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12
Apr

The day started badly. I couldn’t find my moulds for the Easter cookies. I was teaching a class that evening showing how to make Lebanese Easter cookies. I searched everywhere, except of course where they were. I did the class. Had to, improvising with a tea strainer and a crinkly cookie cutter. The pastries were OK as you can see from the pic below and the class went well. They all had a go at making the cookies and they were scrumptious, even if my mother would have frowned at how they looked.

easter cookies without moulds
The next morning, I was putting some order in the hidden corner of my kitchen where I stash stuff that I don’t use that often, and, of course, the moulds were there. Too annoying. Never mind. I had pastry and filling left over from the class & lovely Nuria, my assistant, was coming back to clear up & help me make more cookies. When she arrived, I produced my moulds not knowing whether I should feel triumphant or stupid.

moulds

Didn’t matter. I had the moulds and now we could make the remaining cookies using them. I hadn’t used these in years and wondered if the pastry was going to stick to the grooves. Luckily not. Here is the first date cookie pre baking.

date-cookie-pre-baking.jpg

Not bad. So, I continued. The only thing I could have done better was to divide the pieces of pastry equally, weighing each so that the cookies turned out all the same size and more importantly, fitted the mould without spilling over or being too small. Here’s the recipe for the walnut cookies, which I should have sprinkled with icing sugar but I decided they had enough calories as is.

walnut-cookies.jpg

By the way, the pastry for the date cookies is the same as the one in the recipe below. All you have to do is mix 350 g date paste with ½ tsp ground cinnamon and 30 g melted butter. Knead to mix well, then shape small disks that are the size of the grooved circle inside the mould; then flatten the pastry into a circle that is about 1 ½ cm larger than the date disk. Put the date disk in the middle of the pastry, and flap the pastry over the date. Then gently shape into a circle that is slightly smaller than the mould. Put the filled pastry, seam side on the outside, into the mould and gently press to fit the mould and get the impression. Then tap out against your work surface, with your hand underneath the mould to catch the cookie. Slide on the baking tray. Bake, let cool on a wire rack and enjoy.

easter-cookies-9.jpg

easter-cookies-4.jpg

Walnut Cookies
Ma’mul bil-Joz

Makes about 30

For the pastry
350 g semolina
40 g plain flour
40 g golden caster sugar
¼ teaspoon easy bake yeast
150 g unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ to 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
2 ½ to 3 tablespoons rose water
for the filling
175 g walnuts, ground medium fine
50 g golden caster sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tablespoon rose water
½ tablespoon orange blossom water
to finish
icing sugar

1. Mix the semolina, flour, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the softened butter and, with the tips of your fingers, work it in until fully incorporated.  Add the orange blossom and rose water and knead until the pastry is smooth and elastic. Roll into a ball and cover with cling film. Let rest for one and a half hours in a cool place.

2. Mix the ground walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add the rose and orange blossom water and mix well. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

4. Pinch off a small piece of pastry and roll into a ball the size of a walnut. Place it in the cup of your hand and with your index finger, burrow into it to shape it into a hollow cone — be careful not to pierce the bottom. The cone walls should be about 5 mm thick. Fill the pastry cone with 1 teaspoon walnut filling and pinch the dough together to close it over the filling. Carefully shape the filled pastry into a ball and lightly press into the tabe’ (ma’mul mould), leaving the pinched side on the outside so that when you invert the pastry, it is on the bottom. Invert the mould over the tips of the fingers of your other hand and tap it lightly against your work surface to release it onto your hand. Slide the moulded pastry onto a non-stick baking sheet. Fill and shape the remaining pastry in the same way. You may have to scrape the inside of the mould every now and then, in case some pastry has stuck to it. You can also shape these inside a small tea strainer if you don’t have a mould or by hand. You should end up with about 30 pastries.

5. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until cooked but not coloured. Remove onto a rack. Let sit for a few minutes then sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve or store in hermetically sealed containers to serve later. These cookies will last for a couple of weeks.

©Anissa Helou; recipe from Anissa’s Lebanese Cuisine (Grub Street in UK & St Martin’s Press in US)

Lebanese Cuisine is available from amazon.co.uk (UK)

Lebanese Cuisine is available from amazon.com (US)