Image by luluinnyc | Amy Dreher via Flickr
I was paying for Syrian bread at Sahara Stores in Hackensack the other day when I noticed a small package marked "maamoul" -- a date cookie with the same name my mother gave her round, walnut-stuffed cookies, dusted with confectioner's sugar or dipped in marshmallow spread.
The single, round cookie was made in Saudi Arabia with "selected Saudi dates." Grace Sasson, my mother, also made cookies with dates, but they were small, cigar-shaped and open at both ends -- more dates than dough -- and she called them date-and-walnut crescents.
I tried the Saudi cookie after dinner last night, and it was delicious, though not the equal of my mother's version. This wasn't a madeleine moment, but it reminded me of all the wonderful cookies and pastry my mother turned out in Brooklyn -- to serve to her friends with coffee or at parties and to put out with our weekly dairy meal.
My father's Sephardic Jewish family were halwani, or pastry makers, in Aleppo, Syria, and my mother learned how to make baklava and other delights from him. Her maamoul used rose water in the dough, and her date-and-walnut crescents included grated orange or tangerine rind.
The cookie I bought in Hackensack for 55 cents was made by Halwani Bros. The ingredients are simple: wheat flour, date paste, butter, sugar, yeast. I'll have to check out Fattal's and other pastry makers in Paterson for their fresh-baked versions.
Sahara Stores, 242 S. Summit Ave., Hackensack;
Fattal's Syrian Bakery, 975-977 Main St., Paterson;