Fun with Ma’amoul

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Fun with Ma’amoul

Serves: Makes ~18-20 Ma’amoul
Cost: ~€4.20
Preparation and cooking time: ~40 minutes
Calories: ~300 per Ma’amoul

You may be asking yourself “who exactly is Ma’amoul?”, after reading the title. Well – it’s not a case of who but “what”, although I’ll get to that a little later. I thought I’d start off by sharing a couple of photos with you today from a recent trip into Paris in the evening for some photography. I’d wanted to get back to the area with the canal in Paris for quite some time after seeing it a number of times by boat, as I wrote about here. I’d always thought the area would be gorgeous by night and I wasn’t wrong, even despite the weather. I’m not a huge fan of traipsing around in the rain with a camera strung around my neck – mainly because I don’t want my camera to get soaking wet and wiping raindrops off the lens is always an exercise in futility since lens cloths just seem to push the water around and smear everything up. Apparently my camera is “weatherproof“, but since I’m not entirely sure what that means, and I’m not going to test it out just to find out, I was a little worried when it began to rain quite hard on the way in. We were blessed with a pause though, during which time we managed to get some photos, including some lovely light reflections against the wet cobbled roads and paths and got back to the car again just in time as the sky positively burst and unleashed another load of rain on us.

Canal St. Martin

It was quite a short trip – the weather was a bit miserable and it was pretty cold but it was nice to be back out with my camera. I find I don’t go out nearly enough as I could or should, so I’m hoping to fix this sad state of affairs over the coming months. The bridge in the photo below you should recognise from my earlier post – now with 95% less foliage!

Canal St. Martin

Down the steps of an earlier bridge I saw a view which I thought was rather nice. You don’t really notice until you’re home though just how yellow the lighting is in Paris. You start off by thinking that maybe the white balance on your camera is way off but then you actually realise that yes – it really is that colour at night. Anyway – I took a couple more which were ok (literally a couple though… I must have taken many photos that evening but trashed them all (I’m very picky)) so from a photographic point of view the evening wasn’t a huge success, but it was a nice warm-up to going out with some friends and getting back into the hobby again.

Canal St. Martin

On to the recipe though, and today I’m posting ma’amoul. I must first voice a massive, massive thank you to Sawsan from ChefInDisguise. She was my Secret Santa (or rather “not-so-secret-santa”) in the first ever Gift Exchange I organised this year and while I will be making a real write-up later, including other peoples’ photos and stories so those that didn’t take part can see what they missed out on, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t make a point of saying just how incredibly touched and bowled-over by the level of care, attention and time she’d put into my box of treats – thank you again Sawsan, and it’s because of you that I can post these fantastic cookies today, thanks to your gorgeous ma’amoul mould!

Ma’amoul are small, decorative shortbread cookies, stuffed with things like dates, nuts, figs, and usually (maybe always?) flavoured with rosewater and orange flower water. They’re made in delightful moulds – traditionally hand-carved out of wood – and are apparently hugely popular in Levantine and Gulf cuisine. The basic concept is that you take the shortbread dough, stuff it with your filling, seal it up, push it into the mould and then tap the mould on the table to make the shape fall out. Stick them in the oven and then go nuts on them.

Pressing the ma'amoul

I cannot claim to be any expert on ma’amoul whatsoever. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time I’ve ever even eaten them but boy, do I like what I’ve tried now. I can’t believe I didn’t discover these beauties before! Now, I am absolutely terrible at following recipes (which is hilarious considering I spend my spare time here writing recipes up!) so this recipe is a real hodgepodge of various different sources, and in some cases I completely winged it. They turned out really well – although I’d be interested on hearing any input from someone who’s made them before. Perhaps you can offer me some ideas or tips for my next batch. I’m far from being a pro but I managed to get the hang of making them quite quickly after an initial couple of botched efforts.

I know that ma’amoul moulds might not be in everyone’s kitchen drawer, so ultimately I guess you could maybe form these into a ball and then press them gently onto a baking sheet. You wouldn’t have the beautiful pattern on top, but at least the taste would still be delicious!

Ma'amoul

I may soon have computer problems (my laptop hard-drive sometimes makes a worrying whirring sound, and as a result I was up until 4am on Friday night synchronising all my data with my backup drive) so if I suddenly “disappear” for a bit longer than normal it’s because my computer fizzled out. In any case, I’ll be back soon with something tasty! Have a nice day everyone :).

Ma’amoul

Ingredients

Ma'amoul ingredients

For the shortbread

  • 400g Fine Semolina
  • 150g Plain Flour
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 230g Butter
  • 6tbsps Rosewater
  • 2tbsps Orange Flower Water

For the stuffing

  • ~14 Dates
  • Small handful of Walnuts
  • Small handful of Almonds
  • ~50g Butter
  • 3tbsps Rosewater
  • 1tbsp Orange Flower Water

You’ll also need

  • A Ma’amoul Mould

Instructions

  1. Start off by making the shortbread dough. Place the semolina, plain flour and sugar in a large bowl. Chop the butter into cubes and rub into the flour using your fingertips until you have a mixture roughly resembling breadcrumbs. Add in the rosewater and orange flower water and push the mixture together to bind. Turn out onto a surface (you should not flour it) and knead until the dough sticks together well. If you find it very dry, simply add a bit more rosewater. Place the dough ball into a bag and put into the refrigerator while you prepare the stuffing.
    Ma'amoul dough
  2. For the stuffing, remove the pits from the dates and finely slice them. Finely chop the almonds and walnuts and place everything in a large bowl. Add in the butter, rosewater, and orange flower water and combine everything with your hands to create a well-mixed, chunky paste.
    Date and nut stuffing
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place onto your work surface. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius and then pull off a piece about the size of a golf ball and roll into a ball. Place it into the palm of your hand and push your thumb into the middle. Using your fingers, deepen the well and even out the sides to create a bowl. Fill the well with stuffing and then pinch shut to completely enclose the stuffing. Reform the ball shape and press into your ma’amoul mould firmly. Turn upside down and tap the edge of the mould against your work surface. The ma’amoul should fall out and you can transfer it to a baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough and stuffing is used up.
    Forming the ma'amoul
  4. Bake in the oven for ~12 minutes, depending on your oven’s efficiency. The surface of the ma’amoul should be just starting to turn golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Enjoy! :)
    Ma'amoul



    Ma'amoul

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65 Comments

  1. Oh you lucky man receving one of these gorgeous molds! Sawsan is a Little star, love her dishes and your ma´moul turne dout beautifully. Loved our Little walk aroudn Paris by night….sigh!

    Reply
    • Thank you Chica – Sawsan was incredibly generous with the things she sent to me. I’ll write about it all in a future post!

      Reply
  2. Talk about a cosmic blogging coincidence Charles, I was going to post a recipe for Ma’amouls on Saturday but decided against it because of that horrific shooting in Connecticut, but check back tomorrow! I have never tried one before either and mine turned out very delicate, melt in your mouth crumbly. My recipe was also semolina but instead of regular flour it has potato starch which is what I suspect, made it so delicate. I made a half a batch but stay tuned as I am going to make this cookie again using a different North American recipe!
    Your photos of Paris in the rain at night are really beautiful! And I love the yellow light, our lights in Toronto are more blue because most are mercury vapour; the yellow adds to the history of Paris when they lit their streets in candle light and later by gas.

    Reply
    • Hi Eva – I can’t believe the coincidence… and Barb posted some too as well recently, haha! Potato starch – great idea, I’ll try it next time for sure!

      The streetlights in my parents road used to be all yellow… one day they changed them all to a very cold, blue-hued light. It was such a shock when I went back to visit them one day. The entire night appearance of the road is changed!

      Reply
  3. Hi Charles! I just love when you post pictures of Paris. You’re right – the gleam from the wet cobblestones brings a certain something to the photos. I mean Paris always seems so romantic to me, but these photos really capture that. I’ve not really noticed the color of our lights here. I’m going to have to pay attention now. I do like the yellow though. Like Eva said, it adds a bit of history.

    These ma’maoul are just beautiful Charles. What a special gift! I’ve never had a ma’maoul either. They do sound delicious. They would make a lovely platter for the holidays – really any occasion. I bet the orange water and rose water are great in this. I love how they smell!

    And thank you for organizing the Secret Santa. It has been great fun!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Kristy – I think Paris by any other colour would just look weird. I’m not a huge fan of the yellow… it gets a bit too much after a while, but it definitely has a charm!

      You have to make some ma’amoul – even if you don’t have a mould, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think you’d love them, and you’d have such fun making them with the kids! Not sure how you all feel about rosewater and orange flower water, but they complement the little biscuits perfectly.

      Reply
  4. These were absolutely amazing; as tasty as they’re pretty! Thank you so much, Sawsan for the wonderful gift. As I think Charles mentioned already, it brought back wonderful childhood memories! <3

    Reply
    • The ma’amoul looks amazing, Charles is very talented indeed. Not many people manage to get ma’moul right the first time.
      As for the gift.It was truly my pleasure, I am very happy my gift brought back happy memories :)

      Reply
  5. The Secret Santa exchange sounded terrific and your gift will keep on giving in the years to come. I thought the maamoul that Sawsan made were beautiful and yours look just as professional. The filling sounds wonderful in spite of some doubts I have about the rose/orange water being more flowery than I would like.

    I love your night time Parisian pictures. I can just imagine a romantic late night walk home in the rain with a loved one after an evening in a great restaurant.

    Reply
    • Thanks A_ – I personally love the rose/orange water… I know it’s not for everyone though. I gave some to people at work and they weren’t too impressed with the “perfume flavour” :p… won’t waste them on them in future :D

      Reply
      • I’ve not tried orange water but my only experience with using rose water in my cooking was when I made a sugar syrup with it in which to soak the rasgullah that I had made. Perhaps it was boiling the syrup down and aerolizing the rose aroma that overwhelmed me.

        What ever happened to your rasgullah post? I’m sure you mentioned making your own paneer and giving it a try back in … February, was it?

        Reply
        • Ha, in the end the rasgullah turned out… Not quite as desired. I decided to skip posting about them until I’d refined the process a bit more ;)

  6. Oh man did I miss Secret Santa?? I have been under the weather and haven’t visited anyone on the blogosphere. I barely posted something on my own site just yesterday.
    I am very impressed with your ma’maouls. I love them and so does my family but I have never attempted them. I think it’s time! Everyone seems to be beating me to it!
    I love your photos too, absolutely beautiful. I think I am going to walk down to my Main Street where all the trees are dressed up in holiday lights and take a few shots tonight.
    Happy holidays to you and your family Charles!

    Nazneen

    Reply
    • Hi Nazneen – indeed you did alas, but there’s always next year :). Glad you enjoyed the photos, and hope you have a chance to make some ma’amoul soon too – they’re so good… can’t believe I never had any until now!

      Reply
  7. The rain really made your pictures glisten! Very festive and quite beautiful! Thanks for sharing such a lovely place on a wet and wintry evening. I can feel it. Wasn’t sure what ma’amoul was, and now that I know – I want some. Anything stuffed with dates and nuts gets my vote. Love the shortbread cookies! Tasty and beautiful cookies!

    Reply
    • Thank you MJ – I should really get back to the Champs-Elysées. They have such wonderful Christmas lights, but there’s always so many people there, sigh.

      Reply
  8. Mmm, they’re so pretty. Remind me of Eccles cakes.

    Reply
    • A little bit perhaps – I posted eccles cakes a while back in case you’re interested… they were great! :) These are lovely though… especially with the orange flower water and rosewater!

      Reply
  9. Hello Charles,

    First of all thank you for hosting the secret santa. I really loved the whole experience and I am beyond happy you guys enjoyed it :)
    Your ma’amoul looks wonderful! I am really impressed, ma’moul is the easiest recipe to get right the first time around but as always you are really talented Charles :)
    Thank you for the pictures of Paris. I think seeing a city at night is a totally different experience than doing it on day time. There is a certain magic and some mystery to it :)

    Reply
    • Hi Sawsan – It was such a fun event wasn’t it? I need to get round to making a write-up of the event so people can see what they missed out on as well. I rubbed some left-over turkey in that spice you gave me – not the zaatar, the other one, sorry I forget the name – and fried it… SO good! Ate it with some fried cabbage and lemon juice. Perfect after Christmas meal with a wonderful fresh taste!

      Glad you enjoyed the photos too :)

      Reply
  10. Charles, these sweet treats look so cute! And very exotic too; I have never heard about them, not to mention eating them… I hope they didn’t ruin your diet… (my chocolate treats seem very innocent beside these!). Unfortunately I don’t like dates and in general very sweet… sweets (I already see these stuffed with meat!!!), but I can imagine how delightful they must be for those who like these dried fruits. I love the wooden tool though!
    Thanks for sharing the Paris night photos. Wonderful, as always! I wish I were able to take such gorgeous photos one day.
    I’m glad that Santa “operation” has worked perfectly well!

    Reply
    • Thank you Sissi – the gave me a very minor setback in my diet… I think I gained a couple of hundred grams over a week, but it’s gone again now, and I even didn’t gain weight over Christmas this year! I’m so pleased!

      Glad you liked the photos too :)

      Reply
  11. As a kid, I remember making these cookies with my grandma. My favorite were the date-filled ones. I always always tasked with prepping the date mixture and I remember my palms getting raw from rolling them with oil. Those were the best memories…. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hey there – I found it was really tough rubbing the butter into the semolina actually as well – because the semolina is so coarse my hands felt so raw at the end! Still, totally worth it for the end result though :). Thanks for your visit!

      Reply
  12. Thanks for going out into the cold and rainy night to share such lovely photos of Paris. Your first time cookies look perfect and I’m sure were are good as they look.

    Reply
    • Thank you Karen – glad you enjoyed the photos and the cookies were absolutely fab!

      Reply
  13. These are gorgeous! I’m sure they’re as delicious as they look too :) Must find some ma’amoul

    Reply
    • Hey there – I hope you can get some (or make some) – they’re absolutely delicious! Thanks for dropping by :)

      Reply
  14. First of all, I just wanted to say that…

    YOU ARE MY HERO. No, really, really. I absolutely ADORE ma’amoul and every time my boyfriend returns to Dubai or my friend visits his family in Saudi Arabia I will be sure to ask for this as a souvenir. Hehehe!

    Your cookies look beautiful. I’ve always loved their molds. Thank you for sharing this recipe, I’m always looking for the Perfect one!

    Warmly,
    Anjo

    Reply
    • Hi Anjo, hehe – glad I could please you :) I can’t believe I never had ma’amoul until now. They’re going to become a regular feature in my house, that’s for sure! So delicious :) Hope you have a chance to give them a try, and thanks for dropping by!

      Reply
  15. I love the molds you use for these beautiful cookies, these would make such a nice holiday gift!

    Reply
    • Hi Laura – I couldn’t agree more… they’re so beautiful and they come in all sorts of patterns too… would like to collect more! :)

      Reply
  16. What a completely cool gift! It looks like lots of fun and the possibilities for fillings are endless. I would love to get my hands on one of those for sure!

    I also just want to say thanks for hosting the secret santa gift exchange – it really was good fun and a lovely way to connect with other bloggers out there. I shall most certainly take part if it becomes an annual event :)

    Happy Christmas xxx

    Reply
    • Hi Anneli – it was a wonderful gift (well, part of a wonderful gift… I’ll write about the rest in another post because Sawsan was so generous!). I’m really glad you enjoyed the gift exchange – it was so much fun. I’m definitely going to try and make it an annual thing!

      Reply
  17. I love it when you share your travel stories with us. It’s funny, that mould reminds me of the traditional moulds we use to make kueh, which is a southeast asian assortment of cakes and desserts. each have their own patterns and moulds, and often ome in big heavy wooden moulds like this, esp for mooncakes, which you might have heard of before. I love how they look!

    Reply
    • Hi Shuhan – I’ve heard of mooncakes. My mother’s obsessed with them. She asks my sister (who lives in China) to send her some every year, haha! :)

      Reply
  18. Oh, those are so gorgeous! And sound delicious to boot. Per usual, your photos are making me very, very jealous. The lights look like stars in the first photo…and love the look of the rain on the ground. Too pretty!

    Reply
    • Thanks Caroline – I’m always worried people might think I “artificially” added those “star” effects afterwards in photoshop or something, LOL! In fact, it’s because the aperture of the lens is set to a small size that you get this effect. I do it on purpose because I think it looks so pretty :)

      Reply
  19. Oh Charles, it’s a darn good thing your delicate little shortbreads aren’t around me right now… I’d devour a dozen! Seriously, there’s nothing I don’t like about them. And so beautiful too – I love the ma’amoul mould! What a fantastic gift and how great that you found the time to work in a recipe with it before the holidays…very thoughtful. Are you able to decipher the taste of the rosewater? Does the orange water come through more? Just curious… I come across rosewater in recipes from time to time and I have only used it myself in a homemade face spray (it’s so refreshing).

    Thank you for treating us to the beautiful pictures of Paris… I’m like you with my camera. I tend to guard it carefully which is a bit ironic since I’m probably missing some great moments protecting it so much. I’m happy you got these snaps despite the weather. Happy Holidays Charles! I hope you have a beautiful time celebrating William’s first Christmas together!! :).

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly – it’s very interesting, I was wondering the same thing to myself while eating it. The rosewater helps to give it a background smell and flavour. It’s the orange flower water which is the predominant flavour, but they complement each other really, really well – totally recommend these – they’re so good (addictive like anything!).

      So glad you enjoyed the photos – I took some photos of William today… will post one tomorrow, stay tuned for that :)

      Reply
  20. so fun and exotic. I am wishing i was doing a cookie exchange with you! Maybe next year:)

    Reply
    • They’re really nice KB – hope you can try them! :)

      Reply
  21. Very nice! your maamoul looks amazing! Indeed, these things can be addictive and I find comfort in thinking that they’re “healthy” and like energy bars..
    It makes me think of my middle-eastern adventure..I always liked the dates version!

    Reply
    • Hi Nada – I’m not sure how good they are compared to “real” ones, but I was really pleased with them. It’s funny – I hate dates, but baked like this… wow! Give me more!

      Reply
      • I’m not found of all sorts of dates but there are many varieties.. not sure you get them in France..Some will make you change your opinion..Did you there are dates tasting like fudge, or creme brulee, or licorice, etc…Since I left the Middle East I just can’t find these sorts and I can’t go back to the tasteless dates..

        Reply
  22. I love going for walks just to take photos as I go. I used to call them “wanders”.. but I haven’t done that in ages, your pretty photos are inspiring me! I love the look and sound of those ma’amouls.. and if I had to find a recipe, I’d be looking at Sawsan’s site:D

    Reply
    • Oh, that didn’t come out right.. I meant.. that Sawsan’s blog always comes to mind when I’m looking for this sort of recipe. Looks like you’ve mastered it! The Secret Santa idea is awesome, I can’t wait to see your posts on it. I hope I have more time next year to join in:)

      Reply
      • LOL – don’t worry, I got what you meant :D

        Reply
    • Hi Barb – I need to try and get out more, as I mentioned. I’ve found some people at work who are interested in it, so hopefully I can get out and do more photography soon!

      Reply
  23. “I know that ma’amoul moulds might not be in everyone’s kitchen drawer, so ultimately I guess you could maybe …” NO, NO, NO! (Yes, I know I’m shouting!) I am the ultimate gadget girl, I glory in gadgets, even ones I seldom or never use. So, you see, I must have the highly adorable ma’amoul moulds!

    Reply
    • Hi Jean – they’re lovely moulds, really they are – I think they lose a lot of the charm if they’re machine made in plastic though. Wood all the way in my opinion. I should love to get some more… not really sure where from though :(

      Reply
  24. I love strolling the streets at this time of year and seeing all the amazing and pretty Christmas lights – but of course, I can do this in t-shirt, shorts and thongs! I love that wooden gadget that gives these such a pretty shape and pattern. These are indeed, very festive. Now…where would I find such a gadget! xx

    Reply
    • Hi Charlie – I think I checked on Amazon some months ago to no avail alas for moulds like these. I was so grateful to Sawsan for sending me one. I guess you could maybe try in any local Arabic stores, if you have any?

      Reply
  25. Gorgeous night shots of Paris, I do so love the reflections in the river in the first photo. Beautiful ma’amouls, congrats on a successful first try.

    Reply
    • Thank you Norma! :)

      Reply
  26. It is so exciting to see so many posts on the ma’ amoul cookies this year. I had wanted to try them ever since Betsy posted on them at Easter . . . so I looked for the moulds at my favourite middle eastern specialty shop (which is down the street) and found them. I bought one for Eva too. I made them with the ponytails a couple of weeks ago and they had a blast making them. It was amazing how well she did with them. Your cookies turned out beautifully Charles — and I’m sure they tasted divine with the hint of orange flower water. How lovely that these cookies brought back memories for your wife. :)

    Reply
    • Hi Barb, it was such fun to make them – and I loved them. Like, really loved them. My wife went nuts over them – they disappeared in about 2 days, haha! :D Really want to get more moulds too… must keep my eye out :)

      Reply
  27. First of all gorgeous pictures of Paris, my hubby is thinking about taking a family trip next summer (keeping my fingers crossed)! Second, I was bummed to learn I missed the deadline for your Santa exchange, my darn work schedule has been keeping me from reading my fav blog posts to only a few days per week. Maybe next year I can participate if you have one.
    What a great gift and the pattern is so pretty! I am a huge fan of dates and nuts, one day I’ll have to make with recipe w/ or w/out the mold!

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa – it was fantastic fun, so I’m definitely going to try and do it next year too! I hope you’ll be able to participate then :)

      So glad you enjoyed the photos! Be sure to look me up if you come over – we can get a cup of coffee or something, that’d be so cool :)

      Reply
  28. Hi Charles, beautiful pictures of Paris I hope I can visit it one day.Thanks for the Mamoul I love these heavenly cookies so much.

    Reply
    • Hi Amira – thank you for your visit, and I’m so glad you enjoyed my photos. I always think Paris has a certain charm to it… a feeling in the air that other places don’t have! I hope you can experience it one day too :)

      Reply
  29. Orange flower water flavored cookies!!! I really need a spoon as you got from your secrete Santa. I think so the locals here would love that, that’s more their kind of christmas cookie.

    Thank you again for organizing the cool secrete santa Christmas event. We (me and my husband) really enjoyed it. My husband loves packing gifts ^.^ and I love gifting and receiving such wonderful surprise presents!

    Reply
    • Hi Helene – I really want to get more moulds for ma’amoul like this. They’re so cool. I will keep my eyes open for more moulds!

      Glad you enjoyed the secret santa – it was such fun! I hope we can do it again next year! :)

      Reply
  30. I didn’t think I’d be making any ma’amoul in the near future so I checked out the international aisle of my Food Basics grocery store. Sure enough, they had a 650gm box ($6.99?) of mini sized ma’amoul filled with dates (56 pieces in the box) in the same aisle as the Turkish delight. I didn’t even have to go to the specialized Middle Eastern grocery store. I don’t know why I didn’t look for these before. They were quite tasty. :)

    Thanks to all of you … Sawsan, Eva, Barb, and of course, you, for introducing me to these pastries.

    Reply
  31. You, sir, have done a great job on those ma’mouls! Ma’moul and ajwa are used interchangeably these days. Ajwa has the date stuffing, whereas ma’moul normally has a pistachio filling in it. That’s not to say you can’t explore with fillings!

    Reply