I can't recall the first time I had maamoul, or even where I have ever had a really great version of this cookie, to be perfectly honest, I have had far more awful experiences than I have had great memorable ones. Still I persist with my ideas of what this cookie should taste like. I've made maamoul off and on for years and have not hit upon a cookie worth recreating until this version. I fully admit that this maamoul is unique, perhaps not completely authentic, but in my experience, the range of what you get under the label 'authentic' is a wide and somewhat uninspired mix.
There are cookies that are luxurious, rich, dripping with sweet, that melt on your tongue and transport you to warmth; something like the perfectly baked, gooey but crisp, buttery chocolate chip cookie. This cookie is not that experience.
This cookie is more along the lines of standing in your ethnic grandmother's kitchen, surrounded by the aroma of exotic spices, listening intently to a foreign tongue, while watching at eye level as the women around the table transform everyday ingredients into art. In flowery praise, no doubt some bit of their conversation would boast maamoul's ability to satisfy hunger equal only to the pleasure it produced on the tongue. Admittedly, I may have gotten a bit carried away with the imagery, (I never had an ethnic grandmother) but to my mind, maamoul are the granola bars of their time; snacks that fit into your pocket and were meant to satisfy any occasion of hunger.
Thinking along those lines of healthy satisfaction I started with this recipe, because I was intrigued with the idea of using semolina (Cream of Wheat) and this one had an unusually high percentage of it compared to other versions I have seen. Another bit of inspiration came from this vegan pie crust recipe using coconut oil, which I was ashamed to admit I had never even considered (but I am definitely going to try!) Finally, I had my own ideas about the filling, desiring a more blended, not chunky version that was heavy with nut protein but a bit lighter than tradition on date sweetness.
The results are a cookie that the adults in this multi-generational family raved about and the kids ate without complaint, but also one I could hand out generously because they are packed with healthy ingredients. In my book, that is a successful cookie. I can only hope that my future includes a table of old ladies chatting away about food while our grandchildren look on with anticipation as we make trays full of these little gems.
Vegan Date and Walnut Maamoul
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semolina (I used whole grain Cream of Wheat)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup chopped dates
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2-1 teaspoon rose water (optional -use according to taste)
- Heat oven to 350-degrees.
- In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon yeast with 1/2 cup warm water.
- In the bowl of the food processor, combine semolina, flour and powdered sugar, add coconut oil and pulse until no visible chunks of coconut oil remain. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and pulse again to incorporate.
- Pour out ingredients to a medium sized bowl and stir in the yeast mixture until the dough comes together.
- Set the bowl on the oven (in a warm spot) while preparing the filling mixture.
- Blend the dates, walnuts, powdered sugar, margarine and rose water in the food processor until the desired consistency. The paste should not be completely smooth, but the walnuts should all be chopped fine and uniform in size.
- On the work surface, divide the dough into two balls. Divide each ball into 4 sections and each of those sections into 3, creating a total of 24 equal sized portions.
- Take each portion and flatten it into a circle, the heat from your hand helps to melt the coconut oil and make the dough more malleable. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each flat disk and shape the remaining dough around it. Flatten the cookie on a sheet pan and press it with a decorative bottomed bowl or plate. Alternatively, use a maamoul mold.
- Bake for 19-20 minutes, the cookies will be a light golden brown when done. Remove to cooling rack before enjoying.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container. Maamoul hold their crunch even after days of storage.
For a little more festive look, dust the maamoul with powdered sugar.