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date ma’amoul

Ingredients

prepping the flours (day 1):
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups farina
1 cup semolina
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or ghee *

the filling (day 2):
4 cups chopped dates (about 1 pound 5 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon water (or 2 tablespoons if your dates look dry)

the dough:
3/4 cups 2% or whole milk
The farina/semolina mixture (above)
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
Additional milk as needed

baking the cookies:
Ma’amoul dough (above)
Date Balls (above)
Ma’amoul press
Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Prep the flours (day 1): Make the simple syrup: Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool to warm room temperature before adding it to the dough.
  2. Combine the farina, semolina, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flours and pour in the melted, clarified butter. Mix the butters and flours together by rubbing them between your fingers until they are very well combined.
  3. Gradually add the cooled simple syrup to the flour-butter mixture, about 2 tablespoons at a time, using a fork to mix everything together between additions. Rub the crumbles between your fingers to break any lumps apart.
  4. Once you’ve worked out most of the lumps, cover and let the dough sit at room temperature overnight.
  5. Prep the filling (day 2): Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  6. Spread the dates out over the bottom of a casserole dish. Dot the dates with bits of butter. Sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of water over the dates.
  7. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the dates soften significantly (you can see the cut-sides caramelize slightly).
  8. Use the back of a fork to mash them into a smooth paste.
  9. Chill this paste until it solidifies enough to handle and roll the paste into about 40 to 45 balls. **
  10. Make the dough: Warm the milk to about 100° F.
  11. Uncover the farina/semolina mixture. Crumble the lumps apart between your fingers until the crumbs have a very fine texture. Add the yeast to the crumbs.
  12. Make a well in the center of the crumbs and add about 1/2 cup of the milk. Use your hands to combine by squeezing the mixture through your fingers. Once it’s evenly distributed, cover it and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
  13. Once 20 minutes have passed, add the rest of the milk, *** mix together with your hands, and let it rest for 20 more minutes.
  14. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of additional milk if the dough looks a little dry.
  15. Fill and bake the cookies: Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  16. Roll the dough up into the same number of dough balls as date balls.
  17. Squish a date ball so that it’s slightly flattened into a disc. Flatten a dough ball into a disc that’s about 1.5 times the width of the date ball. Place the flattened date paste in the center and wrap the dough around it (or just see photos).
  18. Spray the ma’amoul press with a tiny bit of oil (and continue to do this between cookies if they stick).
  19. Place the filled ball in the ma’amoul press and carefully flatten it out further, using the heel of your hand. Make sure you press hard enough that the dough works its way into the corners of the press.
  20. Release the ma’amoul from the press by whacking it against the edge of a sturdy bowl, and letting the cookie it fall into your hand, or use the release button if it’s a newer press. Place the ma’amoul on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart from each other.
  21. Bake the ma’amoul for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re light golden brown.
  22. Let them cool completely on the parchment, and then give them a generous dusting of powdered sugar.
  23. Store in between sheets of wax paper in a sealed container. They’re best the day you make them, but they can be kept at room temperature for 5 days, or frozen for months.

Notes

* If you’re clarifying your own butter, start with 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) regular unsalted butter. Melt the butter over medium heat. Once it has completely melted, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the butter solids have risen to the top and the bubbling has started to get a little quieter. To filter, skim the solids from the top of the butter and then pour the melted butter into a liquid measuring cup, slowing down at the end and leaving the sunk solids at the bottom of the pot. Let the butter cool to warm room temperature before adding it to the flours. Or watch the video after the recipe.

** The size of the balls will depend on the size press you’re using. A good rule of thumb is that the date paste should take up about 1/3 of the press’ cavity, while the dough should take up about 2/3 of the mold. Don’t overstuff the molds, and err on the side of less.

*** Assuming you measure perfectly and you use the right flours, this should be the perfect amount of milk to add. But if you’re unsure of your measuring, check out the dough’s consistency at this point and decide whether you want to add all of the rest of the milk. If it looks a little on the wet side or if you’re unsure, add half the remaining milk, wait 20 minutes, and then decide whether you want to add the rest. You can add the rest of the milk as gradually as you’d like, as long as you give it more time to soak.