Sunday, March 9, 2008
This story actually starts with a meat market and ends with a Middle Eastern cookie -- strange I know... but, that's the way life goes sometimes.
We had heard from several people that the Laurel meat market was a great place to find and buy meat and we finally made it over there Saturday morning. It was very disappointing. First, it smelled bad when you walked in -- Chris thought it was due to the all the pet food near the front of the store, but the back smelled bad too -- and I don't like buying my food from a place that stinks. Second, the meat selection wasn't actually all that impressive. Sure, it's nice to have butchers there to prep whatever cut you want, but the truth is that the Safeway we normally go to has a much bigger selection of meat, a cleaner environment, and friendly butchers who are happy to help you out, you just have to track them down.
However, the trip was not a total loss because we noticed a little Middle Eastern market just up the road from the meat market. One of the first things Chris saw when he went through the door were Mamoul forms -- something I had never heard of -- but he was very excited about them. For everyone who doesn't know (which included me until yesterday) Mamouls are a type of cookie that are traditionally filled with dried fruits and nuts (figs/dates/apricots and walnuts/pistashios.) You make a dough and a filling, then you form the dough into a ball around the filling and smash the whole thing into the form before tapping it out. They make very attractive and very dense cookie. (very similar to Moon Cakes actually...)
We bought a couple of the Mamoul forms, as well as a package of pre-made Mamouls for comparison and went home with a mission... well, Chris was on the mission, I was along for moral support and technical help as needed. He found several recipes online and finally settled on a recipe from Mahanandi, a fellow food blogger. If you look at her pictures the dough looks well-formed, and just a little crumbly, but still workable. When Chris made it, it was a total crumbly mess. We thought we were going to have to throw out the dough and try again -- in fact, Chris went upstairs to find another recipe -- but while he was upstairs I was tossing a lime-sized piece of the crumble-mess from hand to hand wondering what went wrong with it, and the amazing thing is that as it warmed up it started to come together.
We ended up working each piece of dough for 5-10 minutes to make one cookie, which is one of the reasons we only made six of them. But we did get six of them which was better than we expected when we first started working with the dough.
Chris made a date & pistachio filling that nearly burned out the motor on our little food processor, but it's sticky sweet and good. The dough has a lot of semolina flour in it which makes it kind of gritty when you work with it and when you eat it. Overall, the dough is crumbly like shortbread with a slightly yeasty flavor. The dough isn't all that sweet, which is probably a good thing since the filling is extremely sweet from the dates.
We will definitely make Mamouls again, but we are going to try other recipes for the dough -- Gourmet Sleuth has a recipe that Chris is considering, I know there is at least one recipe on the Food Network website and Chris has at least one more in mind. The only bad thing is that all the recipes seem to be totally different, so finding an authentic one might be a bit of a challenge.