food for thought

by michelle


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These small shortbread pastries are very popular in Palestine and the Gulf States. Filled with dates, pistachios, walnuts and occasionally almonds or figs, Muslims eat them at night during Ramadan and during the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays and Arabic-speaking Christians eat them at Easter. They are also popular among Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian Jewish communities, who eat them with nut fillings on Purim, and with date fillings on Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.

Ma'amoul-mouldsThe subject of ma’amoul arose in conversation with my friend Caroline who was not only interested in making them but had some lovely ma’amoul moulds. For our first attempt we considered at least 6 recipes to arrive at these versions. Of course making perfect ma’amoul is something that comes from long tradition and needs plenty of practice. Despite the fact that we would both make changes next time (perhaps a pastry made with semolina would be more crumbly?) we enjoyed ourselves and were proud of our efforts. Reviews from friends and family were pretty good – even my Lebanese grocer, who gives his wife 8 out of 10 for her ma’amoul, gave us a 6!


Mix 500g (1 lb) of flour with 250g (½ lb) of butter until you have a consistency like fine bread-crumbs then add 4-5 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water or rosewater (we made a batch of each). The consistency should be moist, soft and flexible. If the pastry is too dry just add a little more milk. Now make the fillings. For our rosewater pastry we mixed 225g (10 oz) of walnuts ground to a medium/fine consistency, 300g (10½ oz) of finely chopped dates and 1½ tablespoons of rosewater. For our second filling we used 125g (4½ oz) each of almonds and pistachios ground in batches to a medium/fine consistency,  of a cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water.


To shape the ma’amoul, take a walnut-sized piece of pastry and flatten it in your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the centre and close the pastry over it making sure the pastry is not doubled over and there are no holes. Press into a mould then remove  and place on baking paper on an oven tray. When the tray is full of pastries bake at 160°C (320ºF) for 25 minutes. The pastries should become a little crisp but not brown (except maybe a little on the bottom). Cool the pastries and sprinkle with a liberal amount of icing sugar.       Each batch of pastry and filling makes approximately 36 pastries.


Written by michelle picker

April 29, 2014 at 5:26 am

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