Sweet Pillar Food creator Nadia Hubbi says Ramadan is deeply important to her. "It allows me to take a step back from the day-to-day worldly things that consume all of us to focus on what’s [really] important," she says. "It slows down the pace of life and puts things into perspective."
Hubbi says maamoul cookies are a mainstay at any Middle Eastern celebration—including at night during Ramadan. "Maamoul cookies are basically the chocolate chip cookie of the Arab world," she says. "It’s a [type of cookie] that's filled with most commonly with dates, but can also be made with pistachios or walnuts." Hubbi says you can tell what the filling is based on the cookie's shape. "A date stuffed cookie is round shape, walnut is a dome shape, and pistachio is more of a football shape cookie," she says.
Dates, the cookies's starring ingredient, are extremely popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, says Hubbi. "Depending on where in the Middle East, the use of dates varies," she says. "In Damascus, where my family is from, it's mainly used in desserts but in other parts, it's used in savory dishes as well." Incorporating dates into desserts adds a natural sweetness, which cuts down on the amount of added sugar that needs to be used. They're also a great source of fiber and potassium. In fact, just two Medjool dates have the same amount of potassium as a banana. It may be a small fruit, but it's certainly a nutrient-rich one.
Another yummy way to get your fiber? These chia seed crackers. Watch the video below to see how to make them:
In Hubbi's maamoul cookie recipe, dates are used in the form of a date paste, which serves as the cookies's filling. If you're making your own date paste, Hubbi says her favorite dates to use are Joolies, which has curated a special date gift box specifically for Ramadan ($20). You can also buy already-made date paste at the store or online ($13). Either way, you'll end up with a delicious treat.
Maamoul cookie recipe
For the cookies:
1. In a large bowl, mix together farina, flour, sugar (if using) and ghee until fully combined. Keep kneading for about seven to 10 minutes. You want it to be very well incorporated. Gradually add the water or milk in small amounts as kneading. Then cover and let rest for 30 min.
For the date filling:
1. The date paste should be soft and easy to mold with your hands (you can warm it up in the microwave if needed).
2. Add a tablespoon of ghee to date paste and mix until it’s fully incorporated. Take chunks of date paste and roll them into balls. This part can get a little tricky because you want the size of the balls to be in proportion with the size of the mold you’re using for the cookie. About a tablespoon-sized ball is usually a good starting place and you can take away or add more if needed.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Begin with a piece of cookie dough about the size of a golf ball. Start to create a bowl shape by pressing out the edges so you make room to fill it with the dates. Then, take the date balls and stuff them in the little space you molded in the cookie dough. Now enclose the date filling with the cookie dough you’re already working with, or add a little more dough to close the top so that you have a round cookie dough ball with a date ball in the middle. You will then take that and press it into a maamoul cookie mold, tap it to loosen the cookie, and voila!
2. Place cookies on a parchment or foil-covered cookie sheet and bake for 20 min. You want the cookies to still be light in color with just a slight touch of golden brown. Since ovens vary, it’s best to check on them a few minutes before and adjust accordingly.
3. After cookies are cool, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on top or eat them just as they are!
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