That was my first attempt to prepare Arabic maamoul for Eid, and it was great and not so complex. I know that it’s easier to buy maamoul in any shop in Amman, the prices vary from 15-25jd per kilo, and I don’t know anyone who really bakes it for holidays, or for serving coffee to their special guests. I decided to write this post because I was happy with the result, the texture of the dough was crispy but soft, and it wasn’t unbelievably hard to prepare.
First of all, I had a challenge to buy all the ingredients, that’s not my regular shopping list, and even if I bake a lot, I never tried to make any recipe that contained ghee or orange blossom water.
2 kg. fine semolina. I took the easiest pack, it’s was written “specifically for maamoul”. As a matter of fact, any fine kind will be fine.
600 gr. (3 cups) ghee, melted. I’ve heard a lot of stories how ghee stinks, however, I’d say it’s a mild buttery smell, nothing unbearable but it will stick to your fingers for a while.
200 gr. (1 cup) soft butter. I don’t know if you should save on the butter by choosing a cheaper brand, don’t think it makes a big difference yet I prefer good butter.
1 cup vegetable oil. Easy, just choose a no-flavour option.
2 cups all purpose flour. There are people who prefer maamoul with flour only, or with semolina only, I always think that a mix enriches the result. You will get a really easy dough to work with, if you add flour.
2 cups powdered milk. I usually don’t cook with powdered milk, yet here it’s just what you need.
1 tbs. mastic ground with 1 tsp. sugar. There’s also mastic sold in a liquid form nowadays in spice shops.
1 tbs. ground mahlab. It has a nice smell but I don’t know how it played in maamoul, I felt mahlab in this recipe was suppressed by other, stronger spices. They sell it in tiny glass jars in spices sections.
1 ½ tbs. ground anise. I was using some star anise, grounded it manually.
1 tbs. baking powder.
1 tbs. instant yeast + some sugar for proofing
1 cup of water
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange blossom water and 1 cup of rosewater. It was interesting to add it, as they both smelled like a Soviet Eau de Cologne my dad was using. Anyway, it gives a very distinct and pleasant smell to your cookies and shouldn’t be missed. In some recipes they say one can replace it with water or milk.
And, by all means, you need the filling for your maamoul. In general, there are 3 types of filling: crushed pistachios or walnuts, and a date paste. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough filling, therefore I bought too much of everything. I’d say, if you are following the same amount of ingredients, mentioned in this recipe, and want to try all 3 filling options, you will need the equal parts: 250gr dates paste, 250gr pistachios and 250gr walnuts.
If you are in Amman, all the ingredients can be bought in one place, if the supermarket is big enough. I went to Carrefour in Shmeisani and easily bought everything I needed. The dates paste, mahlab, mastic and nuts are usually in the same place where they sell spices.
1. Mix the semolina, ghee, soft butter and vegetable oil together in a big bowl. All the oils should be room temperature. Cover the bowl and leave the mix overnight in the kitchen.
As I’ve said, the recipe is not that hard, this is THE ONLY difficulty in the recipe – you have to wait for 20-24 hours, so semolina and oils will become good friends, and its grains will be softened. Don’t skip this part, it’s essential, if you want to get a soft, crispy maamoul.
2. Mix the yeast with 1 tsp. of sugar and some water. I prefer to mix 1 tbs. of the yeast, 1 tbs. of white flour and some sugar together in a small mug, cover it and put it in a warm place, other than dissolving it in all the water your recipe requires.
3. While your yeast is rising, mix the dry ingredients: flour, powdered milk, grounded anise, mastic, mahlab and baking powder.
4. Add the dry mix and the yeast to the semolina mix.
5. Dissolve 1 cup of sugar in the orange blossom and rosewater, then add it to the other ingredients mix.
6. Add the sugary water to your big semolina mix and start gently rubbing the clumps between your fingers. Don’t think you need more liquid, the dough will be shaped nicely. At the same moment, don’t try to mix it too much, just a smooth yet slightly breaking texture will be enough. You will definitely see the moment when it all comes together, don’t worry.
7. Leave it for 1 hour to rest and start making the fillings:
- 250 gr. date paste – add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom
- 250 gr. pistachios, coarsed – add 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tbs. orange blossom water
8. Take the dough, form a long sausage, cut it to equal pieces and form small balls.
9. Add the filling, form a ball again.
I think that’s the challenge – not to mix dough balls with the filled ones, as they look the same. :)
10. With the pincher, make any pattern you want. That’s a creative and easy part, as it’s a pleasure to work with this fatty cookie dough for maamoul – it doesn’t get dry, doesn’t depend on the air temperature, doesn’t get out of shape.
Make a pattern, place on the baking tray, continue with the rest.
11. When all of your cookies are ready, bake them in a preheated oven, around 230C. Maamoul is getting ready very fast, depends on your oven, it will take around 10min. They should be creamy white or slightly golden, watch them carefully.
12. Another important moment – when you take your maamoul out of the oven, don’t try to place them on a tray, or move them anyhow to use the same baking sheet again, it will not work! Right after baking it will be extremely crispy and hot, so sprinkle some sugar powder on the top of them immediately, and let them cool down.
Place your maamoul on a serving tray, pack in boxes, get some compliments how tasty your homemade maamoul is. Don't forget to say it was incredibly hard, so nobody will dare to ask you for a recipe. Enjoy!
So far from this amount of ingredients you will make around 80 pieces of maamoul. It really doesn't matter if you make 80, or 380, they are getting baked very fast, and if you have a couple of good movies to watch during the maamoul decoration, or a couple of friends willing to join, it will be an easy recipe for you, I guarantee.