Mahmoul

You'll find various iterations of this filled cookie throughout the Middle East, where it's an absolute must-have during the holidays. This recipe comes from the Lebanese family of King Arthur baking school instructor Karen Ogrinc. Her family's nut filling recipe is in the Baker's tips below.

Note: While this recipe calls for a mahmoul mold, see "tips," at the bottom, for information on how to make the cookies without a mold.

Prep
40 mins
Bake
18 to 20 mins
Total
58 mins
Yield
46 cookies
Mahmoul

Instructions

  1. To make the dough: In a large bowl, mix together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt, and egg. Add the vanilla, farina, and flour, and mix to make a smooth dough.

  2. To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

  3. Place the dates, butter, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and orange zest (or orange blossom water) in the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, pour in the hot sugar/water mixture and process until the mixture is smooth.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment, or grease lightly.

  5. To shape: Scoop the dough by the tablespoonful and shape into balls. Scoop the filling by the teaspoonful and roll into balls.

  6. Press the portioned dough into 3" diameter disks with your fingers. Press the disk into a lightly floured mahmoul mold and place the ball of filling in the center. Bring the dough’s edges up around the filling and pinch to close. Pat the shaped cookie’s bottom a few times to set the pattern on the surface, then tip over and tap the cookie out of the mold. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1" of space between them.

  7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

  8. Store cool and dry in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks; freeze for longer storage.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Farina is a type of coarsely milled wheat from which the bran has been removed. It's most often available as breakfast cereal, e.g., Cream of Wheat. If you use Cream of Wheat, use the standard (not quick-cooking or instant) variety.
  • For a nut-filled version, combine 1 1/2 cups of ground nuts (pistachios or walnuts), 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or rose water. Use to fill the mahmoul as directed above.
  • No mahmoul mold? No problem! If you don’t have a mold, simply put the smaller ball of filling inside the disk of dough you press out with your fingers. Pull the dough up around it and pinch it closed. Turn the cookie over and pat it to flatten just a bit. Place on the baking sheet and use a crimper or the edge of a cutter to emboss the top in a decorative fashion before baking.