I am finally feeling less like a zombie and more like a very tired human. The last ten days of Ramadan were tough but very rewarding and fulfilling. Despite the 3 or if you were lucky, 4 hours of sleep, I was pumped. There is nothing like the feeling of the last stretch of Ramadan; the achievement of fasting, succeeding in the goals you set for yourself, the resolutions you complete and the deep devotion and satisfaction you feel at the end.
After three days of fun and festivities, although they too were tiring, we found ourselves relaxing and taking it easy. Hanging out with friends and enjoying the holiday season was great fun for me. We enjoyed a lovely Eid party with some great friends and then a Sunday filled with a carnival and games at the Islamic Centre. A nice way to finish off a wonderful holiday.
Saturday night we had a dinner invitation to a wonderful friend’s house and since I didn’t have to cook that day, I spent the day relaxing and baking. It felt so good to be back in the kitchen getting knee high in flour and butter.
Ideally, I would’ve liked to have baked my cookies and scones before Eid as they were supposed to be gifts, but the last few days were so hectic that I decided to just do it the day after. It worked out well and I was happily baking away on Saturday.
I am sure you have seen many variations of the ma’amouls posted the last few weeks on various Middle Eastern blogs.They are a Ramadan and Eid favourite. I myself have never made them until a few days ago. I love them but my father would always send me boxes of ready made ones and so I never needed to make them.
Date ma’amouls have been on my baking to do list for years and finally this year, I was able to tick that off. They are wonderful and really quite easy. My friend lent me her ma’amoul moulds and I was in heaven whacking out pretty shaped date ma’maouls on Saturday afternoon.
When I was researching a recipe, I came across a hundred different kinds! Some used all semolina; some used part semolina and part flour; some used all flour and some used flour and ground almonds. I just about went crazy at all the different kinds. Then I read Claudia Roden’s recipe from her book The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and found out that in Syria and Lebanon they use semolina instead of flour. The recipe my Algerian friend gave me included ground almonds and so I figured, that’s how they make them in Algeria.
I will one day, make them all and see which one I like but for today, I am going to make Claudia’s Egyptian recipe. I know I like these, they are so good; buttery like melt in your mouth shortbread with a delicate hint of orange blossom water. They are so good, that when I gave my Algerian friend some, she said that she liked them more than hers!
So, if you’ve been wanting to make them but haven’t taken the plunge, do it! You don’t need the pretty moulds though pretty cookies make everything better. You can easily stuff them and use a fork to press in a pattern. I will be getting some of my own moulds very soon but till then I used my friend’s.
They go perfectly with some Turkish coffee, cardamom tea or mint tea (or in my case, all three).
- 3 cups/430g plain/all purpose flour
- 2 sticks/226g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom/rose water
- 4-5 tablespoons milk
- powdered sugar for sprinkling
- ready made date paste (or can make your own)
- If you are going to make your own date paste, cut 1 pound of pitted dates into pieces and add to a saucepan with ½ cup/118mL of water.
- Cook over low heat, stirring, until they turn into a soft paste.
- Let it cool.
- Alternatively, you can use a ready made paste like I did.
- I made my life simpler by making the dough in a food processor, but you can easily do it by hand.
- Put the flour and butter into a bowl of a food processor and pulse until the butter is mixed into the flour.
- Add the orange blossom or rose water and 3 tablespoons of milk.
- Pulse until the dough comes together.
- If it feels dry, add milk, a tablespoon at a time (mine took 4 tablespoons) until the dough comes together into a nice soft dough.
- I used a 1 ounce/28g cookie scoop to scoop out about 22 balls.
- If you make the balls smaller, like the size of a walnut, you can get about 40 (according to Claudia, but I don't see how that's possible)
- The most I think you can get, to get good size ma'maouls is about 24-30.
- After making the balls, take one ball and hollow it out with your thumb and work into a cone or pot shape.
- Fill the hole with a small ball of date paste and bring the dough up and over the filling, sealing it.
- Roll into a ball and put aside to shape.
- Repeat with the rest of the balls.
- If you are free forming them, flatten slightly and prick with the tines of the fork to make a pattern.
- If you have moulds, then press them into a well floured mould and whack them out.
- Bake in a preheated 325℉/165℃ oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Do not let them brown or else they will taste terrible.
- They will look uncooked but on cooling they will firm up.
- When cool, dust them with powdered sugar and store in an air tight container.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend and are off to a great start to the week. I will be visiting all the blogs very soon but even though Ramadan has ended, the craziness of back to school has started. My children all have registration this week and Laith starts with his soccer practice. I hope I can catch up. One more thing that is making me feel very old indeed; my eldest is starting her college classes. Oh, I feel old.
Have a wonderful week and please send me some happy thoughts to get through my old age.