Whether it be Eid or Easter, Arabs all over the world welcome the holidays with these delightful date-stuffed semolina cookies known as Maa’moul or Ka’ak Bl Ajweh.
In my family, it isn’t Eid without us dedicating a day to baking these cookies together. We surround the kitchen table and each one of us has a role — mom and khalto mix the maa’moul dough and my sister, cousins, and I create an assembly line where we put together these delightful cookies. One of us rolls out the dates, the other stuffs the dough, and the rest of us put our maa’moul tongs to work to pinch out designs. It’s not unusual for us to bake 200+ cookies in one sitting (I’m serious guys). We bake these to share with with our dearest loved ones. So when Eid is finally here, we usually have our friends’ maa’moul to try too!
These aren’t the type of cookies that you can whip up in 30 minutes from start to finish. They need time and love, so get yourself ready to break up this process over two days. It’s not a difficult cookie to make…it just takes more time and patience. I prefer to prep my semolina mix in the evening and then bake the cookies the very next day.
Makes 50-60 maa’moul cookies
3 1/2 cups fine semolina
1/2 cup coarse semolina (farina)
3/4 cup ghee/samneh*
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sesame oil (avoid the roasted sesame oil as the flavor is too intense)
1 tsp ground mahlab spice
1/4 tsp mastic gum
1/4 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground anise seeds
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla powder
1/4 cup milk powder*
1 cup warm water
1 tsp instant yeast
2 baking date packages (each 13oz)*
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp vegetable oil
*For the ghee/samneh my family prefers to use the Al-Ghazal brand. It’s the one with the Gazelle on the tin. I love the Ziyad Brand Baking dates and semolina. And I prefer Nido for the Milk Powder. You can usually find all of these at your local International market.
I’ve received a number of questions about the tongs I use to shape the cookies. You can often find them at your local International stores and they are also available on Amazon if your search “Maamoul Tongs”. There’s also something called “Pom Tongs” in the 6 inch size that could possibly work.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the semolina flours and mix. Add mahlab and ground anise seeds.
Note: If you don’t have coarse semolina on hand, go ahead and use just the fine semolina only.
In a mortar and pestle or a small ziplock bag, combine the mastic and sugar and crush until the mastic gum is as fine as the sugar. Add to the semolina and mix.
In a small saucepan, add the samneh/ghee, butter, and oils and place over low heat until the samneh/ghee and butter have melted. Then transfer it (make sure it’s not boiling, warm is okay) to the semolina and mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Cover with saran wrap and place allow it to rest on your countertop overnight or at least 10 hours — sometimes I let it rest for even 24 hours.
NOTE: I prefer to measure out the samneh in a dry ingredient metal measuring cup and then melt it.
Combine water and yeast and allow it rest for 5 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly and frothy.
Uncover the semolina mixture and begin fluffing it up with your fingers. It should feel grainy/sandy and nice and oily. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, vanilla powder, and salt. Keep working and mixing the dough until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the water and yeast mix slowly and keep mixing/kneading the dough. You may find that you need slightly less or more water, heads up!
NOTE: You can use 2 tsp of vanilla extract and add it in when adding the water instead of vanilla powder.
You’ll notice how quickly the water gets absorbed. Keep mixing and kneading until you can easily form a ball with the dough. The ball should hold together without crumbling. Cover and let this rest for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the date mix.
In a bowl, combine the baking dates, cinnamon, cloves and oil and knead it until it is all well combined. Shape them into 1/2 inch sized balls.
NOTE: I find that using a watermelon baller or mini cookie scooper is so helpful in keeping the sizes all equal — this also goes for the maa’moul dough.
Scoop out a one 1 inch sized ball of of the semolina dough. Roll it into your hands and then press it flat until it is about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter. Then add one date ball into the center and press. Fold over the edges of dough over the date mix and then roll up into a ball again. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough.
NOTE: Sometimes there’s date mix left over so I place the date balls in a ziploc bag and save them for future use. I use the same date mixture in my Maa’rook Recipe so that’s where I usually use them up.
Using your pinky finger, the flat/back part of a clean pen, or small wooden spoon poke a hole into the center of the ball — It doesn’t have to go all the way through. Then using a set of maa’moul tongs begin pinching out your design of choice. You can head to my Instagram page @whenapricotsbloom to see a video on how to make the designs.
NOTE: While shaping the cookies, I like to keep my semolina dough partially covered as I work so it doesn’t dry out.
Place cookies onto a baking pan and allow them to rest for another 20 minutes or so before baking. I don’t use parchment paper for these cookies because they’ve got a nice amount of oil and butter and shouldn’t stick. If you’re worried though, use parchment. The nice thing about these cookies is that they don’t spread like a traditional cookie, so you can place them about 1-2 inches apart with no worry.
Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes or until the tops of the maa’moul are ever so slightly golden and the bottoms are golden. Transfer to a cooling rack.
When you’re ready to enjoy the maa’moul, sprinkle on some powdered sugar and enjoy.