Semolina Based Middle Eastern Sweets
Few Middle Eastern sweets are made from semolina dough. While most pastries like Baklava, Borma, Ballorieh, and others are made from flour, Middle Eastern cookies like Mamoul and Karabij and as cakes such as Basbousa and Sfouf are made from semolina. Sweets made from semolina do taste very different than those made from flour. The former gives the products a soft and delicious taste while the latter makes them crunchy. No matter what the dough is, all these confections have sugar syrup in them to give them a sweet taste.
Hadef is the only Middle Eastern pastry made from semolina. Whenever one mentions this type of dough, the first few items that come to mind are Mamoul, Basbousa, and Sfouf. These are very traditional desserts in the Arab world.
Mamoul are by far the most popular Middle Eastern cookies. These dates and nuts filled trips are loved by everyone. There is hardly a person who like Middle Eastern sweets but does not like Mamoul. For many people, these are the preferred type of all. Many prefer them over the assorted Baklava pastries, even though these are more popular worldwide. Mamoul might be as popular as Baklava in the Middle East, but in the Western world, Baklava is much more desired.
There are two more variations on this original cookie that are also in demand: Karabij and Mamoul Mad. Karabij is a small cookie filled with pistachio and made from the same ingredients as Mamoul. This one however is offered with Natef, which is a special dipping cream especially made for it. People enjoy eating Karabij while watching television or engaging in some other activity because they are small in size and can be dipped and ateen in one bite. Mamoul-Mad is made from the same exact ingredients as Mamoul, but looks and looks very different. It is made into squares where the crust covers the filling only from the top and bottom sides. Its filling is also denser and sweeter than that of the original version.
Middle Eastern sweets made from semolina dough are easy to make. Many people even bake them in their kitchen at home. Mamoul and Basbousa are popular homemade desserts and require few skills. One can learn how to make them in a very short period of time. This is not the case for Hadef, however, the old style walnuts filled pastry that originated in the city of Beirut, Lebanon. This pastry is an exception to all other assorted Baklava items. It is extremely difficult to make and requires a lot of time and skills only attained with years of experience. The most difficult part in making it resides in the kneading of the dough which can be done only by very skilled and experienced bakers.
Basbousa and Sfouf are two cakes made from semolina. While the latter is very popular in Lebanon, the former finds its home in Egypt. They are also two very different cakes in terms of sweetness. Basbousa is very dry because it contains plenty of sugar, while Sfouf is a dry cake not sweet at all. They are at the two different extremes of the sweetness range. They are both often baked at home because they are very easy to make. Basbousa is particularly easy to make and does not require much time. The only step that may require some time is the one where the dough is left to rest, but the actual active preparation time is very short.
In summary, many Middle Eastern sweets are made from semolina, especially those in the cookies and cakes categories. They are in the most part easy to prepare and bake at home.