Beautiful Ma’amouls

by Sarah on November 25, 2009

Last week Miriam Kresh from Israeli Kitchen introduced me to the most fantastic antique store in Jaffa.

If you ever want to go on an African Safari, here is where you can buy your luggage for that colonial era look.

If you want to open new doors in your life, here is where you can buy the keys to any lock.

Every surface of the store is layered in inanimate objects with their rich histories covered in the dust of time. The room is dark except for the jeweled eyes of the merchant, who, when probed has his own stories to tell.

This is a store with endless possibilities and indeed, sitting in the corner of an ancient table sat a wooden ma’amoul mold, an item which I have not seen sold anywhere else, even after searching for two years.

Intricate designs are carved into the mold, called taabeh or tabe’ which is impressed on to the tops of the pastries to create beautiful pieces of edible art. These Middle Eastern cookies are usually stuffed with dates, walnuts or pistachios and are equally popular with Muslims, Christians and Jews, especially during special holidays. For Jews it is often eaten during the festival of Purim, for Muslims during Ramadan evenings and Christians are fond of them during Easter.

The recipe I used is from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food which uses only white flour although semolina flour is often used as well, both by the Jews and Muslim. Until I am given permission to copy hers, here is a similar recipe. The ma’amouls, or menena as they are  known amoung Jews are not supposed to brown and are taken out of the oven while still light.  My husband told me they tasted exactly like he remembered his Egyptian grandmother used to make which is not surprising as she shares the same culinary heritage with Claudia Roden.

Ma'amoul tweezers for decorating pastries

After buying the mold I knew that I could finally give back a mold I swiped at a friend’s house.

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