Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ma'amoul: a well-rounded start to Purim!


 Ma'amoul cookies for Purim


Just try to think of Purim without thinking about hamantaschen. It’s impossible, right? In the Middle East, however, Purim cookies have rounded, not triangular, shapes, the St Louis Jewish Light reports. Happy Purim to all readers!


The association this triangular cookie has with Purim is equivalent to that of matzah to Passover or latkes to Hanukkah. You simply can’t think of one without thinking of the other. Jews all over the world make this same association. However, in parts of the Middle East, there is another cookie strongly associated with Purim. That cookie is a ma’amoul, sometimes called meneina.

Among the Jews of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Greece, ma’amoul is traditionally served at the se’udat Purim, the festive Purim meal. The beautiful cookie reminds us of the beautiful Queen Esther, its rich filling (ma’amoul in Arabic means “filled”) symbolic of the secret she kept from the king, namely, that she was Jewish. Unlike most traditional Jewish holiday foods, however, ma’amoul is a shared cultural treat. Christians in that part of the world celebrate Easter with ma’amoul, and the cookie is a beloved part of the feast marking the end of Ramadan for Muslims.


Each ma’amoul is a work of art. It is individually formed and intricately decorated using a wooden mold called a tabi or a special tweezers called maa’laat. The shortbread-like dough, which can be made using all-purpose flour or a mix of all-purpose flour and semolina flour, is rich with butter and flavored with orange blossom or rose water, which are potent perfume-like distillates of bitter orange blossoms or rose petals. Both waters are used in Mediterranean cuisines to flavor other cookies, cakes, and pastries, including baklava and madeleines.

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