Dates and Nuts Balls

Dates play a central role in traditional Syrian and Arabic desserts, especially those associated with festive occasions like Ramadan, Eid and Easter. From date maamoul and makroota that are popular throughout the Levant to today’s dessert that goes by different names in different areas of the Arabian area.

It is called madkooka (Which means something that is pounded because dates were pounded into a paste in a pestle and mortar). 

Madkooka are traditional desserts, sweet snacks. They are prepared in the form of a crumble, balls or shaped to resemble cookies and maamoul using molds .These desserts feature dates ( date paste or simply pitted dates) that are kneaded with infused butter or ghee and toasted whole wheat flour or roughly ground roasted sesame seeds. The date mix is optionally infused with spices, nuts or tahini to add layers of texture, aroma, color and flavor.

Whole wheat flour and sesame seeds are nutty by nature but toasting them makes that nuttiness even more pronounced and adds an endearing aroma.

Infusing the butter with cardamom allows its unique smokiness that permeates the entire mix.



1 cup whole wheat flour

100g butter

5 to 8 cardamom pods crushed

0.5 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Pinch saffron soaked in 1 tablespoon rose water (optional)

700 g date paste or pitted soft dates

1/2 cup crushed walnuts (optional)



1. Place the flour in a heavy bottom pot . Place over medium heat, stir continuously till the flour is golden and smells nutty (this takes around 10 minutes). Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

2. In another pot placed over medium low heat, add the butter and the crushed cardamom pods (if using) . Simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the butter with the cardamom flavor.

3. Remove the cardamom pods. Add the date paste, flour and spices to the melted butter, return to the heat, kneading with the back of a wooden spoon gently for 2-3 minutes to soften the dates and get a homogenous mix.

4. Take the mix off the heat, add the saffron rosewater mix and the nuts if using. Knead with your spoon till the mix is homogenous or wait till the mix is cool enough to handle and knead by hand.

5. Shaping:

Use mammoul molds to shape the madkooka. After rolling the dough into small balls, press them into the mammoul mold. Line your maamoul mold with cling film, this will make getting the shaped pieces out of the mold easier.

Store them in an airtight container in the fridge. The cold transforms the texture so, you might enjoy trying a few cold ones.


Lara Khouli