Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Names & Maamoul

The Name Game: How Yusef Amuny became Joseph John
I recently discovered my Lebanese family immigrated to Louisiana by way of Ellis Island.

My great-grandfather was born in Lebanon as Yusef Amuny. It was only recently that I found this out and I was surprised for two reasons:

1.     His name was changed from Amuny to John at Ellis Island arbitrarily. The greeter could not understand Yusef's introduction and did not have the patience to figure it out. I had no idea my family passed through this famous immigrant pit stop.
2.     My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Amuny. Yep, it’s all relative. They weren’t first cousins, but distantly related. But hey, that was the practice back then.  Must explain why I have six toes. Total. Just kidding.

So, what is in a name?  We went from Amuny to John overnight.  And several cousins went from Amuny to other biblical, English names like Abraham and Isaacs.

And with this trend of holy, American names, came sons with double names. My grandpa was named John John in this fashion, and he wasn’t the only Lebanese man in West Louisiana with this exact name.  And in this tradition, he had cousins named Abraham Abraham and Isaac Isaacs. These double names were a symbol of first born, first generations in the New Country.

So now you know why my handsome Grandpa John John had a strange, double name.

The Dessert: Maamoul
In the tradition of funny but sweet Lebanese names, I give you maamoul. 

John John's sisters Juliette, Esma and Ruby Lee holding three of his nieces.

My mother remembers her Grandma Annie baking these treats for her when she visited Louisiana around Easter. Though maamoul isn't an Easter dish, my mom associates it with Spring. She said some people mold these pastries into shapes with special tools, but her grandmother made them as patties. My Grandpa's sister Esma recorded the beloved recipe after Annie passed away and shared it with the family. The filling is Esma's own recipe. Since Esma has now passed, the recipe is even more special. 

Delicious maamoul! The smell of pecans, melted butter and vanilla extract in my kitchen was just lovely.

- 1 cup cream of wheat
- 2 cups flour
- 1 - 1.5 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup rendered butter (I used regular, heated butter)
- 1/4 cup milk or water
powdered sugar

For the filling combine ...
- 2 cups ground pecans
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp rose water, or almond or vanilla extract, or Oma suggests Whiskey (I used vanilla)

Combine cream of wheat, flour, sugar and rendered butter. 
Add milk slowly, as needed. 
Knead well.  Mold dough into small patties, flatten in palm of hand. 
Fill patty with one tablespoon of filling and cover with another patty. 
Close around edges.
Bake at 350 degrees until bottom is light brown. Broil or use top shelf to brown top quickly. 
Cool and Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  


  1. Ummm - will you make me some next time I come to LA? You know how good I am at re-creating baked recipes - yikes!

    1. Definitely, and Oma just told me there is a way to make it with pistachios too! I think you would love these.

  2. Delicious.. just love Maamoul ~ i have made some too :) do visit my place when time permits Maamoul ~ date cookies that's a recipe by my mom :)
    happy blogging do give me feedback!


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