Baking | Scrumptious Date Filled Cookies or Ma’amoul and Soulful Essence of Middle Eastern Cuisine
My knowledge about Middle Eastern cuisine is very limited, its either a creamy Hummus, spicy Kebabs, handy falafel sandwich or a luscious Baklava. I always think that there is not much scope for a vegetarian to venture into the same. But the past couple of years of food blogging changed my perspective of food and I now enjoy cooking & eating out of my comfort zone.
Sometime in July 2012 when a dear food blogger friend Faith from Edible Mosaic mailed me that she is in the process of publishing her cook book and asked me if I would be interested to review her book. I was excited for her new venture and felt honored to be a part of her world of dreams. A wonderful friend who was the very first AFBLHS guest on Lite Bite and is a great support from the my early days of blogging.
I almost forgot about the same till I got a huge parcel with a beautiful cook book inside in November. What a gorgeous book it is, the moment I took it in my hands I knew I am in love with it. The hard back cover with glossy pages, elegant photos with a good amount of pages dedicated to cooking tips and techniques is an extension of her lovely blog.
The information and basic advice from preserving, using kitchen tools used in Middle Eastern cuisine, making Turkish coffee, dried lime to using grape leaves and Fava beans in day to day cooking is encouraging to any beginner. I thoroughly enjoyed going through every vegetarian recipe in the book and wish I could make every other recipe and post here.
And yes, there is much-much more than just Hummus and Balkava in Middle Eastern cuisine
Selecting a recipe and trying out to include in this post was one of the toughest decisions from the umpteen scrumptious treats from the book. Yes, I wanted to make all of them ASP.
These unusual looking Date Filled Cookies or Ma’amoul grabbed my attention. These cookies are traditionally baked during festival seasons in Middle East.
The only deterrent was the Ma’amoul mold used to shape the cookies. My tiny tart molds came to my rescue and I baked these amazing cookies for the first time. Though my cookies don’t look like the pretty Ma’amouls shaped in the traditional molds in the cook book but believe me they taste amazing.
Here is the recipe from Faith’s book, check the notes below to find the changes I bake the cookies with whatever ingredients I could manage to get in India;
Date filled Cookies or Ma’amoul
Yields about 4 dozen cookies
Preparation Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Cake Spice Mix:
½ teaspoon ground mahlab (Sour Black Cherry Pits)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground fennel
¼ teaspoon ground anise
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
1¼ teaspoons ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ lb (350 g) pitted dates, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1½ teaspoons Cake Spice Mix
1 cup (225 g) sugar
¾ cup (1 80 ml) water
¼ cup (65 ml) oil
¾ cup (175 g) clariﬁed butter
4 cups (500 g) all-purpose ﬂour, plus up to 4 tablespoons more for kneading
½ teaspoon instant yeast
¼ cup (30 g) powdered sugar (optional, for dusting on top)
Mix together the spices for the Cake Spice Mix. You will only need 1 ½ teaspoons of the spice mix for recipe; store the remaining spice mix in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
To make the date ﬁlling, grind the dates and oil in a stand mixer ﬁtted with a food grinding attachment (ﬁne grind) or in a heavy-duty food processor. If using a stand mixer, alternate between adding the dates and oil. If you’re using a food processor, before you add any dates, rub oil on the blade and inside of the bowl. Once processed, oil your hands and knead the Cake Spice Mix into the dates.
To make the dough, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a full, rolling boil (occasionally giving the pan a swirl), boil 1 minute, and then turn off the heat. Cool 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine oil and clariﬁed butter in a separate small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is just melted, about 2 minutes; cool slightly.
Put the ﬂour in a large bowl and whisk in the yeast. Use a wooden spoon to gradually incorporate the oil mixture, then gradually incorporate the sugar syrup. Knead the dough until it comes together nicely, adding up to 4 tablespoons more ﬂour as needed (when done, the dough will be soft and should look smooth, shiny, and slightly oily). Cover the dough, put it in the freezer to stiffen slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes, and then knead it again for a couple minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C); line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
To shape the cookies with a Ma’amoul mold, measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, then press it into the bottom and up the sides of the mold. Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it and gently press it into the dough in the mold. Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture in the mold; use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides. To remove the cookie from the mold, hold the mold by the handle and tap the flat rim on a secure surface; the cookie will drop right out.
Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets about ½ to 1 inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) apart (if you use 2 half-sheet pans, the cookies should all ﬁt on 2 pans; if you use smaller pans you will need to cook them in 2 batches); bake until light golden brown on the bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the trays once.
Cool completely, and then dust with the powdered sugar. To store the cookies, package them layered between parchment paper in an airtight container.
I baked a few more batches after my first trial of these Date filled cookies with walnut, pistachio and honey fillings and each recipe tasted better than the previous one….think am becoming a huge fan of these lovely goodies.
Oh…yes, you guessed it right…these cookies are going to be packed for friends for Christmas and New year gifts.
My love for dates made me fill these cookies with a little more extra date filling than recommended in her recipe which made them look like cute little plump and pillowy treats
I have to admit that these Date filled cookies are going to be the next family favorite of our from now on. These are going to be my Christmas treats for the cookie lover friends of mine.
The book has quite interesting and authentic Middle Eastern desserts, dips, snacks and drinks with vivid tastes. The simplicity and naturalness of the recipes which she learned from her MIL can be felt throughout the book. Each recipe in the book connects the readers to with her nostalgic family roots.
And trust me this book is a treasure to keep if you are inclined to experimenting new recipes and venture into the scrumptious world of boundless global cuisine.
- I made a few changes in the recipe by replacing half of the APF (maida) with whole wheat flour.
- In my Spice mix I just added cinnamon powder and nutmeg powder, as I did not want the spices to overpower my date filling.
- I did not grind the dates to make the filling, I mashed the soft and dark imported Dates with hand and used in my filling.
- I also skipped the butter and used oil instead to make the dough in the recipe.
- If you are using tart molds press the sides of the cookies to secure the filling tightly inside.
- If you don’t have the Ma’aoul molds or the tart molds you can make these cookies by adding a little of Date filling in a small flattened round disc of the dough and rolling it again.