Maamoul – Recipes from a Traditional Lebanese Easter

Happy Easter! It’s really great to be able to share this recipe with you, and maybe from the photo above, you too will feel there are things worth coming back to this world for. This is my tray of maamoul, a traditional Lebanese sweet that is made especially for Easter. Maamoul is a semolina shortbread bound with butter, orange blossom water and rose water which on the inside holds a sweet filling. The filling is either buttery dates, or a concoction of walnuts or pistachios with sugar, more orange blossom water and rosewater. Now consider that for a minute. Imagine biting through that buttery, crumbly crust and getting the faint hint of roses and orange blossoms, followed by the chewiness of pistachios, nutty and sweet. Delicious opulence and comfortable luxury. Maamoul works on so many levels.

If you look through the photo series, you will get a basic understanding of how these Easter cakes are made. You can see the beautiful pattern that is formed when the filled dough is pressed into a traditional wooden mold. There is a shape for every flavour and that makes it easy to know which is which. According to Ludwig’s sister, who’s a real wiz with computers, there’s anecdotal evidence pointing to the tradition of making maamoul on Easter. Apparently the wooden mold symbolises Jesus’ cross, the mold’s pattern resembles the shape of the sponge with which Jesus was given vinegar to drink, the crust contains no sugar in reference to Christ’s death containing no happiness, and the inside is sweet and joyful to symbolise the resurrection. I’m not sure how steeped in tradition all this symbolism is, but at the least, it’s a nice story.

It’s been nine years since I’ve taken part in a maamoul making session, and this is actually my first attempt at it, as it was usually my mother who took care of the whole mission. Long distance phone calls with mom, mirrored by similar efforts from Ludwig resulted in the recipe we used. Just like we used to do, the dough was prepared on Good Friday and the maamoul was baked on Easter Saturday. But unlike being under the strict, observing eyes of our parents, this time we allowed ourselves to indulge in trying the maamoul as it was warm, instead of having to wait for Sunday as tradition requires. I am now convinced that eating maamoul warm is the only way to do it with the filling still gooey and slightly runny. The flavour warms my heart and the scent takes me back to my childhood, and the result is a maamoul I know even mom would be proud of!

Maamoul Recipe

Ingredients – Crust

  • 900 g coarse semolina
  • 150 g fine semolina
  • 550 g good quality butter at room temperature
  • 125 ml rosewater
  • 30 ml orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup milk (used on the second day)
  • Equipment – maamoul molds bought from a Middle Eastern supply store

Ingredients – Fillings

Fillings are tricky to give amounts with, because it depends on how many types you want to make. Use these ratios as a guideline, and make less/more depending on how much you want to make

  • 2 cups dates and 1/2 cup butter combined in food processor
  • 2 cups coarsely ground walnuts and 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tbsp rosewater and 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 2 cups coarsely ground pistachios and 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tbsp rosewater and 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • Try the combinations and adjust the sugar and aromatic waters as you like

Method

  • Knead the coarse and fine semolina with the butter until incorporated
  • Gradually add the orange blossom water and the rosewater until all added
  • Knead for 30 minutes
  • Rest for 12 hours, kneading it around 3 times in between
  • Before you start using the dough, you must knead it one last time, this time you wet your hands with the 1/2 cup of milk and kneading until all the milk is used up
  • Now your dough is ready, create a little ball of dough and make a hole in it, making the sides even
  • Look at the picture that shows the stages of filling the maamoul. Fill with your desired filling. If you are using dates, they should be formed into individual balls to fill the dough
  • Close the dough so that the filling is totally covered by dough
  • Put in the maamoul mold and push firmly but not overly so, otherwise the dough will stick
  • Put a cutting board and cover with a kitchen towel
  • Strike the top tip of the mold on the kitchen towel to release the maamoul
  • Repeat and when you have a tray full, put into an oven that has been preheated to 220 degrees Celsius
  • It will take around 15 minutes to bake, but what you are after is the slightest colouring. You don’t want it to brown
  • Remove, cool down and eat when warm or cold

29 Responses to “Maamoul – Recipes from a Traditional Lebanese Easter”

  1. Arlette says:

    AL MASSIH KAM … HAKAN KAM – (KOUM MOURAN MIN KABROU)
    Happy Easter Fouad…
    I love your maamoul , I wish I can grab one to taste. love the molds, still waiting for mom
    or sisters to bring me some , even I want a mold for the Krass which they do in Baalback so
    i can do a posting about it…(its similar to Kurban)
    my father is Assyrian Orthodox , and my mom is Catholic from Baalback. THank God that my eldest brother he read and write the Aramic Language and he is a big source to me…
    Let me know if you need anything..
    I did couple more posting about the Aramic food, the origin of Kibbee, and some more recipe to come

  2. Cherine says:

    Happy Easter Fouad,
    Your maamoul looks absolutely gorgeous. I only had the pistachio mold this is why I could not make the dates and the walnut maamoul. I was thinking abt removing the yeast, but i did not dare. I was scared I will ruin my mom’s recipe but u are right, it’s for the sweet and wet dough! Yalla next year hopefully! Your photos are amazing!
    .-= Cherine´s last blog ..Ma’amoul – the middle-eastern pastry =-.

  3. Anne says:

    What a treat to discover your gorgeous blog! I’m addicted to all sorts of baking molds…and cannot believe I haven’t heard of maamoul before, but can’t wait to get going on it now. Looking forward to going back through your old posts.

  4. Girl Japan says:

    I miss Middle Eastern food, I try to recreate it as much as I can, but these look absolutely lovely, just lovely.
    .-= Girl Japan´s last blog ..Happy Easter =-.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Your Maamoul look gorgeous! Love your blog!!!
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..Caesar Mayonnaise Dressing =-.

  6. Fouad says:

    Hi Arlette – hakkan kam. thanks for visiting the site. I read your post about the origins of baklava. Fascinating stuff. You are so well read and eloquent :) It’s great to know someone who knows Aramaic. I will be coming round for help when I need something translated :)

    Hi Cherine – Thanks and Happy Easter to you too. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the photos. Keep me updated how you go without yeast

    Hi Anne – I’m glad you enjoyed reading about maamoul. It’s great to have an interested audience :) Please feel free to say hello anytime

    Hi Girl Japan – Thanks for your kind words. I’m happy you enjoyed the photos.

    Hi Kathleen – thanks. and thanks for visiting :)

  7. Presley says:

    These are lovely! I’ll have to try them, although I guess I missed Easter.
    .-= Presley´s last blog ..Pâte sucrée adventures =-.

  8. They look and sound gorgeous. I bet the warm, home made ones would be sensational. I think I will have to try making some. I even own a maamoul mould – saw one in a middle eastern shop and could not resist buying it as it was so pretty!
    .-= spice and more´s last blog ..Chilli Plum Pork Hocks =-.

  9. Dorit says:

    These look wonderful!
    I have never made ma’amoul from semolina only – I will have to try.
    Hope you had a perfect Easter

  10. Gourmantic says:

    That looks like quite a labour of love! The pistachio filling sounds very tempting. Do you use different molds for different fillings?

    Hope you had a great Easter! :)
    .-= Gourmantic´s last blog ..How to Look Like a Tourist in Paris in 5 Easy Steps =-.

  11. ed hardy says:

    These are lovely! I’ll have to try them, although I guess I missed Easter.

  12. Fouad says:

    Hi Presley – thanks for visiting. These are good even when it’s not Easter. Give them a go anytime :)

    Hi Spice and More – A maamoul mould is more than half-way there. Try it and let me know

    Hi Dorit – What other than semolina would you use? Let me know if you try :)

    Hi Gourmantic – Certainly, a different mould for a different filling. The long ones are pistachios, the ones with a star on top are walnut, and the others are dates.

  13. Viviane says:

    I think you aced the maamoul. My mom makes them great but lately we r not allowing her to make them since she accepts no help and she gets tired as hell. She stills carries on with the Easter Kaak though because it is what my dad loves.
    Although even they don’t have moulds people can still enjoy different flavors, there is a way to them. For dates they can make date snakes and fill a dough of the same length, cover and make patterns with a fork or anything similar. Creativity is allowed as long as the cookies are identified from each other.
    Superb photos Fouad, kudos!
    .-= Viviane´s last blog ..Seafood Jambalaya for Easter Lunch =-.

  14. Wow these look so beautiful. The mold reminds me of the ones used for Chinese moon cakes (which I’ve yet to attempt). Such a beautifully-made little mouthful of sweetness – I think your Mum would be very proud!
    .-= Helen (grabyourfork)´s last blog ..Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream =-.

  15. Araxi says:

    Oh my goodness!!!! I wish I had found your blog sooner my mother in law wont give up her recipe but its a tradition I wanted to pass down to my kids and looked everywhere for a good recipe. I think I may try these even though we are well past Easter :) Thank you and LOVe your blog!

  16. tiffany says:

    hi your biscuits look yummy, just wondering where you got your molds, in Australia?

  17. Khouria Cecilia says:

    I enjoyed your explanations. My past attempts at maamoul have been very labor-intensive and unsuccessful in the appearance of the finished product; I plan to try your recipe for Pascha 2012. Would you please explain about the mold/flavor relationship? I was able to purchase a mold like the one in the photo.
    Hope that you’re still responding to your posting.

  18. Fouad says:

    Hi Khouria Cecillia – The moldes have different shapes for different fillings. The round one decorated with circles gets filled with dates. The round one with stars gets filled with walnuts. The oval one is for pistachio. Hope that helps.

  19. alexa says:

    Hi Fouad. While your post is a couple years older than mine, I’ve pasted a link to this page from my blog to share with my readers some of your cool traditions. I hope that’s ok. http://cozycornercreationz.blogspot.ca/2012/03/dash-of-orange-blossom-water.html

    These are such beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  20. D Johnston says:

    Hi, I would like to provide a link to my customers to your website with your Maamoul recipes and fantastic photos. We are a new small business in Brisbane, Queensland, teaching an array of languages from all over the world. We celebrate tradition, language and culture with each of our students. I read about the Maamoul recipe in traditions around the world at Easter. This is a great site. Could you authorise our use of your link. We look forward to hearing from you.

  21. Fouad says:

    Sure. Links are free :)

  22. Josephine says:

    Hey Fouad, made Ma’amoul for the first time today. They look nothing like yours LOL! Most of them split open. I don’t have a mould. I was searching for pictures because the recipe I got from my Middle Eastern Cookbook didn’t have any & so glad I found your blog. The pics are lovely and my recipe didn’t have either rosewater or orange blossom water which are I think fairly essential ingredients. I should have spent more time with my Great Aunt as she was a very good Lebanese cook.
    Wish you a Happy Easter

  23. John says:

    Hey Fouad,

    What a coincidence ! I have just sat down after lunch to check the goings on with FB friends and what do I see?

    A scrumptious photo of Maamoul on my FB wall :)

    The coincidence? I happen to have an equally appetising Maamoul plate in front of me, sitting next to a cup of Lebanese coffee, of course…The perfect after lunch treat.

    Happy Easter to you Mr:)

  24. I just love your post on making Maamoul. So beautiful. I can’t wait to try and make these. They look beautiful and tasty – love food with so much history and tradition.
    Do you know anywhere in Sydney where I could buy some moulds?
    Kamilla

  25. Glenda says:

    Hi Fouad, I too would love to know where you can buy the moulds.

  26. [...] Maamoul – Recipes from a traditional Lebanese Easter This entry was posted in home page by Charlie. Bookmark the permalink. /* [...]

  27. Reem says:

    Hi Fouad!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I just finished baking the first batch, they smell heavenly while baking and ofcourse I tasted them while warm haha, they’re perfect. They definitely remind me of Lebanon.

    Thanks again,
    Reem

  28. yummy… they are the perfect after lunch treat.We made a little change by adding some grated coconut also in the filling.It was good.

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