Mamoul (Palestinan Easter cookies)
Makes 6-7 dozen
- 2.2 lbs. coarse semolina
- 1.1 lbs. fine semolina
- 2 cups melted ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 cup ground pistachios or walnuts
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. mazaher (orange blossom water)
- 1 tbsp. mawarad (rose water)
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (if you are doing walnuts)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon (if you are doing walnuts)
- 1 lb. baking dates (pureed dates)
- 1 decorative tool, optional
- 1 cup Mazaher (orange blossom water)
- 1 cup mawarad (rose water)
- milk, as needed
This is the recipe passed down from me from my grandmother who is from Jaffa. The cookies stuffed with walnuts or pistachios (mamoul) represent the tomb of Christ. The crown shaped date cookies (ka'ak mamoul) represent the crown of thorns and the piercing of His side.
-It is different from a lot of the recipes I've seen in cookbooks here. It tends to be more finicky than recipes that use flour, but I like this version better. Because you have to really watch these cookies while they cook, I have given an approximate time and temp but you may have to adjust to fit your oven. Also, some suggest dipping your hands in milk instead of water as you work the dough to make a more tender dough. A lot of this seems to depend on the quality of the clarified butter and of the semolina, things you may not be able to control. Someone also told me that adding a small amount of oil to the melted ghee helps if it is poor quality ghee. This is the kind of dessert that is best to learn directly from an experienced cook, but lacking one I recommend making 1/2 or 1/4 batches until you come out with a cookie that has a buttery, crumbly texture when bitten into, but isn't too moist or too dry. -
(1) In a very large bowl, mix the semolinas together and then pour in the melted ghee. Work for about 15 minutes, really rubbing the semolina between your hands as if you were trying to warm your hands up. (Palms flat together, rubbing back and forth vigorously.) Do this for the full fifteen minutes to really get the ghee to penetrate the semolina well. Trace a sign of a cross into the dough and cover with plastic wrap to rest overnight.
(2) The next morning, make little date "snakes" out of the date puree. Line a baking pan with wax paper. Take a small piece of date and roll it out until you have a "snake" that is 1/4-1/3" in diameter and about 4" long. You can get about 35 of these from a 13 oz. package of baking dates.
(3) Take your nuts (either your walnuts or your pistachios) and process them in a food processor until really fine, about the size of couscous. Add in sugar, 1 TB each mazaher and mawarad, and, if you are doing walnut, the cinnamon and nutmeg. Pulse it together to mix.
(4) Add 1 cup each mazaher and mawarad to the semolina and knead the dough for another few minutes until really well mixed. You will know that it is ready to rest when you roll a ball of dough and no grains of semolina stick to your hands. If it is not ready, add a tsp more of the mazaher or mawarad and work it some more. Repeat until it passes the test.
(5) Go bribe someone to help you, even better several someones.
(6) For the ka'ak mamoul (the crown of thorns), you take a generous TB of dough and flatten it into a rectangle that is about 1x4". Lay a date snake length ways down the center, and roll up the sides. Once you have sealed the dough around the date filling, pull the ends around to each other and press them together to make a donut shape. Using the decorative tool, lightly pinch the top all around to put in the thorn design. The walls of the mamoul should be only about 1/4". Too thick, and it won't bake through before it dries out. Not thick enough and it will get dry before it gets golden.
(7) For the nut mamoul (the tomb), take a TB of dough and roll it up into a ball. If as you are rolling it you feel it is not cohesive, dip two fingers in a bowl of water and work the ball in your hands until it is softer. Insert you thumb into the center of the ball, working your way around to hollow out a cavity for the nuts. Again the wall of the mamoul should be about 1/4" thick. This takes practice, so don't get frustrated. This dough can be tricky to work with. Once you have a cavity, fill it 3/4 the way with the nut mixture and then seal the dough together. Seal-side down, decorate the top with the decoration tool.
(8) Bake the mamoul at about 350 F for 15 minutes. Watch them carefully. You do not want to brown them, but they should be lightly golden. If you find they are not cooking through before they brown, try to thin your walls a little bit. You may want to test a few cookies the first time you make it to see if you have the right thickness/temperature.
(9) Just before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar. Al Maseeh Qam! Haqqan Qam!(Christ is born! Glorify Him!)