Somewhere out there, someone's Tita (grandmother) is tut tutting and shaking their head in dismay at my sorry looking ma'amoul.
Traditionally these cookies are made with an intricate pattern that makes them look quite regal.
You'll be tempted to serve them on nothing but your best china I'm sure.
Clearly mine are barely tupperware worthy.
Fortunately, what they lack in looks, they make up for in taste.
Ma’amoul is known in Trinidad as a traditional cookie of the Syrian and Lebanese community. This group of people was the last set of immigrants to arrive in Trinidad during the colonial era. They came primarily to escape religious persecution and economic hardship. Most hoped to go on to the United States. However they arrived at a time when Trinidad’s economy was thriving because of a strong sugar and cocoa industry, so many of them stayed on.
The majority of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants to Trinidad were Christian and according to the Trinidad and Tobago Syrian Lebanese Women’s Association cookbook, Ah'len - these cookies are usually made around Christmas time. Arabic speaking Christians in other parts of the world and Eastern Orthodox Christians also make them at Easter. In the Jewish community, they are eaten on Purim, Rosh Hashanah and Hannukah. Trinidadian Muslims prepare them for iftar (The evening meal that breaks the fast during the month of Ramadan) and Eid.
Wow, these cookies sure do get around!
Next week we celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in Trinidad and Tobago. For Muslims, it is a time of spiritual renewal, for non Muslims... well I’ve got to be honest it’s all about the food as we show up at the homes of our Muslim brothers and sisters belly in hand. Perhaps this year you could surprise your friends by turning up with something other than your hungry belly:-) Bake these cookies and offer to bring dessert. Should you decide to make your own Ma'amoul you can find recipes in the following Trinidadian cookbooks:
The Naparima GirlsHigh School Cook Book
The Young Women's Muslim Association cookbook.
My research on these cookies turned up a variety of different ways for the dough to be made. Mamool is traditionally made with Semolina which I couldn’t find so I substituted with Cream of Wheat as they do in the Ah'len cookbook. If you can find it, use the Semolina which will give the cookies a lovely colour and texture. Semolina is the flour that comes from Durum wheat which is a hard variety of wheat with a high gluten content. Gluten is the protein in the flour that gives dough it’s elastic quality so that it can be stretched and pulled. I suspect cookies made with semolina would be less likely to crack as mine did.
As much as I was tempted to try the recipe in Ah’len, a yield of 70 cookies put me off - way too many cookies for my small household, or so I thought.
It turns out that I was wrong.
After tasting these cookies, I decided that 70 cookies might not be enough!
Apart from simply making them look pretty, the pattern on the ma'amoul is also useful for remembering which cookies have dates and which are stuffed with nuts. However don't let the lack of a fancy cookie mold stop you from making these cookies. I just pressed a fork into the tops - so just go ahead and do that or even better use a cake decorating tube like this smart blogger here.
Yeild: Approx 24 cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cream of wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1 cup of butter at room temperature
1 tsp rose water
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange blossom water or rose water
Date Filling: 1/4 cup chopped, pitted, dates
1 tsp orange blossom water or rose water
powdered sugar for dusting cookies.
Directions: Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix flour, cream of wheat and baking powder. To the dry ingredients add, add butter. You can do this in a food processor and pulse until the mix looks like small peas. If you do not have a food processor then cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour like you would do when making pastry. Next add the milk and orange blossom water combine until dough is formed.
In a food processor, chop walnuts until crumbly. Pour walnuts into a bowl and add sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Put the dates into the food processor and blend until it forms a ball, remove and add the orange blossom water, set aside.