Maamoul are buttery date filled middle eastern cookies that will melt in your mouth and are utterly scrumptious. Naturally sweetened with dates these have minimal added sugar. They are popular at Eid, Christmas and other holidays.
Melt the butter or ghee. Add oil and then mix in the sugar.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ghee/sugar mixture with flour, working them together with your fingers. Tip: Use odorless oil or only butter or ghee. Add as much flour as the butter/oil mixture will absorb and that usually varies from 2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups
Then add the rose water and mix it in. Next add the milk, one tablespoon at a time. Then knead it all into a pliable dough.
When you add the milk, sometimes it might look like there is too much milk and the dough is sticky. But when you keep mixing it in, the milk gets absorbed.
Let the dough rest for a 30 minutes. Then roll out 32 portions of the dough into smooth balls. I find this easier because all my cookies more or less turn out the same size.
Preparation of the date filling
Process the chopped medjool dates in a food processor into a smooth mass. If not using soft medjool dates, check the notes section.
Divide the date mass into 32 portions and roll them into smooth balls. Use oil or safe food prep gloves if needed, as the date mass can be sticky.
Shaping of the date filled cookies
Take a dough ball and flatten it. Hold it in the center of your palm and cup it. Place a date ball in the center. Bring the edges of the dough together. Pinch the dough to seal well and then flatten it out. Press it into a disc. Tip: Make sure to not use too much filling, or the cookies will crack.
Use a nut pick or fork to create interesting patterns. Or press the date filled cookie dough into a traditional maamoul mold and gently press to get the pattern on the cookie.
Invert and tap the front edge of the mold onto a hard surface like a kitchen counter, and hold your palm under the mold to get the cookie that is released from the mold.
Using a traditional Maamoul mold
Alternatively, a maamoul mold may be used to shape the cookies. In this case, a portion of the dough is first pressed into the mold. Then the date filling is layered on top of the dough.
Next, another portion of the dough is layered over the date filling and smoothened out.
Tap the front edge of the mold on a hard surface like a kitchen counter, and hold your palm under the mold to get the cookie that is released from the mold.
Sometimes I find that this method may not work out too well for all. As it may be difficult to release the cookie dough out of the mold. Sprinkling a little bit of flour into the mold prior to using it may help release the cookie better. Or laying a piece of plastic wrap into the mold prior to packing it with the cookie dough and the filling may help too.
But my preferred method is to make the cookie by hand and then pressing it gently into the mold to create the pattern. It is not traditional to use the mold this way, but it works better and speeds up the process.
Baking the Maamoul cookies
Place the Maamoul cookies, smooth side up (for hand shaped cookies) or the patterned side (for cookies made with the mold), on a large baking sheet.
Make sure to space them one to two inches apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not let the cookies over bake or turn too brown.
Well baked cookies will appear dry on the surface unlike the moist look of raw dough. Also, they will have a light tan.
Cool the well-baked Maamoul completely on a wire rack. Using a sieve dust some confectioner's sugar or a combination of the sugar with some almond meal. Store the Maamoul cookies in an airtight container.
If using dates that are not very soft, then place the chopped dates and add some water in a saucepan (start with 2 tablespoons water and add as needed). Dry dates may require more water.
Heat it at medium high and when the water bubbles, lower the heat and simmer. The dates should cooked down to a smooth and solid mass. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Ready Made Date Paste:
You can use one packet of pressed dates (no more than 13 oz) available online or middle-eastern stores. Do make sure to look for any pits. I have always found a small fragment of a pit in the ready made date paste. And it can be dangerous if left in the filling.
The date paste can be a bit sticky to work with. Application of some oil to the palms or using safe food prep gloves may help while shaping the date paste.
Ghee or Butter:
Traditionally butter or ghee is used for these cookies.
I prefer using ghee for making these mamoul as it imparts a nice nutty flavor. Ghee is quite easy to make from butter - check it out in the recipe notes for these Nan-e Nokhodchi cookies.
Some oil substitution works great with no impact on taste. You may use any odorless healthy oil for the recipe.
You can substitute half the flour with whole wheat pasty flour with absolutely no difference in taste.