Living among different cultures and nationalities gives you insight into different traditions and a chance to try out new things.
Growing up in the Middle East meant that shawermas, manakeesh, baklava, basboosa and maamoul were among the few things popular in our home. I think trying out diverse things at a young age helps sharpen your sense of adventure even as an adult. I’m never opposed to trying out new foods- there may be certain things I don’t find appetising, but those aside, trying out different flavors and brand new recipes is something I relish.
Take my husband on the total opposite side of the adventure spectrum to me. He’s got a couple of favorite dishes, he’s got the half a dozen foods he grew up eating and that’s about it. He isn’t a big fan of change, even tiny minuscule ones, when it comes to his food. Cooking for him when you’re pressed for time is simple- just make one of his favourites. When you set out to cook something special, well, you might as well give up from the get-go out because you’ll just end up falling back on classics when you take into consideration all that he dislikes.
Not many of my childhood friends were/are into cooking. But they do have moms who make fantastic traditional dishes from their countries.
Take my best friend of 10 years (touch wood). She enjoys food, loves it actually, but not a big fan of the kitchen. Her mom makes the most delicious shawermas and the softest donuts. I used to eat up half her lunch during school until her mother began sending extra just for me!
So I’ve gotten quite a few recipes from her mother over the years, this being the latest.
Maamoul (Date Filled Cookies) are melt in your mouth cookies with a smooth date paste in the center with a hint of rosewater.
It’s my grandfather’s favorite and my dad always brings boxes when he comes home for a visit. This easy family recipe has yielded the exact same cookie, just made with fresh ingredients at home and easily customised!
You get maamoul moulds, long wooden moulds with an intricate design, in which you push in some dough, add the filling and cover with additional dough. To get the cookie out, you’ve got to turn it over and give it a hard flick and what you get is a beautifully shaped cookie with an intricate design over the top.
Alas, I couldn’t get my hands on the mould and I’ll have to keep that for another day. I used round cookie cutters, placed a teaspoon of the date paste in the center and topped it off with a round of dough before shaping with my hand. Simple, easy and probably not as time consuming as using the mould. Probably.
The dough comes together in just moments and is very similar to a shortbread mixture. Because it’s got yeast, you’ll need to let it rest for about an hour.
If date paste isn’t available- don’t sweat it! Just puree some dates with a bit of water and you’re good to go. Remember the date paste we made for the Date & Nuts Baklava? It’s the same one!
These cookies are perfect for gifting this holiday season!
If you try out this recipe, please let me know! Tag me on instagram (_littlemiracles_). Feel free to leave a comment below; let me know what you think! I love to hear from you all! Follow me on Instagram: @_littlemiracles_ or just click on the Follow Me! button on the top right hand of the page to get an email every time there’s a post!♥
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 1/2 tsp active yeast
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 ounces mejdool dates pitted and chopped roughly
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 1/4 tsp rosewater (add more to suit taste)
- Icing sugar to sprinkle over baked cookies
In a medium bowl, add flour, yeast, sugar & salt. Mix to combine completely.
Pour melted butter over flour mixture and combine with a spatula until comes together. (See dough photo above)
Leave to rest for about an hour in a draft free area.
To make the date paste: Add chopped dates and water to a blender and blend until smooth. There may still be tiny flecks of dates in the paste- that's alright!
Add rosewater and mix with a spoon. If you enjoy a stronger flavor of rosewater, add 1/4 tsp at a time till it suits your taste.
Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF and cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Flour a clean work area generously. Since dough is made mainly of butter, you have to work quickly and make sure you're kitchen isn't too warm.
Break about 2 tbsp of the dough and roll into a ball. Place on work surface and flatten with the palm of your hand. Using a round cookie cutter, shape out dough. Continue with the rest of the dough.
Place 1- 1.5 tsp date paste in center of circle and close with another circle of dough. With your fingers gently press around date paste mixture to create a small mound like shape. You can also press the cookie cutter over the filled cookie once more to maintain round shape.
Don't overfill with date paste as you don't want the pastry to crack.
Place cookies on baking sheets, 1 inch apart, as they will expand slightly. Bake for 10-12 minute or until slightly golden.
Let them cool in pans for 15 minutes until moving to cooling rack. Sprinkle icing sugar over to decorate.
Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days or in fridge for longer.