Maamoul bars with dates

August 24, 2022  •  Category: ,

This recipe took me about 3 months (even longer) to make. I had prepared the dough (it takes one minute or so) and stored it in a bag in the fridge. I kept glancing at it every once in a while thinking about making maamoul using one of the half dozen molds I have. The thought of making maamoul  felt really blah and I would just refrain from grabbing that bag of semolina dough.

Finally, after months (3 months? 4 months?) I did grab that bag, gave it a quick sniff. It smelled fine. I thought, well, maybe I can do maamoul madd instead!  Just spread the dough in a pan, cover it with a layer of date paste and then a top layer of dough and done!

So I did just that. It worked out SUPERBLY!!! I loved the results even more than when I made maamoul painstakingly, one at a time.


Maamoul bars with dates

Joumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern August 24, 2022 Sweet Pastries, Pastries/Breads, date paste, ma'amoul, traditional food, bars, semolina, Pastry,

25-35 maamoul bars servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes


3 cups fine semolina

1 cup melted ghee or butter + 1/4 cup butter or ghee for the date paste

14 oz date paste OR 2 cups of dates (seeded) softened in one cup of water or orange juice (fresh).

Flavoring for the date paste: vanilla or orange blossom water,  1tsp or more, to taste



  1. In a bowl, place the semolina and pour the melted butter or ghee. Mix to combine until the mixture forms a dough. Transfer to a plastic bag or container, cover and leave in the fridge overnight or (like I did) for several months.
  2. Make the filling: Now there are two possibilities, either use date paste already done and sold in packages of 14 ounces each, or make your own with dates purchased whole. I used some dates I had that were languishing in the fridge. First, you open each to make sure they are clean inside (no minuscule bugs crawling), dump the pit, and transfer them to a saucepan. Add water or juice (orange, or other that goes well with dates) and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or longer or until the dates have softened enough and get plumped-up. At this point, cool and then transfer to a food processor to purée them, adding a few dollops of butter or ghee to the mixture. I used about 4 tablespoons of butter. You can also add some spices or flavoring if you like (vanilla, rum, rose or orange blossom water for example, cardamom, cinnamon, clove)
  3. So now is time to form the bars. Remove the dough from the bag, massage it a bit and cut it into two halves. Roll one half between two sheets of wax paper to fit the pan. This dough is soft so it is easy to adjust or cut off a few pieces here and there to get it to fit. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  4. Spread the date paste over the bottom layer as evenly as possible, without going too close to the edge to avoid having the date paste slip through and burn on contact with the hot pan.
  5. Roll the top layer between two sheets of wax paper and remove the top sheet and flip it over the date layer. Chisel the dough here and there as needed to get it as even as possible and prick it with a fork or use the fork to make a design. This is totally optional.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the dough looks golden and brownish around the edges. Cool and remove carefully from the pan, as this is an extremely brittle dough, similar to shortbread.
  7. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  1. If using the date paste that comes in a 14-ounce package, run it through the processor as well with some melted butter and a couple tablespoons of juice or flavoring to soften the mixture as it tends to be stiff.
  2. The semolina dough should be soft, but once it sits in the fridge tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, it will stiffen and the semolina will expand (especially since I left mine for months at a time). In the event the dough is too stiff or dry, a little milk or (what my grandmother used to do) some orange blossom water or rose water added one tablespoon at a time will do the trick.

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6 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Doc says:

    This sounds really good, and really easy. So I have to figure out what I have that I can make it with.

    I have some re-ground durum in the form of Caputo Semola Rimacinata which I use to make pasta, and since it is a 00 flour it is quite fine so it should work just fine for cookies. And I have 2c of a mixture of old dates of various varieties that are in need of rehydration to be soft enough to eat so that should be sufficient. I will probably add a little spice (perhaps 1/4t total of nutmeg, cinnamon, and a small amount of cloves) with some orange juice and a little rum or amaretto added at the end so that the aromatics don’t all boil off). Then to enhance the sweet in that much date sugar, about 1/4t salt. The acid from the orange juice should bring a little tartness to the party.

    Now to figure out what pan to use. Since you didn’t say how big your glass casserole is I calculated the volume of 2c of dates as 112 cu in and your cookies look like the filling is about 1/4″ thick or a little more so I need a pan that is aboutn 100 square inches. A 1/4-sheet pan is 8.5″ x 12″ or 102 sq inches so that should be good enough. Your photo shows that the cookie dough is slightly thinner than the filling so 3 cups of semolina + 1c of butter will logically makeTtwice as much (volumewise) as the date paste and fill the bill and the semolina will swell some as it absorbs the fat and water in the butter and should work out about right. To keep the sides from over-browning I will try to use a spatula to massage the cookie dough a short distance from the side of the 1/4-sheet aluminum pan. The pan is 3/4″ deep so if the dough slumps the pan will catch it and I can try something different next time (like a narrow wood strip wrapped in foil and greased and placed between the dough and the inside edge of the pan). If everything works out right, I might be able to use a rolling pin to level the top but that just right seems like graduate work.

    Do you see anything that violates your sensibilities or rules of thumb?


    • Joumana Accad says:

      @Doc WOW. You always impress me so much. YOUR recipe sounds absolutely PERFECT. I was lazy and did the minimum, nothing but melted ghee or butter with the semolina, and nothing but water with the dates and a little vanilla, but still it came out so buttery and crumbly and sweet. Anyway, I think yours will be a big hit.

  2. Philip Gorelick says:

    Either way, sheets or in the form of cookies, these are my favorites. A few years ago, while in Valencia Spain, I was able to purchase some from a bakery operated by a Lebanese family there and they were wonderful!

  3. Samia says:

    Merci mme pour votre recette revisité du maamoul,je suis Algerienne et ceci resemble tres fort a notre ,(bradj),c’est un gâteau traditionnel qui se prépare pour célébrer la venue du printemps.

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