Different cultures have different rites of passage.
Like getting a driver’s license and graduating high school.
Other rituals are religious, such as Confirmation and Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Or tribal, like land diving, tooth sharpening, and facial tattooing.
There are also certain coming-of-age traditions that transcend cultural boundaries, like learning how to take care of yourself as an adult (things like cooking and house cleaning!) and learning a useful trade, whether it’s accounting, the practice of medicine, computer technology, or hunting.
When Mike and I first got married and were living in the Middle East, I got to experience firsthand a few of their traditions/cultural norms, one of which is that the vast majority of women are absolutely fantastic cooks.
Along with that, there are certain dishes that every Middle Eastern bride should have in her repertoire, at least in my husband’s family. Dishes like kibbeh (a mixture of meat and bulgur wheat that can be fried, grilled, baked, or eaten raw like tartare), mahashi (all manner of stuffed vegetables), maqluba (upside-down rice casserole), and ma’amoul (filled cookies). These are the things I dove head-first into learning right away so I’d be able to replicate them for my hubby. Watching, learning, and finally making these things for my husband and his family was sort-of like a rite of passage for me. My in-laws were absolutely thrilled that I took so much interest and care in learning their traditions.
Ma’amoul in particular was something I was interested in mastering. The cookies, which can be stuffed with date, walnut, or pistachio filling, are as delicious as they are beautiful. They’re served as part of celebrations for Eid al Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking at the end of Ramadan) and Eid al Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice), but Mike loves them so much I knew he’d want them more often than just twice a year.
It took a while, but I eventually mastered the recipe. And I couldn’t have been happier when the day came that Mike told me that my ma’amoul tasted just like his mom’s…she’s one of the best cooks I know!
Don’t be intimidated if it’s your first time making ma’amoul. I am truly honored to say that I’ve had several people who had never made ma’amoul before make the recipe from my cookbook with great success…on their first try! When I hear things like that I can’t even begin to tell you how happy it makes me.
Although ma’amoul is usually made with a special ma’amoul mold (which can usually be found at any Middle Eastern grocery store or ordered online), the cookies can also be made and stuffed by hand.
Head over to the Tasty Kitchen Blog, where I share the recipe for Middle Eastern Date-Filled Cookies from my cookbook, along with step-by-step photos of how to make them…including how to shape the cookies by hand without using a mold!
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I believe in, which means that even though it doesn’t cost you anything extra, I will receive a small amount of money from the sale of these items, which helps me keep this site alive – thank you for helping to support An Edible Mosaic!