December 7, 2018
Grandma Julie’s Date & Walnut Maamouls
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 24 hours, including resting dough overnight
“I remember my grandma Julie at her kitchen table filling the hand-carved maamoul molds from Lebanon. A lot of maamoul recipes call for orange blossom water or rose water but I don’t like either of those flavors, so I leave them out. Dates and walnuts are two of the traditional fillings; I always make some of each using two different molds. Grandma would fill big movie-reel tins with these powdery cookies and hide them under a bed until Christmas Eve (I always found them!). Buttery, flaky and delicious, these cookies say Christmas to me,” says Lynda Reeves.
Editor’s note: If you can’t find a maamoul mold, try a mini tart pan instead or use the palm of your hand as a mold. In this case, after adding filling to the first layer of dough and topping with the second layer, just cinch the dough together with your fingers.
Yield: Makes 30 to 40 pastries
- Pulse coarse and fine semolina with sugar and salt in food processor until combined. With processor running on low, pour in butter in slow and steady stream until dough forms a paste texture.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to paste. Add almond extract and star anise and run food processor on low for another 2 minutes.
- Scrape dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and cover with another sheet of wrap. Rest dough at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
Make Nut Filling
- In food processor, grind walnuts, sugars, vanilla and salt at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t overgrind; the filling should still have texture and not become a paste.
Make Date Filling
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine dates, water, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.
- Cook, mashing the filling with the back of a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until mixture is combined and dates have softened. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Preheat oven to 425°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of maamoul dough into the palm of your hand and roll into ball. (You may need more or less dough depending on the size of your mold.) Flatten into disc about a 1⁄2-inch thickness. Place disc in mould and evenly spread dough to cover bottom of mold.
- Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of either nut or date filling on top of dough.
- Take another 1 to 2 teaspoons of dough, flatten in your hand, then spread over filling to cover. Seal dough all the way around.
- Knock the edge of the mold until maamoul drops onto baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining dough and filling, arranging cookies about 1-inch apart on sheets. If dough begins to stick to mold, dust with all-purpose flour.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until maamouls are slightly golden.
- Remove from oven and transfer to rack. Dust with icing sugar while still hot. Let cool, then sprinkle with more icing sugar. Store in airtight containers for up to 5 days.