At Great British Bake Off it was Spice Week. After I watched the show I immediately thought I have to bake all three challenges, the first one being Maamoul. I love spices and my 45 jars of spices can attest to that. That being said, I don’t think it will come as a surprise that I had almost all the ingredients for these Ma’amoul biscuits at home, including orange blossom and rose water. I didn’t have mahleb or mastic, but I’m going to look for those next time I’m going to the International shop for groceries.
I just picked Saudi Arabia as the country for these delicious biscuits, in my Taste the World challenge. With variations, these kind of Ma’amoul biscuits can be found in many Arabic countries. Some use yeast in the dough, some only flour, and some, like the one I made, use a mix of semolina.
Ma’amoul or Maamoul (both spellings are correct) are stuffed semolina biscuits with beautiful decorations on them. Funnily enough, the day before the Bake Off I had tickets to attend a Chinese event where Mooncakes were served. Didn’t make it to the event, but I was keen on making Mooncakes at home and I needed a similar press like the ones used for Maamoul, but with Chinese motifs on it; filled with red bean paste. Isn’t that a fun coincidence? Anyway, going back to Maamoul, the fillings are varied, from date paste flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom to nuts with raisins. Also, they can be dusted with icing sugar.
I made mine similar to the ones made at Bake Off, but I plan to make more, using pistachios, other types of dried fruits, even dates and coffee, a variation I saw online when I was searching about the origins of Maamoul. As I didn’t have a press or those mini tongs they used, I had to improvise. On the Ma’amouls filled with walnut paste I made an imprint with a biscuit stamp. Most of them lost their texture in the oven. I couldn’t press harder though. For the date ones, I used a dessert fork and pricked the balls. I’m planning to buy presses and use them for all sorts of filled biscuits. Including the Tunisian Kaak Warka that I’ve made 3-4 times in 4 months. My recipe is very similar to the one made by Paul, but I’ve changed some spices and I’ve used butter instead of ghee. Of course, I had the Maamouls with mint tea, type of tea very popular in the Arab countries.
Ingredients for 12 Maamoul biscuits:
– 175g semolina
– 20g sugar
– 20g plain white flour
– 90g butter, at room temperature
– 2 tsp orange blossom water
– 2 tsp rose water
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
For the date filling:
– 75g dates, stoned
– 1 tbsp rose water
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
For the walnut filling:
– 25g walnuts
– 25g raisins
– 1 tbsp orange blossom water
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
– icing sugar (for dusting)
Start by making the dough. In a bowl, put the semolina, flour, sugar, and cardamom. Put the butter cut in cubes on top and rub it until it starts to resemble bread crumbs. Add the orange blossom water and the rose water, and start to incorporate. The dough will form quickly. The semolina has a rough texture, but if you knead for a few minutes the dough will become smooth. Put it back in the bowl, cover with cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Meantime, you can prepare the fillings. For the date filling, put all the ingredients in the mini food processor and blitz. I’ve used the one from the hand blender. It takes less than a minute to make the paste. Weigh in 13 grams of paste and make a ball. Put it on a small piece of baking paper. Paul says that if you wet your hands it is easier. I didn’t need to do this, the paste formed smooth balls very fast. Continue with the rest of the paste until you form 6 balls.
Now is time to make the walnut filling. Like before, put all the ingredients for the walnut paste in the mini food processor and blitz to a paste. Weigh in 9 grams and make into a ball. Continue with the rest of the paste until you have 6 balls. Put them on backing paper, so they don’t stick to the worktop.
Heat the oven at 200C or 180C for fan ovens. Take the dough out of the fridge. Divide it in 12 pieces, 26 – 27 grams each. Make balls, flatten them in your palm. Put the date ball in the middle and cover it with the dough. Roll the ball in your hand until is looks smooth. You can also roll them on the worktop, like you would with bread buns. Prick the ball with the fork and put it on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Do the same with the rest of the date balls.
After that, continue with the walnut balls. Make the balls just as you did previously. Now, if you want to make them like mine, tap them lightly until they flatten a bit. I’ve used the biscuit press and, as you can see in the pictures, some have a sort of a design on them. You might want to skip this step, if you don’t have a press.
Put the baking tray in the oven and bake for 12 to 14 minutes. I baked them for 14 minutes. Take the tray out and leave to cool for a few minutes. Transfer the Maamoul on a cooling rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar the ones with the walnut filling, or both, if you prefer.
Part of Bake Off Bake Along.