A dear friend of mine is a treasure hunter. By this I mean she finds the most amazing treasures in any number of places…yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores, etc. She’s so good at it, that some of my most creative and interesting objects in the house are things that she’s found…everything from a hand painted swashbuckling hat holder to a very cool and Don Quixote-styled metal horse sculpture. Last fall on my birthday, one of her gifts was an odd (to me), but really beautiful hand carved mold.
I had no idea what on earth this thing was, but fortunately it had a tag bound with a piece of twine, and inside the tag it said it was a Ma’amool, a hand crafted gift from Damascus. It explained that this was a cookie mold hand-carved from apricot wood, and it included a recipe for making the cookies. COOL!!!
This was last October, and I had originally thought I’d be making these cookies around Christmas…which came and went. Then as we progressed into the new year, I’d look at the mold when I was cooking, because I had it hanging by my stove and I kept thinking to myself…”I must make these cookies.”
Week before last, I was in the store and remembered that I needed dates and walnuts as well as farina, to make this recipe, and though I purchased all the ingredients, I then didn’t have time last weekend to make them. And so now here we are, Easter weekend, the day before Easter in fact, and I still hadn’t made them, until now! And guess what? It turns out that they are considered to be a Middle Eastern holiday or Easter cookie! Meant to be made this weekend, that’s all I can say.
Below is the recipe that was on the tag attached to my mold. In reading more about these cookies, I see that adding orange flower water and/or rose water is a traditional way to make these, but that was not in my recipe and I didn’t have either on hand. Each mold design is indicative of a different type of filling, and my recipe says to use either dates or walnuts, but I used both. For a truly Lebanese version, visit Nina Baydoun’s blog, Tabkhet el yom, and check out her Ma’amool recipe. Also, please see my highlighted comments in the recipe that I made below. There are some essential tips left out of the instructions that came with the mold…surprise! Isn’t that always the way with recipes that are handed down through generations? But, thanks to Nina’s blog, I was able to overcome some initial slowness and make these pretty fast.
These were fun to make, lovely and unique, and very, very delicious, and would be good anytime you wanted to make them, holiday or no. I can’t wait to try different flavors, including the rose and orange water. I just love how you can learn something new every day! So now if you see one of these molds while you’re out and about somewhere, and you didn’t know what it was, you should grab it! You’ll have hours of fun ahead and tasty treats in the palm of your hand. Thank you Wanda, for the gift that will keep on giving, and also thank you to Nina Baydoun, who made this much easier to do with the great instructions on her post.
Wishing each and every one of you a very Happy Easter, Happy Holiday and Happy Spring!
(I made a half recipe, which made 3 dozen cookies, this full recipe would make twice that easily.)
2 lbs. farina (cream of wheat)
1 lb. butter (softened)
1 cup flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
1 lb. ground walnuts OR 1 lb. chopped pitted dates (I used a mixture)
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix butter, farina, flour and sugar well. Stir in milk to form a workable dough. (Even with softening the butter, I ended up using my hands to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients.) Shape dough into walnut sized balls and place in mold, using thumb to make a small depression. Place filling in the thumbprint and seal with dough. Strike mold sharply on chopping block to remove dough from mold.
Above is the way the tag instructions said to do this. It is super hard to get it out of the mold and it doesn’t allow for much filling. Makes a super sharp impression, though.
Okay, here’s where referring to someone like Nina, who makes these regularly, was really helpful. You certainly can make these in the mold, I did my whole first batch this way, wondering why so little filling would go into the depression and I also couldn’t hear from having to slam the mold down so many times to get them out. Flatten these out with your thumbs in the palm of your hand, making a little curved saucer. Spoon or place your filling in the center, and pinch the edges together into a crescent, then form gently back into a ball, press into the mold then sharply rap them out. Not only do they come out easier, but you can get more filling in them! Ya!
Above is Nina’s way…by far easier, faster and more effective!
Place cookies on greased baking sheet (I used a silpat) and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes (It took a good 20-25 minutes in my oven at this temp). Cool completely and dust with powdered sugar. Fini!