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Date-Filled Semolina Shortbread

Imaginative cinnamon-spiced and date-filled shortbread cookies–Lebanese ma'amoul–buttery semolina pastries scented with rose and orange blossom water. The filling is usually either dates or a concoction of walnuts or pistachios. I have combined all three to create this delicious date-and-nut filling. Though they are easy to shape by hand, as I have done, it's worth seeking out a traditional ma'amoul mold to make them. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Refrigerator Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keyword: cookies, dates, dessert, Middle Eastern
Servings: 12 people
Author: Chef Robin


For the cookies

  • 3 cups fine semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (almond milk may be substituted)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar


For the cookies

  • Pulse the semolina, almond flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor until pea-size crumbles form. Add the milk and rose and orange blossom waters, and pulse until dough comes together. Add a bit of water if necessary to form a soft dough. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill for 2 hours.

For the filling

  • In a food processor, pulse the nuts first. Add the pitted dates, butter, cinnamon, and cardamom, and process until smooth. Chill the filling for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Divide the dough into 24 balls. Working with one ball at a time, press a finger into the dough, creating a pocket. Place a teaspoon of filling into each pocket, pinch the sides to encase the filling, and roll into a ball. If you have a ma'amoul mold, press the balls into it, or flatten slightly using your palm. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool and sift with a touch of powdered sugar before serving.