• Almond and Fig

Ka'ek and Ma'moul Easter Cookies

Updated: Jun 19


My grandmothers often prepared the cookies. The cookies are usually made a few days before Easter, then stored in aluminum tins to be served to guests and family on Easter Sunday. Plates full of kaek and mamoul are often exchanged among neighbors and friends each taking pride in the texture, and presentation of their cookies (the ladies secretly judged the cookies lol).

Everyone takes pride in their family recipe. For Christian families the ka'ek and ma'moul cookies are formed into different shapes each shape is symbolic of Christ’s suffering. It’s said that the round ones stuffed with dates they resemble the crown of thorns they placed on Jesus’s head. To be reminded of his sacrifice & crucifixion. The dome like one ones stuffed with walnuts and cinnamon symbolizes the stones that were thrown at Jesus. And the oblong cookies stuffed with an aromatic pistachio paste represent the tomb where Jesus's body was buried after his crucifixion. The cookies are made with fine semolina, and the best sweet butter you can find. They are then stuffed with dates, walnuts or pistachios, flavored with mastic (a sundried resin that exudes from the bark of a Mediterranean tree), and mahlab, (a spice made from the seeds of a species of cherry), orange blossom and rosewater. Each cookie is pinched by hand or by using wooden molds with various shapes. The task of making these cookies is very meticulous and time consuming. It was a job often enjoyed when family and friends or neighbors gathered. Every helper takes so much pride in their decorating skills.

For me today, these delicate fragrant cookies are a passport to my kids to connect with family, culture and tradition. Some things are best left as they are, they tell so many stories for generations to come. As a little girl I sat by my grandmother as she watched and judged carefully my pinching skills.

Be it Easter or Eid, holidays in the Levantine region of the Middle East are incomplete without these delicious buttery cookies. The cookies serve as a perfect treat after a month of fasting during Ramadan or the 40 days of Lent.

Prep time 2 hours

Inactive time: dough resting overnight

Cooking time: 10-15 min per cookie tray

Serving: will vary depending on how big or small you like your cookies or how big or small your molds are. I use a tbls cookie measure and it will yield to a few dozens

Tools

1. Pincher: called malkat in Arabic

Often found at middle eastern markets, often either stainless steel or brass clips

2. Wooden cookie molds also available at middle Eastern stores just ask for mamoul molds

3. Small sieve and powdered sugar for dusting

Dough:

1 pound fine semolina (smeed na'em)

2 sticks and a quarter of good quality unsalted butter melted

1/2 tsp mastic pearls crushed with 1/2 tsp of sugar

1/2 tsp ground Mahlab

1/2 tsp active dry (instant) yeast

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup milk

Bottom: mastic Top: Mahlab

Fillings: 3 options each filling recipe is enough for one batch of dough. Make less filling and experiment with all the flavors. On Easter families often make one or all three fillings.

Date filling

I pound date paste

1 tbls unsalted butter melted

Few grates of fresh nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

Walnut filling

2 cups walnuts

2 tbls simple syrup

1 tbls unsweetened coconut

1 tsp cinnamon

Few grates of fresh nutmeg

Pulse your filling in a food processor until it resembles a thick coarse paste

Pistachio filling

1 cup raw unsalted pistachios

2 tbls simple syrup

1 tsp orange blossom water

Pulse your filling in a food processor until it resembles a thick coarse paste

Almond and fig filling

1 cup raw almonds

1 cup dried figs coarsely chopped

1 tsp earl grey tea

2 tbls simple syrup

Soak the chopped figs in water steeped with earl grey. Drain before use

Pulse all Ingredients in the food processor until it resembles a thick coarse paste

To prep the dough:

Day 1

In a large bowl mix together semolina, melted butter, mastic and Mahlab and orange blossom water. Using your hands to combine all the ingredients until it’s well mixed and resembles wet crumbs it will take about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap (so dough doesn’t dry out) and let it sit on the counter overnight.

Day 2

Add the wet ingredients and sprinkle the yeast on the dough. mix well to combine. You know the dough is ready when it holds together when you roll it into a ball and does not crumble. If its still too dry add few drops of water at a time until you get the right consistency.

Make your fillings:

(I am showing you the date filling method here)

Add your water, milk and instant yeast and knead the Dough with your hands for a few more minutes until it holds its shape. You should be able to flatten the dough in your hand and it holds together and doesn’t crumble.

If it’s too dry add a tbls a time of water until the dough comes together.

Using a one tbls cookie scooper measure divide the dough into balls and set aside on a tray. Cover your dough with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Date filling: using the same one tbls measure ice cream scooper (don’t fill it) we want the date paste to be a bit smaller than the dough so it rolls easier. divide the date paste into balls and set aside on a tray and cover with cling wrap until you are ready to use so the dates don’t dry out.

Place the dough in the palm of your hands and flatten it slightly into a disc a bit larger than your date filling. Place a date ball in the middle and wrap the dough around it until you don’t see the date anymore. Roll between the palms of your hands creating a ball. Flatten slightly and using the back of a wooden spoon or your small finger and create a small hole in the middle.

Using the Malkat or the traditional clips pinch the edges of the dough all around. Making decorative patterns however you wish. Don’t pinch too deep otherwise you will puncture the dough

For the nut fillings:

I like to use the wooden cookie molds:

Dust the mold with flour and tap it down

Add a dough ball in the center and flatten it slightly. Add 1 tsp or your nut filling to the center of the dough. Fold the dough over the center flatten it slightly and tap your mold into the baking sheet. The decorative lines of the mold will shape the cookie. Bake decorative side up.

Preheat the oven to 350

Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet (don’t butter there is plenty of butter in the dough)

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or so until they are pale and hold their shape (we are not looking for golden cookies here)

Let them cool completely before you store them.

Traditionally once cooled the cookies are finished with a dusting of powder sugar right before serving.

Recipe notes:

  • You can use both methods (the pinchers or the molds) with any of the fillings.

  • The molds tend to be a bit faster.

  • Cookies will last in an airtight container for up to two weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

#kaek #eastercookies #kaekmamoul

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