Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Recipe for Ma'amoul for a traditional Lebanese Easter

This afternoon, the girls and I made ma'amoul to have with our Lebanese Easter dinner. We tasted some from a Lebanese bakery a couple of weeks ago that we all really enjoyed, so I was a little worried to make them at home as part of our Lebanese Easter - but they turned out great! Ma'amoul are a traditional Lebanese sweet made especially for Easter by Christians, and to be eaten at night during Ramadan and for holidays by Muslims. They're made with a semolina crust and have a sweet filling inside - either dates or nuts like pistachios and walnuts. For those celebrating Easter, making these cookies is often a family affair, with everyone helping to make many dozens of these. They're formed on Good Friday, brought to the bakery to be baked on Saturday and eaten on Easter Sunday. 

Left, ma'amoul mold; Right, ma'amoul cookies
Photo Credit: Noema Perez (CC)
Ma'amoul are made with a special wooden mold to get their decorative shapes, but you can still make round ones without using a specialty mold. The dough is unlike any "cookie" dough we've ever made - it doesn't use flour but fine semolina, and includes rose water and orange blossom water (these can be found at Middle Eastern stores). It also has to rest overnight, so planning ahead is important. We made some with date filling and some with a walnut filling. Not only do these pastries taste good, I really enjoyed sitting with the girls, assembling the cookies and chatting - everyone relaxed for the long weekend ahead. 


makes about 30 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cup fine semolina
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp mahlab (Middle Eastern spice made from certain cherry seeds - if you can't find it, omit from recipe)
  • icing sugar 
Date filling
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
Walnut filling
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tbsp butter, melted

Make the dough

In a large bowl, whisk together the semolina, sugar and mahlab. Add the melted butter, rose and orange blossom waters and stir to combine well. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. 
Have kids take a whiff of those flower waters - they'll be surprised it's going into "cookie" dough!

Make the fillings

I would suggest making the fillings ahead of time while dough is resting so that the next day you can focus on assembling. 

For the walnut filling, put the walnuts in a food processor and grind until they're a semi fine meal - not fully ground into powder, like the photo above. Stir together with the sugar, cinnamon, orange blossom water and melted butter.

For the date filling, put the chopped dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for an hour and drain. Process the dates until smooth then stir together with the cardamon and melted butter. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble the pastries

The next day, pull out the dough and the fillings and get rolling! Roll the dough into large balls and small balls - one for each pastry. The large balls are made with 1 tbsp of dough, and the small balls are made with 1 tsp of dough. 

Take a large ball of dough, and using your thumbs make an indent. Widen until you have a cup of dough. Add about 1 tsp of filling. Take the smaller ball of dough and flatten into a disk. Pinch that disk over the filling, sealing the edges. 

Place on a baking sheet - they don't need much space between each cookie because they don't rise while baking. Refrigerate for 15 -20 minutes before baking. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, or until just barely golden.

Let cool completely and dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

If you're curious about how Easter is celebrated in Lebanon, read my earlier post here


  1. Now I'm trying to remember if I commented and read your Easter in Lebanon post.

    I wonder why we often do "Christmas Around the World" activities, but this is the first I've really seen an "Easter around the world" idea. Now I'm curious to look into that.

    1. I love learning about Easter around the world - and we've incorporated a fair few traditions!


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