Delicate and pastry-like, these popular Syrian cookies are delicate but easy to make. Traditionally made with either date or walnut filling, this recipe calls for dates, as well as raisins, dried apricots, and walnuts and is a typical Purim basket item. Orange extract, orange blossom water or orange oil can be used for the citrus notes but orange blossom water is the most authentic. It is available in any well-stocked supermarkets. You can form these cookies, by hand into cigar-shaped pastries or use a ma'amoules mold, a hand-held wooden mold, available in Middle Eastern food stores or through sources such as Sultan's Delight), to make the decorative shape.
Ma'amoul Cookie Dough
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water or orange oil
6-8 tablespoons ice water
Date Fruit Filling
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups dried, pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely minced
1/2 cup walnuts, ground
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixer bowl, stir together flour, salt, and sugar. Cut or rub butter into flour mixture until crumbly and mealy looking. Drizzle on orange water or orange oil and enough ice water to form a stiff dough. Set aside while making filling.
For the Filling, in a medium saucepan, heat orange juice, with dates, raisins, and apricots. Heat to soften fruit then add in cinnamon and lemon zest. Cook, over low heat until mixture is pasty. Cool well, then place in food processor, along with walnuts, to make into a smooth filling.
For flling, if you are using a ma'amoules mold, put about a generous tablespoon-sized portion of dough into mold and press slightly to fill out mold. Insert a teaspoonful of date filling, then cover with additional dough. Press with hands to compress cookie. Invert mold onto a work board and briskly ummold it.
Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. To form by hand, take a walnut sized piece of dough and make an indenture in middle. Fill with a generous teaspoonful of filling. Mold or wrap dough around and seal, with hands to make a round, slightly cylindrical shape. Roll on a board, lightly, to further shape and seal.
Place pastries on the prepared baking sheet and place in oven, immediately reducing temperature to 325 F so they bake evenly. Bake until lightly golden brown all over, 20-25 minutes.
Cool on rack and dust with confectioners' sugar.
Makes 1-2 dozen, depending on size
Makes 3-4 dozen depending on size
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