.
Place each cookie seam side on a parchment lined cookie sheet. After all the cookies have been formed , press each gently to flatten it and use a fork to pierce the surface in a decorative design. Bake the cookies for about 20 to 25 minutes, making sure they remain very white. They should take on no color at all. Cool on the pans on racks. Dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight fitting lid.