People in the Middle East really like their sweets. They drink their Tea and Coffee with lots of sugar – and they put dried fruit into many savory dishes to make them sweet.
If you have ever been to a Middle Eastern bakery, you’ll probably think of pastries that are drenched in honey, like Baklava. Even Turkish Delight is very sweet (although delicious!) and is covered with powdered sugar.
Ma’amoul is a shortbread cookie, filled with either dates, walnuts or pistaschios. It is one of the few pastries served throughout the Middle East that actually is not super-sweet. Some varieties can have powdered sugar on them – but most do not.
Why do I say that this is a cookie that bridges cultures? Because this is a traditional cookie that has its place with all of the many religions found throughout the region. Muslims eat them during Ramadan – they fast all day, and then end their nightly feast with this sweet. Christians serve them traditionally at Easter. Jews eat the Date variety for Rosh Hashana (the New Year) and the other varieties at Purim. One cookie – so many traditions!
Google "Ma'amoul" and you will find so many different recipes - some more simple than others..... some variations use Rose water or Orange water, some use white flour while others use semolina... The traditional cookie has alot of versions, depending on where you are from or your family's way of doing things.... but the manner of making this cookie is the same.
There is a traditional MOLD that the cookies are made in - and depending on the design of the mold, you can always know what the filling will be. I saw somebody liken that to chocolatiers.... who put different designs on their chocolates, so that you know what kind it will be before you bite into it.
This is the mold used for the Walnut version.... if you'd like to give it a try, you can find these molds in my store (click on the picture to link to it!). If you'd like me to give you a recipe, just drop me a line.
I am going to make these cookies for the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday - it is the Jewish New Year, when the traditional greeting is "Happy and Sweet New Year". We eat sweets for a sweet year and we eat pomegranates so that our year will be prosperous.
If I don't see you again before the Holiday, let me wish you "Shana Tova" - a good year! May it be a Sweet and Prosperous year, full of Dreams Coming True!