Story and Recipe collected by Nour Ghalyoun, Summer 2017
I can remember every morning I’ve awoken to maamoul being made. The smell of the timr, fasataq halabia, and mazahr – dates, pistachios, and rose water: the smells that I’ve associated with Eid, the Muslim holiday following the holy month of Ramadan. Mama would stay up late the night before making the dough, making sure that every Eid we would wake up to the traditional cookie, one that tied us back to our roots. We never ate it outside of Eid, and the one year we did, it was because mama made way too many cookies and we were eating them for the following weeks.
It was always my mother making the cookies because she wants them perfect, but she would always cave and let us help, whether that was pressing them into the mold or helping roll out the dough before stuffing them to the brim with the filling. They were always made with love, with care, with all the loyalty ties to country and culture. Growing up in America rather than Syria - my mother’s homeland – this was one of the few ties to the middle east that I understood with perfect clarity, one that none of us disputed about.
Some special things I learned about for the making of maamoul are the mahlab and the cookie mold. Mahlab is a spice made from the inner kernel of cherry pits, and the cookie mold is usually made from wood, with a long handle at the end. This information has been passed down from my mother from her mother, dating back as fat as anyone can remember.
This dish originates from ancient Egypt, dating back all the way to Pharaonic Era, documented with temple carvings and paintings. This dish migrated all over the Middle East. How it came to represent Ramadan is less certain. Some say that fasting is hard, but at its core, you can reap the sweet religious rewards – the same as a maamoul: hard on the outside, sweet and sugary on the inside.
(everything can also be done to taste)
First, make the dough. In a bowl, mix
- 1 cup of semolina
- 1 ¼ cups of flour
- 2 teaspoons of mahlab
- 4 spoons of sugar
- 2 sticks of butter
- 1 teaspoon of rose water
Next make the filling. Use
- 1 pound of pistachio
- 4 spoons of sugar
- 1 spoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of Rose water
Mix the dough and the filling well.
Mold the dough into a ball
Concave part of the ball to put the filling in
Close the opening, and press the ball into the cookie mold
Press enough to fill the mold with the raw cookie
Take the cookie mold and whack it down on the table, dislodging the cookie (don’t break any tables / plates in the making)
Once you have enough cookies, lay them out on a sheet
Bake for 15 minutes at 250°