Updated: Apr 30
There is nothing quite like a maamoul. Deliciously melt in the mouth, these cookies are filled with dates and have a surprisingly low sugar content, considering the delectable sweetness that bursts out of them when you pop one in your mouth. And of course, the question that you'll want to know the answer to is whether or not these sweet treats are high in calories. The short answer is that each maamoul will have between 190 and 230 calories in it, depending on how it's made and which ingredients are used.
However, although calories are clearly crucial to many people, you should think of the maamoul cookie as a special treat; it's something to enjoy once in a while, something to look forward to. And when you eat the ones made at Jamila's Cookies, the online bakery that can deliver these fantastic cookies to your door after they have been made from scratch and freshly baked that day, you'll know exactly what this is. Maamoul have a heavenly flavor that really does transcend calorie counting. We all need something to look forward to in life; for many, the maamoul fits the bill perfectly.
What Are Maamoul?
Maamoul, which you might also see written as ma'amoul, are ancient cookies that hail from a variety of different countries in the Arab world, including Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. When we say they are ancient, we mean it; depictions of these stunning cookies – although, they are much more than that – have been noted in Egyptian temples, shown in carvings and paintings. These images go back thousands of years!
In most traditions, you'll find that maamoul are stuffed with dates – this is the original and, some would say, the best option since dates are inherently sweet, and thus you won't need quite so much sugar to make the maamoul so flavoursome. However, if you want something a little less sweet, or you're happy to add additional sugar to the recipe, you might like to try pistachios or walnuts in your maamoul.
An Eid Tradition
In Muslim households, maamoul are usually baked at the end of Eid to celebrate the end of Ramadan. However, because they are so tasty and because our cultures are so connected these days, maamoul are also baked for Easter treats. The timing is roughly the same – although this will depend – and since sweets, chocolate, and candies are always eaten at Easter, including maamoul in that feast makes sense.
What's excellent about maamoul is that they store well. You can make them (or buy them from a fantastic bakery and have them delivered, of course!) days in advance and take them with you when you go to see friends and family or keep them at home so that any visitors will always have something delicious to eat if they come round. Either way, maamoul will be a popular way to make people happy which, after all, is something we all want to do, no matter what religion or traditions we happen to follow.
Mahlab For The Maamoul
In the most traditional maamoul, you will find a date paste filling flavoured with mahlab. Mahlab is a spice created by grinding up cherry pits, and the taste is similar to cherries and almonds combined. There is a spicy note to the flavour as well; if you can imagine marzipan flavour with a dash of anise thrown in, that's close to what mahlab tastes like.
The only problem is, if you're making maamoul yourself, you might find it challenging to get any mahlab. You can buy it online, but you'll often have to buy it in bulk, and it can cost a fair amount because of that. This is why Jamila's Cookies can add authentic mahlab to our maamoul; we're happy to buy lots of it because we know we're going to use it. However, if you don't want to do that and you don't have a Middle Eastern grocery close to you, you can make your own homemade version of mahlab. It's not quite the same, but it's very close and will certainly enhance the flavour of the date paste you're using.
To make your own version of mahlab, you simply need to combine anise with almond extract. As we've said, the taste won't be exact, but it will still be wonderful as long as the other ingredients are in place.
The Date Paste
We're focusing on a date-paste-filled maamoul because they are the most traditional and widely known version of all. And making date paste isn't so hard if you have a food processor. But what if you won't have one? One option is to buy ready-made date paste, and another is to forget all the hard work completely and have an expert make authentic maamoul for you, but if you're keen to try, there are ways you can do it.
Date paste is what you might expect; it's essentially jam made from dates. Dates are naturally incredibly sweet fruits, so they are the perfect filling for a cookie like this. To make date paste without a food processor (or to stop your food processors from having to be thoroughly cleaned out because this makes quite a mess), you just need to chop the dates finely and put them in a saucepan with some oil and water. Let the mixture simmer, and the dates should soften into a paste. Yes, there will still be chunks in it, unlike the paste you can make with a food processor, but this adds a nice texture to the maamoul and certainly won't take away from its delicious taste.
The Maamoul Shape
Finally, we should talk about the special shape of the maamoul. In traditional bakeries and households, a mould called a tabbeh would be used to create the recognizable round shape. The moulds have a handle so that the cookie ball will be removed easily, and the moulds themselves are often carved from wood. If the mould has a flat top, the maamoul contain dates; a cone-shaped top means walnuts; an oblong maamoul will have pistachios inside. So you'll want to make sure you pick the right shape if you choose to make your own.
It's fine to make maamoul without a mould, of course. Simply take a ball of dough and flatten it out. Place a little filling in the dough's middle and wrap it up, flattening the top slightly. Then you can change the shape as needed.
So how many calories does a maamoul have? The answer is, on average, 200. But the wonderful flavour, the special ingredients, and the unique way they are made make maamoul much more than the sum of its calories.