Mamool (or ma’amoul) are delicious shortbread biscuits often filled with pistachio or dates. They’re popular around the Eastern Mediterranean & the Gulf, & often served around religious festivals. They’re a great little treat, & last for weeks in an airtight container. Whilst simple to make, the pastry does need to be started the night before, so this is one to plan ahead for.
You can get special wooden moulds to help shape & decorate these biscuits – or at least I’ve seen them on the internet, not managed to get my hands on one yet! Instead I just shaped these by hand, which isn’t tricky at all. I’ve also made an apricot filling for the mamool -feel free to experiment with other fillings, key combinations are nuts & a bit of sugar or dried fruit.
Makes 48-50 small biscuits
450g fine semolina
50g plain flour
60g caster sugar
½ tsp ground mahlab (optional – may be tricky to find)
½ tsp salt
250g unsalted butter
3 tbsp rosewater
1 tbsp orange blossom water
½ tsp fast action yeast
40ml warm water
100g shelled pistachios
50 g caster sugar
1 ½ tsp rosewater
½ tsp orange blossom water
150g dried apricots
1tbsp runny honey
2 tsp water
6 cardamom pods
150g date paste / 150g dried dates
1 tbsp runny honey
½ tsp cinnamon
The first step is to start the pastry – you need to do this 12-24 hours before you want to make the biscuits. Place the semolina, flour, salt & sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter, & pour over, along with the rosewater / orange blossom water. Mix well, cover & set aside.
After 12 -24 hours, the pastry will have set hard. Crumble it up with your fingers, then add the yeast & the water. Mix it with your hands to form a soft dough, adding more water if required – it should take on a similar consistency to playdoh. Cover & set aside for an hour.
You’re now ready to make the fillings, starting with the apricot. Finely chop the apricot, & place in a small saucepan along with the other ingredients. Heat up until it starts to bubble, then cover, take off the heat & leave for an hour. After it’s sat for an hour, take out the cardamom pods & put the apricot mixture in a food processor & pulse until it forms a rough paste, ten place in a bowl.
For the pistachio filling, place the pistachios & caster sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is fairly well broken up but with small chunks of pistachio remaining. Place in a bowl & add the rosewater / orange blossom water, & mix until it forms a stiff paste (add a bit of runny honey if more liquid is required).
For the date filling – if you’re using whole dates, chop up & then place in a food processor, & pulse to a rough paste. Add this mixture (or the readymade date paste) to a bowl, add the other ingredients & mix well.
To make the mamool, first divide the pastry into 3. Take a piece of pastry & a bowl of filling. I recommend you portion up both the pastry & filling before trying to make the individual mamool, as it makes life a lot easier & means you will produce evenly sized biscuits. Firstly, divide the pastry into walnut sized balls (you should get around 16), and in your hands roll an equal number of balls of filling, placing them on a sheet of baking parchment when done.
Take a pastry ball, & make a ‘cup’ or ‘bowl’ shape with it – just stick your thumb in the centre of the ball to make a depression, & work with your fingers / thumb to shape the sides. Pop the ball of filling in this ‘bowl’, stretch the pastry over the top & seal it. The end result should be a ball of filling encased by the mamool pastry – the pastry is really easy to work with, so this is easier than it may sound.
You’re now ready to shape & decorate the mamool. The shape doesn’t really matter – you just want to be able to tell which of the 3 fillings is inside! I tend to go for round ones, oval ones & diamond shaped ones, one shape for each filling. Once shaped, you can decorate the top by using a fork or bamboo skewer to press patterns into the dough – be as artistic as you like!
Place the finished mamool on parchment lined baking trays, & place in the fridge for an hour before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 190 °C / 170 °C fan / gas mark 5. Bake the mamool for 10-15 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Leave on the tray to cool for 15 mins, then transfer to a baking tray to cool fully. Dust with Icing sugar & serve.