Ma’amoul is a traditional small pastry from the Levant (the area between Syria in the north and Egypt in the south including Lebanon, Israel and Palestine). Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in this area, alongside each other for over 1500 years. Among the many cultural and culinary traditions they share are the date and walnut-stuffed cookies called Ma’amoul.
For many, this Middle Eastern treat is a sweet bite of nostalgia, as the cookies are associated with certain holidays and special occasions. Muslims eat them to break the fast during the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, Christians nibble on them before the Lent and while celebrating Easter, and Jews enjoy them during Purim, when they’re filled with nuts, and Rosh Hashanah, when they’re filled with dates.
You can find many types of Ma’amoul around the region, with different names, fillings and shapes. In Lebanon, you can find seven kinds of this pastry! Traditional Ma’amoul is round and formed into unique shapes using hand carved wooden molds or by using special decorating tweezers that form different pattern. Jewish ma’amoul stands out in that it’s made with pure white flour instead of semolina.
Forming each cookie individually is a labor of love, so you can take a shortcut with my recipe for “Lazy Ma’amoul” if you’re short on time. It tastes just as good as the original. In the spirit of the variety of fillings for Ma’amoul, I added crumbled Halvah and chopped pecans to the traditional date filling.