10 April 2012

Easter Cookies (Ma'amoul)

I learned the make these pretty cookies from some Arab friends when I lived in Nazareth, Israel. They are made with a semolina dough and filled with date paste. Not too sweet themselves, the powdered sugar dusting makes them go down just a tad easier. I've been trying to make these every year around Easter (usually on Good Friday) as the shapes are symbolic for the season--a circle for the crown of thorns, a straight one for palm branches, and an open arc for the empty tomb. I think I made up the last one myself and the dough is so easy and fun to work with that it is open to all kinds of new interpretations. I use a recipe from Joan Nathan's "The Foods of Israel Today" which calls for semonlina and flour, but I will link to a similar recipe I found online (but have not used myself).

Each year I try to make them with friends rather than just by myself as that seems like the right thing to to with an Arab holiday recipe. The first time I made them was with my mom and sister. Another year, a group of friends came over to help. This year, I introduced the cookies to my mother-in-law. We only made a 1/2 recipe, but there was still plenty of time while rolling and shaping the cookies to talk and enjoy each other's company. I tried my hand at making Arabic coffee (strong coffee with cardamom) which we shared with our husbands along with some of the fresh-baked cookies. We both kept some for ourselves and a few to give to friends.

Let me know if you'd be interested in being on my invite list sometime!

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