Today I’m sharing date-filled shortbread cookies, or ma’amoul.
Can you believe it?? It’s just about the end of Ramadan. We did it! 🙌🏼
It was my first Ramadan in Dubai and as a food blogger. For those of you reading, thank you for following my journey through my family recipes. Thank you for letting me share my traditions. I feel like I’ve given each and every one of you a small piece of what Ramadan is in my home, and it makes me so happy that you could be a part of it.
I love these cookies. Not only because they’re baked at the end of every Ramadan for the Eid celebrations but also because they’re just so tasty. The dough is made of all-purpose flour, coarse semolina (or farina) and is seasoned with mahlab, a spice which comes from the pit of a species of cherry and makes the buttery cookie taste a bit more buttery. It’s hard to describe, you have to try it to see what I mean. It helps to have a ma’amoul mold to make pretty designs, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The cookies will taste just as good without it.
Another reason why I love these cookies is because since the dough isn’t very sweet, you really taste the natural fruitiness from the dates, and all the flavors meld together perfectly.
There are lots of recipes out there for these cookies with differences on coarseness of semolina and its ratio to flour. Some use yeast, some don’t. Some use water, and others just use milk. This is my family’s recipe, and it works perfectly every time.
When you’re ready to stuff the dates, you make a smooth ball with the dough then take your index finger and press in the middle and hollow out the inside. You want to form a bowl large enough to fit a ball of date filling. You don’t the walls of your bowl (or dough) to be too thin. They should be thick enough to hold up to the dates, about 1/4 inch thick. You then place a ball of date filling inside, close up the bowl, roll it between your palms to smoothen it out, press it into the mold, and place it on a cookie sheet.
My mom said that lately, she has been baking her ma’amoul in a patterned muffin pan (in Dubai here in US here), which actually works great, because the cookies retain their shape much better. However, since they’re baked and must cool in the pan, a whole batch of cookies only works if you have several pans. With a regular cookie sheet, I found transferring the cookies to a cooling rack to be much less of a delicate task than the muffin pans.
Ma'moul is often made in gigantic batches (my mom’s recipe made around 100 cookies 😱) because it keeps well in an air-tight container and is great for when family and guests come over for the holidays. I halved the recipe for you, but feel free to make the original recipe if you’re feeding a huge crowd. So grab your friends this weekend, and have a ma’amoul making party 🥳!
I hope you give this recipe a try! If you do, put it in the comments, and don’t forget to tag @omayahatassi and #omayahcooks on Instagram! I love to see your creations! And check out the stop motion for properly stuffing the cookies to help you out!
Date-Filled Shortbread Cookies (Ma'moul)
These buttery shortbread cookies are seasoned with mahlab and stuffed with dates. They're often eaten for Eid marking the end of Ramadan or Easter, but they're delicious anytime of year.
Makes: About 50
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
4 c all-purpose flour
1 c coarse semolina or farina
2 c plus 1 Tbps unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp mahlab
1 1/8 tsp instant yeast (half an envelope, 4 g)
1 tsp salt
50 g plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 lb or 500 g date paste
- Combine flour, farina or semolina and 2 c butter in a large bowl and mix with hands until smooth dough forms. Rest until semolina softens, about 30 minutes.
- Warm milk and add the yeast. Allow to bloom for about 10 minutes. Add to dough along with mahlab and sugar. Knead with hands until well combined.
- Combine date paste with 1 Tbsp of butter and place next to work area.
- Preheat oven to 375F/180C. Take about a 1 inch ball (measure in mold to make sure it fits) and roll between hands to smoothen. Hollow out the center by placing index finger through the center and pressing into opposite palm. You want the dough to be about 1/8 inch thick. Form a ball of date paste large enough to cover the inside yet small enough for the dough to close easily, about 1/4-1/2 inch. Close the dough around the paste, roll between palms again, press in mold and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Continue until you have 12-15 cookies on your baking sheet. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake until light golden, about 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a rack gently. Cool completely before consuming, otherwise it will fall apart.
- Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.