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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crown of Thorns Ma'amoul

I've been meaning to post this step by step recipe for some time. I only make these once a year, so I'm always scrambling to find my scrap of paper with the recipe on it. These are the most complicated shaped cookies I make. I hate making shaped cookies, but these ones are so special that I do it anyway. The cookie itself is very simple, as is the filling, it is the shaping and decorating to make them look like a crown of thorns that takes so much time. I have a clean pair of surgical tweezers that I use to create the "thorns" on mine, though there is a specialized tool you can buy. These are traditional cookies in the Arab world. Among Arab Christians, this particular shape is traditional to the Paschal season. Ma'amoul are made in many different shapes, with molds, which are kind of a code as to what the filling inside consists of, and though I have those molds, I've yet to make them in any shape but these.

Makes approximately six dozen cookies

Dough:

3 cups semolina flour
1 cup butter, melted
3 cups pastry flour
2/3 cup rosewater
2/3 cup orange flower water
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons yeast

Filling:

12 ounces pitted baking date paste (can be found at Arabic/Middle Eastern markets, in 13 ounce packages, which I use), or date pieces (the date pieces are coated in sugar, so you may want to leave out the honey)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use the true cinnamon rather than cassia: Ceylon cinnamon, which has a citrussy flavor to it, but you may use whatever you have)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey

This recipe must be started the night before you intend to make them. Mix semolina with melted butter. Cover and soak semolina mixture overnight.

The next day, add in the pastry flour, and mix well with the semolina mixture. Add rosewater, orange flower water, sugar and yeast and mix to make a cohesive dough. If the dough seems too dry, you can add a little more of any of the liquid (rosewater or orange flower water), as you prefer, a teaspoon at a time. Allow the dough to rest at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grind up the dates with the cinnamon, melted butter and honey. I use my food processor for this.

Butter several cookie sheets and preheat oven to 375 F.

Pinch off small amounts of the dough to make one inch balls that you shape into a long roll. Pinch off a small amount of the date filling, to make a slightly shorter roll than the dough.



Flatten the dough with your fingers and place the date roll inside of it.



Seal up the dough.



Form it into a ring, with the seam side down, sealing the ends and blending them a little to hide the seam.



Place cookie on prepared pan, leaving about an inch of space between cookies.

Using CLEAN tweezers, make "thorns" around the sides of the ring.



Using the same tweezers, make more thorns around the top.



You don't want to pinch the dough too tightly, or you will squeeze out the filling, just try to grab the dough itself with the tweezers. This is how mine look when I have finished fiddling with them.



Bake in preheated oven for 10 - 20 minutes. You don't want these too dark, but they should start to brown a little at the edges.

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