Recipes From My Childhood:
Lebanese Date Ma’amouls
In my childhood home in Lebanon, making ma’amouls was always a ceremonial event during any time of celebration or when we had specials guests visiting. My grandmother would bring me into the kitchen and share with me her secrets for making, shaping and filling the ultimate ma’amoul – as had been taught to her by her mother and surely others before.
A ma’amoul is a type of biscuit. They’re best eaten freshly baked and just slightly cooled. Out of the oven, the first thing you should notice is the beautiful scent of rosewater filling the air. As you place into your mouth, the delicate biscuit should crumble away, leaving you with a rich and mourish mouthful of soft dates, that melt on the tongue. To this day, the flavors still take me back to my childhood and the fond memories I have making these one to one with my grandmother.
If you decide to have a go at making them for yourself, then I highly recommend seeking out a traditional ma’amoul mold to make them. It will make the process much easier and will help the results come out with the most authentic look. Finally, grandma always used to serve these to our guests with a Turkish style tea or coffee, which is what I still practice in my home today. The combination is divine and I highly recommend it to you too.
(Makes about 36 ma’amouls)
- 1 kg high-quality dates
- 320g flour
- 225g Unsalted Butter
- 4 Tablespoons Milk
- 1 Tablespoon Rosewater
- Icing Sugar (for dusting)
1. Pre-heat an oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 3)
2. Remove the pits from the dates. If all your dates are dry, coarsely chop them and add to a saucepan with roughly 60g of water. Stir over medium heat until the dates soften up. If they’re already soft then you can start rolling the dates together, until they become malleable enough to shape into balls, no bigger than the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll into at least 36 pieces.
3. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Dice the cold butter into cubes and rub into the flour with your hands, until you have a fine crumb. Add rosewater, followed by the milk. Knead the dough until it comes together and is easy to shape.
4. Divide the dough into four equal parts and divide each quarter into 9 equal sized pieces, until you should have a total of 36 pieces of dough. Roll each piece of dough into a ball the same size as the dates.
5. To fill the dough balls with the dates. First, flatten a ball of dough with your thumb and make a hollow. Press a date ball into the hollow. Pinch the dough back over the date filling, making a ball shape. Repeat, until you have no dough left to fill.
6. One by one press the filled dough balls into the ma’amoul mold. Snap the dough out of the mold by quickly and firmly whacking the tip of the mold against the edge of the counter, catching the ma’amoul with your spare hand.
(You can dust some flour on the inside of the mold if it’s sticking and later on the icing sugar will cover any imperfections, so don’t worry about that at this stage). If you don’t have a mould, you can simply flatten the balls and press slightly with a fork to decorate the sides.
7. Place each ma’amoul on to an un-greased baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven.
(Keep an eye on the tops of the ma’amoul to ensure the tops don’t brown too much. The bottom-side of the ma’amoul will be slightly browned, but the tops should appear soft and uncooked).
8. Cool the ma’amoul on a wire rack. This will stiffen the ma’amoul, so they don’t crumble under their own weight. When they are cold, dust them with icing sugar, prepare to serve them to your guests and enjoy.
(Note: They keep for at least a week in an airtight container or special biscuit tin).