Semolina cookies with date (Maamoul)

March 15, 2009  • 

We knew Easter was coming when our Teta (grandmother) was busy in the kitchen making these. Hers were unbelievably soft and crumbly and filled with the luscious and buttery date paste. She also made round ones with almonds and walnuts.   I would sneak in and grab some when no one was looking. …I yearned for those for years, never daring to make them. Then, a few years ago, my mother started making them for Easter and shipping us a tin from Beirut.  Now I feel it is my turn to carry on the tradition and put up a resistance front against all the girlscout cookies that my kids and their friends profess to love so much!  So one summer in Beirut I found a great cookbook Al Helwayat Al-Arabya wal Gharbya written by Lina Shbaro Beydoun. Her  recipe includes mahlab, which my grandmother never used, as well as milk and yeast.

These are not hard to make and their preparation can be spread out over several days. One day to make the dough, the following day to shape the kaak. They keep for weeks in a tin and can be frozen. I was told that their shape is a representation of Jesus’ crown  and the stones thrown at Him . My grandmother would delicately pinch each cookie  as a final touch, as this was to show the thorns on His crown. I have skipped this step however, mainly because I could not find the special implement to do it in Dallas (called malkat). Another way to make them is to use a special wooden mold called a taba’, found in middle-eastern stores. This process is faster and simply requires oiling the mold a bit with a spray such as Baker’s Joy every so often to ease  unmolding of the dough.

Kaak bel Ajweh

INGREDIENTS:


1 lb. of semolina

1 lb. of farina or cream of wheat

4 sticks of unsalted butter

3/4 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of milk

1/4 cup of rose water

1/4 cup of orange blossom water

1 teaspoon of mahlab, (optional)

1/2 teaspoon yeast

semolina or smeed

semolina or smeed

orange blossom and rose water

orange blossom and rose water

Farina

Farina

Stuffing:

1 large package of date paste (1lb)

8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Mix the semolina and cream of wheat (farina) and sugar to obtain a homogenous mixture.  Add the melted butter and mix again very well. Add the milk, orange blossom water, rose water.
  2. Mix well and leave to rest for a few hours or overnight. Some recipes call for adding 1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast to the mixture which can be dissolved in the milk. I have omitted yeast in mine. Also, one can add a teaspoon of mahlab if the taste is something one fancies in these pastries.
  3. Knead the dough for a few minutes by hand or in a mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough feels smooth, shiny, and easy to shape into logs.
  4. On a marble or granite counter place a large sheet of wax paper. Place a fistful of dough on it and put another piece of wax paper on top of it. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough and shape it into a long rectangle.
  5. Take a piece of date paste and knead it to loosen it. You can add up to 8 tablespoons of butter to the date paste to make it more malleable using the food processor.  Form it into a 1/3 in.  rope and place the rope directly on the dough. Using the wax paper, roll the log enclosing the date paste. A marble or granite counter is helpful here.
  6. Roll out the log on the marble counter and roll it with the bottom of your wrist back and forth until it thins out to your liking. Cut the rope into individual cookies, each about 4 inches long.
  7. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 325F oven till the cookies are light gold  and the dough feels dry. Cool the cookies and keep in a tin for 2 weeks or more. They can also be frozen for about one month. This recipe will yield at least 50 cookies.

NOTE:

You can use the wooden mold if you are pressed for time, because it is faster to shape them this way. Simply prepare small balls of dough on the counter.  Taking  one at a time, use your thumb to carve out a deep hole in each ball. Place a smaller piece of date paste in the hole and close the opening while rolling it on the counter to make sure it is nicely smoothed out. Place the stuffed cookie in the mold, press gently and unmold by tapping it on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes in a 325F oven till golden and dry. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you want.

forming kaak

kaak stuffed with date

kaak stuffed with date

img_2693 img_2690

Date paste

Comments

19 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Arlette says:

    Al Massih Kam… Hakan Kaam
    Shatourah Ya joumana…
    I also posted the Maamoul with the three flavours, and also the Kaak.

    • Joumana says:

      It is so great to meet you and visit your blog. I am so impressed and I want to try the kaak recipe this weekend!

  2. Theodore Abi Mansour says:

    Hey Joumana,

    Great stuff, you really make us feel proud being Lebanese with all the stuff on this website.

    keep up the great word,

    Regards all the way from Beirut,
    Ted

  3. Kellie says:

    I am so excited to try your kaak recipe. I love trying new recipes from all over the world! Looks delicious!

  4. ZEINA says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I love all the great recipes you have and the way you present them you can almost taste

    the food by looking @ the pix!!

    I was wondering if you have a chicken burger recipe lebanese style :))) I came across

    one but when it came to the spices part it only says tawebel djej!!

    please help

    Thanks

    • Joumana says:

      @Zeina: That’s probably because the spice manufacturers are selling spice mixes with the label “chicken spices”;I think if you use:paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, onion, allspice, you will be fine!

  5. ZEINA says:

    Thank you habibte!!!!!

  6. tota says:

    isnt semilona and cream of wheat the same thing? if not whats the differnece

    • Joumana says:

      @Tota: I am not sure exactly; they are both derived from wheat, just semolina could be from a specific wheat variety and it comes in two grades, cream of wheat would correspond to the coarse semolina or smeed.

  7. A Canadian Foodie says:

    Joumana!
    I just watched the video! You are even MORE gorgeous than I had imagined! I loved it. I have had the mould for a long time as I tasted these and loved them, but didn’t recall the name, so could not find a recipe… and there is not the recipe from the video anywhere on your site. I would like to make it and share it with my readers, too – with your video. Will you please send it to me….
    I cannot wait!
    Thank you so much!
    Valerie

  8. bassline says:

    My relatives every time say that I am wasting my time here at net, except
    I know I am getting familiarity everyday by reading thes good articles.

  9. alem says:

    Hi,

    Would it be possible for you to give me your grandma’s recipe? I have a preference for older recipes, most modern recipes are really like new recipes, not different was to make something; and seeing this will be the first time I will be making it, I want it to be perfect. Also I don’t know where to get farina, what can I sub it for?

  10. alem says:

    @Joumana,

    Thank you for sharing! 🙂 Sorry for my very terribly late reply. I checked a few times, but I guess my browser was showing a cached version of the page.

    Now a days everyone likes to add their own twist to recipes, while nothing it wrong with that, the old recipes which were past on from generation to generation in the old times are getting hard to find. And sometimes, all you want is the real thing, even if there are better recipes around.

    While I’m here, I’d like to wish you an early Happy new Year. And Merry Christmas! 🙂
    You should check out sonlifetv.com/watch I’m sure you will enjoy the church services they broadcast.

  11. apakah mmm says:

    I always spent my half an hour to read this webpage’s posts daily along with
    a cup of coffee.

  12. Helene says:

    Hello. I am using an “Arabic” recipe from an old cook book (Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral; Los Angeles, California; I believe the book is from 70s) and amongst other ingredients it calls for 2 lbs of Pillsbury’s Farina and 1/2 cake yeast. There are no details as to the exact amount of yeast. Would anyone have any idea of the amount? I was able to find 0.6 oz Fleischman’s active cake yeasts (and bought two), but imagine this size is different than the ones used years ago. Please help. Thank you.

    • Joumana says:

      @Helene: I have posted 2 main recipes on this site. One of them is my grandmother’s in which she did not use ANY yeast, only semolina (coarse and fine) and melted butter. It is my favorite recipe, naturally.
      The other recipe which I published in 2009, uses dry instant yeast, about 1/2 teaspoon for 3 cups of farina.
      I have never tried the recipe you are referring to. I suspect the size is not different from what was used years ago, but just to be on the safe side, you can contact them and get an immediate, precise answer from them directly.
      I have 5 maamoul posts on the blog, one with a cheese filling, one with almond, one with pistachios, one with date paste. I also have done a maamoul demo on TV, which is posted on youtube, to help with techniques. Good luck! 🙂

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