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Maamoul – Date and Walnut Stuffed Cookies

Maamoul in a basket with two fillings: 1) date and orange blossom water 2) toasted walnut & medlar.

Short buttery pastries stuffed with two types of filling. You’ll find a spicy date filling and a walnut and honey one. Both are delicious, but you can choose just one if you prefer. Maamoul come from the Levant and they make great festive cookies.

What is Maamoul?

Maamoul, also spelt maamool or ma’amoul, are a delicious type of stuffed shortbread biscuit or cookie. They’re sort of a more refined Middle Eastern version of British fig rolls. Maamoul are not sugary sweet cookies, so are pretty healthy as far as biscuits go. They are a complete delight to eat though, with their crisp pastry and contrasting soft filling. They come in many shapes, including balls and flattened cookies such as the ones I’ve made. But they are often moulded too. Any self-respecting Levantine household is likely to have a wooden ma’amoul mould.

Although you can probably find these at any time of the year in the Middle East, they come into their own during religious festivals. Traditionally Muslims eat them during Eid, Christians at Easter and Jews at Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.

Date Maamoul cookie halved.

The pastry is made with semolina, wheat flour or a combination of both. Some people use yeast and some don’t. It can be flavoured with rose or orange blossom water. It’s delicious all by itself. The filling is usually made of either dates, walnuts or pistachios. Sometimes you might get a combination. There are always spices. Cinnamon and/or cardamom are the main ones. But the key to maamoul pastry is mahlab.

What is Mahlab?

Mahlab is an aromatic Middle Eastern spice. It’s actually the ground kernels of a type of cherry tree, Prunus mahaleb. It has a lovely scent, a little like marzipan and it tastes similar to bitter almonds but with both floral and fruity notes.

It’s mostly used as a flavouring for sweet breads and pastries, including maamoul.

Do try and get some if you can. Any Middle Eastern shop should stock it or you can source it online. I bought mine online from Steenbergs.

Mahleb Substitutes

If you can’t get hold of mahleb, ground apricot kernels are the next best thing. Alternatively use a drop of almond extract along with some ground cardamom or ground fennel.

Maamoul Cookies

It’s not nearly as difficult or as time consuming to make maamoul as you might think. The pastry is really quite easy. It’s also really good to eat. This is mostly because I’ve flavoured the dough with both mahleb and rose water. It also has a lovely texture, both crisp and crumbly at the same time.

I made my version with fine semolina and a little wholemeal flour. You need to rub chilled butter into the flour mix along with a little sugar and flavourings, then bring it all together with a little milk and rose water. The first time I made these, I went a little overboard with the rose water, so go easy on it. I now use only 1 tsp for this amount of dough.

As these maamoul are festive fair, I wanted to make them extra special. So I made two types of filling. One is date, cinnamon and orange blossom water, the other is a toasted walnut and honey. For the date filling I went traditional, for the walnut one not so much.

Stamping out Maamoul Cookies.

Stuffing the maamoul is a bit fiddly, but it doesn’t really take that long. I find the best way is to roll the dough into sixteen balls. Divide the date filling into sixteen and roll into little balls. Flatten each dough ball out with the palm of your hands. Place the date ball inside then gather the pastry around it and pinch to close. Roll it between your hands back into a ball, then use a cookie stamp to flatten and decorate. You could use the bottom of a glass to do this or alternatively, just leave as balls. I used a different stamp for each filling so that I knew which was which.

Maamoul cooling on a wire rack with two fillings: 1) date and orange blossom water 2) toasted walnut & medlar.

Repeat the process with the second lot of filling, but ensure the balls are no bigger than the date ones.

It’s then just a case of baking them in a fairly hot oven until lightly golden. You can see from the above photograph that I over baked mine by a couple of minutes. Not that it really matters as you can dust them in icing sugar once they’ve cooled down. And icing sugar covers a multitude of sins.

Medlars

It’s sad but true, most people haven’t heard of medlars. They are indeed a mostly forgotten autumn fruit. This is a real shame as they can be quite delicious. They’re in the Rosaceae family so are related to both apples and roses. In French they are not so elegantly known as cul de chien. You may see why if you look at the picture below.

Normally when I come across them I make medlar jelly using the same process as my recipe for quince jelly. It has a much softer set, but a really beautiful flavour.

Medlars bletting along with autumn leaves.

When we went down to Cornwall a couple of weeks ago, we picked a few medlars from a friend’s tree. When I went to make these maamoul, I noticed that a particularly large one had bletted and was ready to eat. Bletting is when the medlars are super ripe, brown and very soft. When they get to this stage they taste a bit like toffee. So for the toasted walnut filling, I added a medlar. It worked really well. However, medlars are quite hard to get hold of, so for the purposes of this recipe I’ve gone with raisins instead.

Froothie Evolve

I was tempted to make the fillings in my new Froothie Evolve power blender. I’m so thrilled with this glass jugged power blender at the moment that I can’t stop using it. But I knew there was too little mixture for the blades to make an impact on. So I opted for my mini food processor instead.

If you’re interested in a power blender which is also a soup maker and has two sturdy glass jugs, I have a special reader offer for you. Just take a look at my review to find out how to get £100 off and an extra two years on the warranty.

Keep in Touch

Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make these Middle Eastern maamoul biscuits, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.

If you’d like to see more recipes from my Flavours of the Middle East series, just click on the link. And for more edible gift ideas take a look at my gifts category.

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Maamoul Cookies. PIN IT.

Maamoul Cookies - stuffed with dates and walnuts.

Maamoul Pastries – The Recipe

Maamoul in a basket with two fillings: 1) date and orange blossom water 2) toasted walnut & medlar.
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5 from 7 votes

Maamoul with Two Different Fillings

Short buttery pastries from the Middle East. Stuffed with two types of filling, a date one and a walnut one, they are flavoursome and just a bit special. They make great festive gifts.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Resting Time30 mins
Course: Afternoon Tea, Gift
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keyword: biscuits, Christmas, cookies, dates, maamoul, mahleb, rose, walnuts
Servings: 16 cookies
Calories: 137kcal

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 150 g fine semolina
  • 50 g wholemeal flour
  • 20 g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mahleb
  • 100 g unsalted butter - chilled
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Date Filling

  • 6 medjool dates (about 80g) - stoned
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water

Walnut Filling

  • 25 g walnuts - toasted
  • 25 g raisin
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 4 cardamom pods or ⅛ tsp ready ground
  • ¼ tsp mahleb

Instructions

  • Place the semolina, flour, sugar and mehleb into a large bowl. Dice the butter into small pieces - I do this once it's in the bowl. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until you have something resembling breadcrumbs.
  • Add the rose water and 2 tbsp of the milk and mix with a knife. Gather the mixture together with your hands to form a dough. If it's too crumbly, add the extra tbsp of milk. Place in a plastic bag and leave in a cool place to rest for thirty minutes.
  • Meanwhile get on with making the fillings.
  • Set the oven to heat up at 190℃ (375℉, Gas 5).
  • Divide the rested dough into 16 more or less equal size pieces. If you want to go for exact sizes the dough balls should weigh about 20g each.
  • Flatten each piece on a work surface with the palm of your hand. Place a stuffing ball in the middle and bring the dough up around to enclose it. Roll into a smooth ball between the palms of your hands. Repeat the process.
  • On a floured board, either use a cookie stamp to gently press the cookies into a flattish round or use the palms of your hands. If you have a maamoul mould, use that. You could even leave them as balls if you prefer that idea. It's a good idea to make two different shapes to reflect the different fillings inside. I used two different cookie stamps on mine.
  • Place on a greased or lined baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for fifteen minutes or until the pastry is lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar before serving if desired.

Date Filling

  • Place all of the ingredients into a mini food processor and whizz until you get a paste. Transfer the paste onto a plate, but don't wash the processor up.
  • Divide the paste into 16 and roll into little balls between the palms of your hands.

Walnut filling

  • Toast the walnuts in a hot pan for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Once you can smell them toasting, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Be careful not to let them burn.
  • Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and pound in a pestle and mortar until they're finely ground
  • Place the walnuts and ground cardamom into the food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Blitz until you get a paste.
  • Roll into 16 similar sized balls to the date ones.

Notes

If you happen to have a bletted medlar or two then swap the flesh for the raisins in the walnut filling. Make sure you skin them first and take out the seeds.
Please note: calories and other nutritional information are per serving. They're approximate and will depend on serving size and exact ingredients used.

Nutrition

Calories: 137kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 2.3g | Fat: 6.2g | Saturated Fat: 3.3g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Potassium: 104mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 9g | Iron: 1mg

Sharing

I’m sharing these maamoul cookies with Jo’s Kitchen Larder and Apply to Face Blog for #BakingCrumbs. They also go to Easy Peasy Foodie for #CookBlogShare.

20 Comments

  1. angiesrecipes

    26th November 2019 at 3:56 pm

    These are for sure a great addition to the cookie tray! I have never in my life seen or had Medlars…didn’t even know they exist at all. Live and learn!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      26th November 2019 at 5:16 pm

      Ooh, it’s nice to introduce you to an ingredient for a change Angie. You are usually well ahead of the game. Unless you know someone who has a tree, you only like to find medlars in farmers’ markets and then only rarely.

      Reply
  2. Pavani

    26th November 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Those are beautiful stuffed cookies. Both the fillings sound delicious. These would be perfect on any holiday cookie tray.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      26th November 2019 at 5:17 pm

      Thank you. They are really good and make the cookie tray that little bit more interesting too.

      Reply
  3. Maayke

    26th November 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I LOVE cookies with a filling and these look amazing! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      26th November 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks Maayke. I can’t decide which filling I like best. Thinking I might just have to try another one to see if that helps.

      Reply
  4. Jo Allison

    26th November 2019 at 8:37 pm

    I have never heard of maamoul or medlars but they both sound lush! I don’t think I would be able to choose between the fillings and would have to make both as I cannot get enough of medjool dates at the moment and love anything nutty! Thank you for sharing your lovely recipe with #BakingCrumbs 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      27th November 2019 at 9:05 am

      It’s a hard choice indeed and would be even harder if I’d made a pistachio filling too. Now we have access to so much foreign fruit, many traditional ones have fallen from favour.

      Reply
  5. Petra

    27th November 2019 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve tried cookies like this recently and they were delicious. Now I know how to make them myself so I will save this for later and hopefully will find some time during the festive period to make them at home!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      28th November 2019 at 7:43 am

      I hope you manage to find the time Petra. They have all the right ingredients to make great festive cookies.

      Reply
  6. Tonia

    28th November 2019 at 8:52 am

    I am googling places to buy mahlab right now – these look amazing and would make perfect Christmas presents!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      28th November 2019 at 5:58 pm

      I bought mine from Steenbergs. And yes, maamoul are absolutely perfect for Christmas gifts. Let me know how you get on.

      Reply
  7. Ramona

    28th November 2019 at 10:26 am

    I love these cookies and I cannot wait to make them as fig rolls are one of my top favourite treat. I am so intrigued by medlars as I have never eaten them. I think I have spotted a tree once when we went glamping somewhere near Norfolk and I wondered what they were. Hmm, now I need to keep a close eye on these as I really want to try them. Thank you for sharing all this information and the yummy recipe that I cannot wait to make.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      28th November 2019 at 6:02 pm

      Fig rolls are a firm favourite with me too Ramona. That’s possibly why I like these maamoul so much. Good luck tracking down some medlars.

      Reply
  8. Jenny Walters

    28th November 2019 at 11:56 am

    Gosh, these do look so very good and moreish! I have never heard of medlars either. Loving your biscuit stamps too. Good biscuits are one of my favourite things to bake and your flavour combo sounds divine! I would love to bake these when I have some time. Thank you so much for sharing them with #BakingCrumbs

    Reply
    • Choclette

      28th November 2019 at 6:03 pm

      Christmas and the lead up to it gives such a good excuse to bake biscuits. We still have nearly four weeks to go.

      Reply
  9. Chloe Edges

    29th November 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Wow really informative thanks, these treats were on my radar perifery but I didn’t really know much about them!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      29th November 2019 at 7:31 pm

      They’re not really much of a thing here in the UK, but luckily the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine is ever expanding. Or at least I hope so. Who’d heard of falafel twenty years ago?

      Reply
  10. Kavita Favelle

    29th November 2019 at 6:58 pm

    I think your description of maamoul as “a more refined Middle Eastern version of British fig rolls” is spot on, that’s the perfect way to describe them! These look absolutely gorgeous, and perfect for this time of year too!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      29th November 2019 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Kavey. They were rather gorgeous and polished off all too quickly. I think as Christmas approaches I shall be making more.

      Reply

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