Today, we read the first act of our Shakespeare-inspired animal play, Bearicles, which included some rather sophisticated riddles and dark secrets. And these most “secret” scenes are set in Antioch, or, ancient Syria. To go along with our reading, I decided to create an easy-to-make, kid-friendly version of a Middle Eastern Classic, the Ma’amool. The traditional Ma’amool is a semolina cookie with a date or nut filling, often flavoured with orange blossom or rose water. It’s a popular treat for Easter or Eid. Most often, the semolina dough [which is a blend of semolina and finer farina] is set aside for a day or so in order for the hard flour to soften and, in general, to build flavour. Then, the cookies are formed into rounds, filled with something nutty and sticky sweet, sealed, and pressed into a lovely Ma’amool mold, which looks like a wooden spoon or paddle with half-globe indentation patterned with lines or curlicues or flowers. Here, we take a bit of a short-cut by blending traditional flour with a small bit of store-bought farina for our dough. [ You can just as easily omit the farina altogether, subbing for more all-purpose flour... or you can use your own butter cookie recipe!] As we don’t have a fancy mold, we use a mini-tart pan for half of our cookies [you could also use a pinch bowl]. And, we make hand-molded filled crescents with the other half of the dough. Finally, in addition to a traditional nut filling, I made sure that half of our cookies were full of something very dark indeed….Nutella! These cookies are insanely easy to make! We do hope you’ll try them and love them as much as we do!
Hidden Secret Cookies: Ma’amool with Nutella or Date-Nut Filling
2 c all purpose flour
.5 c farina (Original 3 Minute Cream of Wheat) or more flour
.5 c butter
.5 c sugar
.5 tsp cinnamon, optional
.25 tsp cardamom, optional
1 tsp orange blossom water, elderflower syrup or vanilla
3-4 tbs water (we used 3)
[this recipe makes enough for all 24 cookies, we halved it for our batch today]
1 c pistachios, walnuts or other nuts
16-18 pitted medjool dates
2-4 tbs honey
2 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp cardamom optional
1 tsp orange blossom water, elderflower syrup, or vanilla
1 generous tsp nutella per cookie
Icing [Confectioner's] Sugar for Dusting
Heat oven to 350 F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
Blend dry ingredients for dough in a small bowl.
In a mixer, beat cold butter until creamy and malleable.
Add the dry ingredient mixture by the half cup.
Add the flavouring.
Add water by the tablespoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a soft, pliable ball.
Divide the dough in half, then quarters, etc. until you have 24 small balls.
Flatten each ball into a small pancake.
If you are using a mini-tart pan or pinch bowl, gently place dough pancake into pan or bowl.
Dot 1 generous tsp of filling in the centre.
Bring dough from the edges down over the filling and gently seal with your fingers.
Turn the mini own or bowl upside-down onto the lined cookie shoot and slap the cookie down onto the sheet.
If desired, drag the tines of a fork over the top of the cookie to create a pattern, making sure not to break the surface so much as to let the filling out.
If you are making hand-molded crescents, place 1 generous tsp of filing in a one inch line in the centre of each dough pancake.
Bring edges up and seal the dough to make a kind of half moon or wonton-shape.
Bend this “wonton” into a crescent shape.
Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until golden brown.
[Our nutella-filled cookies were a bit quicker to brown than our nut-filled ones.]
Cool on wire racks.
Dust with icing sugar.
[I like to place a few spoonfuls of the sugar in a mesh tea-ball to do this!]
Seriously, these cookies are keepers! We’ll be making them again for Easter, and they’ll be on our Christmas Cookie List, for sure!
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