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Ma'amoul: A Middle Eastern, Date-Filled Pastry Recipe

Ryan Thomas is a university student who enjoys cooking recipes from a wide variety of culinary traditions.

Here is finished Ma'amoul with a decorative flower.

Here is finished Ma'amoul with a decorative flower.

I love making recipes from different culinary traditions and styles. Vietnamese fare was probably one of the first things I cooked, and since then I've made recipes that are traditionally French, Russian, Armenian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Portuguese, Syrian, Ghanan, Lebanese, Polish, and Kazakhstani. I will probably have done all of the national culinary traditions in the world by the time that I finally cook something "authentically" American! Of course, I'm sure that many of the recipes I make aren't authentic to whichever culinary tradition I'm coming from, but then I am still American; mixing and matching is what we do.

In this case, I've been cooking out of Tamarind and Saffron Favourite Recipes from the Middle East, by Claudia Roden. It has some great recipes in it; I had particularly liked Meatballs with Sour Cherry Sauce, and I also made Almond Fingers, a delicious dessert. I'll have to showcase them some day. There is a vibrancy and a zest, as well as a lightness, that is pleasant in the increasingly warm spring days, which I like with this cooking. But what I had made tonight were ma'amoul pastries, which despite me not having heard of them before, seem to be exceedingly popular based on what I found online. They were certainly popular enough with my family and my mother, but then that's cheating, since my mother adores dates in almost any form! Most of these recipes, however, seem to be more decorative, ornamental, and complex than the altered version that I would suggest below. I have seen alternate recipes that suggest more decorative approaches, such as using molds, and this can be used for this recipe as well.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour 30 min

25 min

1 hour 55 min

40

Ingredients upon the counter, except for milk and sugar which I had forgotten... I am truly impressive in my bad memory.

Ingredients upon the counter, except for milk and sugar which I had forgotten... I am truly impressive in my bad memory.

Ingredients

  • 500g / 1lb 2oz plain flour
  • 250g / 9oz unsalted butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange blossom water or rose water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, This can be omitted if one prefers them less sweet
  • Miscellaneous amounts powdered sugar, for sprinkling on afterwards
  • 500g / 1lb dates, Pitted, although one can remove the pits manually if one so desires
  • 150ml / 6fl oz water

Alternate Fillings Ingredients

Walnut and Orange Filling

  • 375g / 13oz of finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 of orange grated rind

Pistachio

  • 375g / 13oz of ground pistachio nuts
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of rose water

Almonds and rose or orange blossoms

  • 375g (13oz) of ground almonds mixed
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of either rose or orange blossom water

Instructions

  1. Prepare the filling. Chop the pitted dates into small pieces. I personally chopped each date in half, which worked, but smaller is certainly preferable. After this is done, place the dates with the water into a saucepan, and cook over low heat until the dates turn to a soft paste after having absorbed the water. Turn off the heat and let this cool.
  2. Place the flour in a large bowl, then add in the milk, sugar, and either orange blossom water or rose water. Then work in the butter, which I prefer melted. Work this, adding additional ingredients if necessary, until the dough is capable of forming firm balls and sticking together.
  3. Mold the dough into balls about the size of a walnut. Use your thumb to hollow out a ball and form a well, and then proceed to widen the well. Place the date mixture into this, generally around 75% of the way up, then close the top, and pinch it together.
  4. Place these filled balls onto a cookie sheet, and place into the oven to cook at 325°f/160°c/gas 3, for 20 - 25 minutes. Do not overcook, as this will greatly change the flavor. Remove the balls, and let them cool, then powder them with sugar.

© 2017 Ryan Thomas

Comments

Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on May 16, 2017:

Thank you, Ryan. I realize that I am in the minority when it comes to sweets. My mother is the same way; we both have to purposefully make desserts too sweet for ourselves when we are going to be serving something to guests.

Ryan Thomas (author) from Eureka, California on May 15, 2017:

Hello,

I believe that they are often served with tea or coffee as you suggest. I personally very much adore sweet things, and hence I have a lot of sugar in this variant, but this is optional - perhaps I will make a note of this. The original ones I made had no sugar in them at all.

Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on May 15, 2017:

These look beautiful, but very sweet. What are they traditionally served with? I can imagine they're nice with a cup of strong tea to cut the sugar.