For Christmas, Give Santa Ma’amool

One would think that with all the responsibility on Santa’s shoulders, he would have no reason to be jolly.  But he is, according to all accounts, and the reason must be that he consumes so many cookies on Christmas Eve as he visits generous families.  Besides being happy, Santa is also not skinny.  In fact, if my husband had a white beard, he could play Santa without the need to any stuffing in his costume.

This season, we will be getting cookies, candies and cakes from many sources.  Office parties, neighborhood Christmas parties, fruit cakes and of course your child’s own Christmas treats.

The question is how can we get Santa’s jolly mood without looking like him?

My mother, to protect herself from the nagging of few hungry children, had a wonderful trick.  She always used to feed us before we went to some one’s home for dinner.  It’s not a bad trick.  Try filling up with a healthy snack before going to a Christmas party.  This way, you can be selective with your calories.  You can avoid attacking the piles of food in order to curb your hunger, and most likely you will make it into January without having to go on a crash diet.

I am writing this after finishing baking a couple trays of Ma’amool.  Ma’amool is a light pastry filled with either pistachios, dates or walnuts.  These cookies are usually made in the Middle East fro Christmas or Eid. My mom used to get together with her friends on a certain day before Christmas or before the Eid to make ma’amool.  One friend would bring the dough, another would bring one kind of  stuffing and someone else would bring another kind of stuffing, the rest would bring stories and gossip. Finally, everybody would bring their own mold or design for the cookies.  The ladies would place the dough and the different stuffing in the center of the table and the making of the ma’amool would begin.  I can still remember hearing them, talking, laughing and baking.

Ma’amool

makes 50 pieces

4      cups farina

1      cups cake flour

1/2  cup sugar for the dough and 1 tablespoon for the yeast

1/2  teaspoon salt

2      cups un-salted butter room temperature

1      teaspoon yeast

1/2  cup warm milk

For walnut stuffing:

4    cups walnuts

3/4 cup sugar

1     tablespoon orange blossom water

For date stuffing:

4     cups chopped date

2     tablespoons butter

1     tablespoon orange marmalade

1     cup powdered sugar for dusting the cookies

-To make the dough: Mix the farina, the flour, the sugar and the salt.  Add the butter and mix well.

-Dissolve the tablespoon of sugar in the warm milk.  Add the yeast, stir and allow it to rest.  Add the yeast to the flour mixture and mix well until the dough is smooth.  You can add couple tablespoons of cold water.  Cover and allow the dough to rest for 1 hour.

-To make the walnut stuffing: Grind the walnuts and then mix with the sugar and orange blossom water.

-To make the date stuffing: Place the date, the butter and the marmalade and process until smooth paste.

-To make the ma’amool: Cut pieces of dough and make a dent in the middle to form a cup.  Spoon about 1 teaspoon of any filling into the cup, and then gently close the opening wit the thumb and other fingers.  Decorate the top of the ma’amool by pinching the dough with pastry tweezers or place in a Ma’amool cookies mold.  Place your palm under the mold and gently strike the mold on the edge of a table to make the cookie fall in your palm.

-Place the ma’amool on cookie sheet and bake in 350 F degree oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until light brown on the bottom and light color on the top. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 1 hour.

-Dust the ma’amool with the powdered sugar and store in tightly closed container.  The ma’amool can keep for couple months.

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