|A look at what's inside|
I've created a slightly different taste to these cookies, which are also known as ma'amoul. They are very popular in the Middle East, especially during times of celebrations. Essentially, they are shortbread cookies filled with dates or different types of nuts. This recipe is for the date-filled shortbread cookies. I love them because they are not overly sugary like other cookies, but they still satisfy my sweet tooth. They may look like fig newtons, but they are so much better because they have a variety of spices that gives the dough a unique and rich flavor. The cookie crust literally melts in your mouth and the date filling is soft and sweet. When you bake these your house will fill up with the smells of cinnamon and spice, which makes you feel like the holiday season has started. These are super easy to make so you can whip up a batch for your next party or just as a treat for yourself.
A side note: You should be able to find mahlab at a Mediterranean or Indian store. If you can't find it, you can leave it out and the cookies will still taste good.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups fine semolina flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 sticks softened butter
1/2 Tbsp yeast
1/2 Tsp sugar
1 Tsp ground mahlab
1 Tsp nutmeg
1 Tsp anise
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp black caraway seeds
16 oz macerated/pureed dates
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tsp cinnamon
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.
Place butter, semolina and flour in a bowl. Knead with your hands until butter is incorporated.
Add warm water mixture and knead again. Add mahlab, nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, and black caraway seeds. Knead again to get everything mixed together.
Cover bowl with towel and let stand for 6 hours.
You can prepare the filling once the dough is ready, it does not have to be made ahead of time. Place dates in microwave safe bowl with butter and cinnamon. Microwave for 1 min. Take out of microwave and stir together. Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temp. until ready to use for dough.
Pre-heat to 375 F.
Cut dough into pieces and form a medium size ball. Create a large indentation in ball with your thumb and add date filling. Seal up the ball and flatten into a round cookie shape. You can use a fork to create designs on the cookie.
If you have a cookie mold/ma'amoul wooden mold like the one below you can use that to shape the cookies.
Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet on middle rack of oven. Bake until golden brown on bottom and top (about 10 min.). If your oven doesn't brown evenly, you may need to use broil to get the tops brown. Be sure to watch the cookies if you do this. Let cool completely and serve.
Tip: You can also store these cookies in an airtight container and place them in the freezer. When you take them out and let them thaw, they will taste just as fresh as if you had just baked them.