By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO
One of the benefits of living in the Middle East is the availability of Arabic dessert delicacies, like Baklava and Kanafa. The chilly winter months, which blanket most areas in a welcome respite from the unforgiving summer heat, are the perfect time to indulge in the sweet delights along with a piping hot mug of Arabic coffee. The sugar-laden treats are available widely in bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants. The variety of selection and reasonable pricing ensures a high demand for the high-calorie desserts. Most families have their favorites; however there is one dessert that is the king of Arabic pastries.
An inconspicuous filled shortbread cookie is a must-have for most families year round. Known as Maâ€™moul, the cookie is as simple as it is delectable. Depending on the region, it is custom tailored based on cultural norms. Some of the most popular fillings for Maâ€™moul include pastes made from either walnuts, pistachios or dates. More modern fillings for Maâ€™moul include chocolate and vanilla custard. Maâ€™moul come in a wide variety of shapes, which identifies the filling without having to break open the cookie. Cone-shaped Maâ€™moul are filled with nut paste while dome-shaped Maâ€™moul are filled with date paste. Once baked, each Maâ€™moul receives a light dusting of powdered sugar to complete the precious parcel. Each one is wrapped separately in plastic to ensure freshness since the cookie has a short shelf life unless preservatives are used.
By comparison Maâ€™moul cookies are a much healthier than other dessert alternatives, like ice cream or other Arabic desserts that are drenched in sugar syrup. The high nut content is one of the reasons why since nuts are high in heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Maâ€™moul also contain much less sugar than most cookies. For this reason, many families ring in the New Year with a heaping helping of Maâ€™moul as a commitment to a healthier new year. Maâ€™moul also makes the perfect gift as most families give several trays of the cookies to friends and families on special occasions. z
For the adventurous baker, Maâ€™moul recipes are available in the thousands online. Scores of cooking schools in the region also offer Maâ€™moul cooking courses. Maâ€™moul based cookbooks and molds are widely available in Middle Eastern markets and are even available in gourmet food stores in America. However, baking Maâ€™moul at home is very time consuming. Buying fresh Maâ€™moul from the bakery or grocery store is the hands down preferred method for most families eager to enjoy it.