Maamoul are sweet, tender date-stuffed cookies from the rich world of Middle Eastern cuisine. Made with a mix of semolina and regular flour, these date-filled treats are rich, buttery, and bursting with spicy-sweet, fruity flavor.
Maamoul is a beloved, celebratory pastry found throughout the Middle East, and it is easy to understand why. These tender, crumbly cookies have a savory sweetness on the outside with a bright, fruity surprise on the inside. Everyone loves a hidden treasure!
Many Muslims enjoy these semolina cookies after sundown during Ramadan, while many Christians enjoy them in the days leading up to Lent. Jewish communities celebrate with maamoul for several religious holidays including Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, and more. Regardless of religion, culture, or creed, dessert is a universal language. Whatever you might be celebrating next, make sure to include this maamoul recipe!
Table of Contents
- Semolina – Semolina flour is made from durum wheat, the same protein-rich grain used for couscous and pasta. It is coarser and darker in color, with a somewhat golden color. You can find it in the baking aisle at the supermarket, right next to regular flour.
- Mahleb (Optional) – This elegant spice is made from the distilled seeds of St. Lucie cherries. It has a lovely profile with cherry, vanilla, almond, and rose flavors all present. Look for it online or at your local Middle Eastern market.
- Orange Water – Also called orange blossom water, it infuses the cookies with a delicate orange essence. If you prefer, you can use food-grade rose water in its place. Shop for either one of these floral waters in the international foods aisle or at a local Middle Eastern market.
- Dates – Be sure to choose Medjool dates that have already been pitted. Alternatively, you can use figs.
- Make the Syrup. Combine the sugar, water, and orange water in a small saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil over medium heat. Boil for one minute, remove from heat, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Blend the Filling. Process the dates in a food processor until you see a paste beginning to form. Add the butter, orange water, and sesame seeds to the paste and pulse until well-mixed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
- Form the Dough. Combine the semolina and all-purpose flour in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, work in the butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon and mahleb in, then carefully pour in the cooled syrup. Continue working with the dough until it becomes soft and pliable enough to be shaped. Then, place the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up and make it even easier to mold.
- Preheat the Oven. Set the oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Shape the Cookies. Scoop out a lump of dough, about the shape and size of a walnut. Use your finger to form a small well in the center, then add a teaspoon of the date filling. Pinch to seal and gently roll the dough into a ball. Gently press the dough ball down into one of the maamoul molds, then flip and tap it on the counter to remove the dough. Place the cookie on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, placing the cookies an inch apart. If you don’t have a mold, simply flatten each dough ball into a disc and use a fork to make cross-hatch marks on top.
- Bake. Place the baking sheet in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. You want the cookies to be a light golden color. Remove the pan from the oven, cool, and sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.
Working with Maamoul Dough
Dough sticking to your molds a bit too much? Try coating your cookie molds with a light dusting of flour in between uses — this usually does the trick. Also, the colder the dough, the easier it is to work with. Feel free to pop the dough back in the freezer periodically as you mold your pastries.
Both are beloved, stuffed cookies that are made for special occasions. However, they also have very clear differences.
Maamoul refers to a variety of stuffed cookie that is popular throughout the Middle East and served at several different celebrations. They are made with semolina, or a blend of semolina and wheat flour, then filled with a mixture of fruits, nuts, and spices.
Kahk, on the other hand, is a traditional Egyptian pastry almost always served at the end of the religious observance of Ramadan. These buttery cookies are made with only all-purpose flour, no semolina. They are occasionally stuffed with nuts, but it is not a given.
Yes! These scrumptious stuffed shortbreads are traditionally made using decorative molds, but it is optional. You don’t actually need a special mold to make this maamoul recipe.
Simply flatten the cookies with your hands into a disc shape. Bake as is or use a fork or a cookie stamp to add a bit of detail or top.
For the best texture, store date-stuffed cookies in a tin or airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. To help keep them moist, place a piece of bread or a slice of apple in the container.
You can extend their life even further by storing these treats in the refrigerator. Just keep in mind that the filling might get a bit chewy. Let any refrigerated cookies come to room temperature before enjoying.
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Maamoul (Date Stuffed Semolina Cookies)
- Stir the sugar, water and orange water in a small saucepan over medium heat until you get a rolling boil. Boil 1 minute and turn off heat. Set aside to cool 5 minutes.
- Pulse the dates in a food processor (or chop by hand) until a paste starts to form. Add the butter, orange water and sesame seeds. Pulse several times until mixed. Set aside in small bowl.
- Put the semolina and flour in a large bowl and work the butter in with your fingers. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and mahleb, pour in the cooled syrup and work the dough until it is soft, pliable and easy to shape. Put the dough in freezer for 15 minutes to firm up (it's easier to mold).
- Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Scoop a walnut shaped lump of dough and roll it into a ball. Using your thumb, make a dent in the center of each and fill with a teaspoon of the filling. Gently press dough up and around filling to seal, roll into a ball. Press into a maamoul mold (or flatten slightly into disc and make decorative crosshatch marks with fork on top). Turn mold over and gently tap on counter surface to dislodge from mold. Arrange on lined baking sheet an inch apart and repeat with remaining dough and filling.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a light golden color. Remove from oven and cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Store in airtight container or tin.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.