Ma'amoul are small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts (or occasionally almonds, figs, or other fillings). They are popular in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and other Levantine countries. They may be in the shape of balls or of domed or flattened cookies

¼ cup orange blossom water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cubed
1 ½ cups pitted dates, chopped
2 tablespoons icing sugar


Step 1 In small measure, stir orange blossom water with 1/3 cup water. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

Step 2
In large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, semolina, granulated sugar and salt. Using pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs; drizzle orange blossom water over flour mixture, stirring briskly with fork until dough holds together. Form into ball; press into disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.)

Step 3
Meanwhile, in saucepan over medium-high heat, bring dates and 1 cup water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Step 4
Drop dough by 2 tbsp onto waxed paper-lined baking sheet to make 26 mounds. Roll each into ball. Place 1 ball in palm of hand; press thumb halfway into centre of ball, forming cup shape to hold filling. Spoon in 1 tsp filling; fold dough over filling and pinch edges to seal. Repeat with remaining balls and filling. Place, pinched side down and about 1 inch apart, on parchment paper-lined or greased rimless baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Step 5
Bake in centre of 400 F oven until bottoms are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to rack. Dust with icing sugar. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks; after thawing, dust again with icing sugar.)

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