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Maamoul Cookie Bars (Middle Eastern Date-Filled Cookies)

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Maamoul are Middle Eastern shortbread cookies usually filled with a delicious date paste or chopped nuts and then often dusted with powdered sugar. These delightfully buttery cookies are traditionally eaten at night after fasting all day during Ramadan, in the days before Lent, or on Easter Sunday, but we’re treating ourselves to these cookies all winter. 

After a day or two, be sure to keep your Maamoul Cookies in the fridge to keep the fillings fresh.

Makes 24 cookie bars

Maamoul Cookie Bars (Middle Eastern Date-Filled Cookies) with Imperfect Foods Medjool Dates

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cup semolina flour
  • 2 cup self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tbsp baking powder + ½ tsp salt)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • ¾ tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter or ghee, melted

For the date filling

  • 2 cups Imperfect Foods Medjool Dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil

Directions

  1. Make the dough. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, or melt butter in the microwave.
  2. Whisk together semolina flour, self-rising flour, powdered sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Slowly pour in melted butter while whisking continuously until well combined. Dough should look like wet sand. Cover bowl and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Resting will allow the semolina to absorb the fat and will make the dough easier to work with.
  3. While the dough rests, make the date filling. Place dates, almond extract, cinnamon, cardamom, and oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a sticky paste forms. Remove from heat and set aside. If making date filling in advance, warm a little before using as it is easier to work with when warm.
  4. After the dough is rested, combine almond extract, rose water, orange zest, melted ghee, and 2 tbsp of water in a small bowl. Gradually pour mixture into dough and knead with your hands for 5 minutes, until dough is soft and comes together well. If dough is too dry, add water, ½ teaspoon at a time, until dough comes together.
  5. Preheat oven to 350℉.
  6. Assemble the bars. Grease and line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper. Divide dough in two equal portions. Press one portion gently into the base and sides of the pan. You may need to wear gloves if the dough is too sticky.
  7. Place date paste between two large sheets of parchment. Roll paste into a 9×13 inch rectangle. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper. Using your hands, carefully flip the date paste sheet on top of the dough in the pan, date side down. Press lightly on and up the sides of the tray. Carefully peel off the parchment and smooth the paste to fill any gaps.
  8. Spread the remaining dough evenly over the filling. Using your fingers, seal the edges. 
  9. With a small, sharp paring knife, cut the dough into 24 equal bars, 4 rows and 6 columns. This will help when cutting into the fully baked cookies. Use an embossed rolling pin or a fork to draw lines across the entire pan for decoration, if desired. 
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the dough is golden brown and the edges look crisp. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar. 

Recipe Notes and Variations

  • If you loved these Maamoul Cookies, be sure to check out the rest of the sweet treats in our Cookies From Around the World series like our Chocolate Hazelnut Hamantaschen.

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