Fatimah’s Eid Maamoul Biscuits
My thoughts turned to Proust’s famous madeleine – and all the memories it evokes – when I offered to share my childhood memories of Eid and my mum’s Maamoul semolina biscuit recipe.
My biggest passions are baking and all things sweet and I know those passions came from my mum and my childhood. Mum and dad both grew up in Tripoli on the north-west coast of Lebanon. Tripoli has a lot of Syrian influence and I think it’s fair to say our sweet pastries are probably the best in the Middle East.
I sometimes joke that I grew up in the kitchen alongside my mother, who didn’t so much teach me how to cook as use me for child labour! But I loved it. I was the designated cake batter bowl licker – that was my reward and probably has something to do with my love of cake-making and baking and desserts to this day.
I didn’t understand the concept of time when I was young, but I always knew Eid was around the corner the second mum laid out a blanket on the floor of the kitchen. That’s how we prepped for Maamoul every year.
A semolina cookie dough filled with nuts or dates and lightly dusted with icing sugar, Maamoul is traditionally eaten on Eid celebrations and just the scent of those sweet morsels brings childhood memories of Eid rushing back.
From making the dough to the careful wrapping of each and every fragile piece, my mum would make Maamoul in kilos, then give it out to close family members in little individual pieces.
Every mother and grandmother proudly claims they own the ‘Best Maamoul Recipe’ but I know in my heart of hearts, my mother’s pistachio Maamoul is a melt-in-your-mouth moment which I’ll never be able to compete with – and neither can anyone else.
When I was a child, we used to make the dough and the fillings and leave them in the fridge overnight but the biscuits can easily be made in one session. Just allow a little time for the assembly.
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Preheat oven to 250 C degrees. NOT fan forced.
In a small glass cup mix yeast, 2tsp orange blossom, 2tsp Rose water
In a separate bowl, mix 250gm softened butter with your hands.
Sprinkle butter with 1 tbsp caster sugar and mix thoroughly with your hands till sugar dissolves. Add another teaspoon of sugar. And mix more.
Add 1/2kg fine semolina and mix thoroughly with your hands.
Add the dissolved yeast slowly while mixing with your hands.
Add approx 3-4tbsp milk. One spoon at a time until the dough comes together and clumps. Leave aside.
Mix 100gm date paste with 50gm butter. Mix properly. Then add 1tbs rose water and handful of chopped walnuts.
For an alternative filling: Mix 250gm roughly chopped pistachios with 1 teaspoon orange blossom water and 1 teaspoon of rose water and sugar to taste.
To assemble biscuits
Using your hands, roll the dough into small balls the size of a golf ball then create a hollow in each of them, using your thumb to round the hollow out.
Fill the hollows with either the date or walnut mix then bring the edges together to close the hole up again.
Using a traditional Maamoul mould*, place each filled ball into the mould gently and flatten. Then turn the mould upside down and bang gently on the edge of the kitchen bench.
Gently remove the Maamoul from the mould and place on a baking tray (we usually use stainless steel). And repeat.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes till light golden.
Dust the top of the walnut filled Maamouls with a little sifted icing sugar while still warm so that the sugar sticks to the biscuits nicely. Once cool, dust with extra sifted icing sugar.
The date filled biscuits are usually left plain.
Store the biscuits in airtight containers or wrap individually with greaseproof paper.
*Traditional moulds can be bought from all Lebanese grocers. I usually use a different design for the different fillings.
*Traditional moulds can be bought from all Lebanese grocers.