BEIRUT: Maamoul, crumbly fruit-and-nut stuffed cookies that are popular fare during Easter, will come in a socially conscious variety this April. Six friends have teamed up to fundraise for underprivileged people living in Lebanon by baking hundreds of boxes of these holiday treats.“We got inspired by someone we know who’s been going to the Bekaa to help,” explained Rosie Choueiry, one of the friends behind Little Helps, the name of the group’s bake-sale initiative.
“We had been thinking of doing something for a while,” she added. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to several groups of needy people in the country: refugees living the Bekaa Valley, impoverished Lebanese and Syrians in Beirut and an orphange.
The six friends are all working mothers, but have found the time to rotate around each other’s kitchens in an effort to finish the baking before April, when the cookies will be on sale every Saturday at Souk el Tayeb. A box of 50-55 small maamoul costs LL25,000.
With the buzz around their small-scale fundraiser, the organizers predict to sell out of their 550 boxes pretty fast.
“A lot of people are calling and asking how they can help,” Choueiry said. “We’re still baking, but we have so many orders and we have so many people asking for more and more.”
Maamoul are made by mixing semolina flour and butter into fragile dough that is pressed in a cookie mold around nut or dried-fruit filling. Little Helps will be selling three common maamoul varieties: pistachio, date and almond.
Over the next few weeks, the group is aiming to bake nearly 30,000 cookies, a process made more laborious by their choice to press the maamoul from their smallest cookie mold – which they claim makes the tastiest cookie.
“The bigger, the easier it is,” Choueiry said. “These are the smallest molds; we had to bring them from the north.”
Little Helps’ effort piqued the interest of fellow do-gooders, who donated the ingredients for the cookies. Souk el Tayeb in collaboration with Little Helps meanwhile plans to hold a family-friendly workshop on making maamoul to complement the group’s endeavor, said Pamela Chemali, souk manager. The workshop is planned to be held in the afternoon souk that can be found in Saifi Village on Saturdays.
“Kids will join a workshop where they will learn how to make maamoul, raising awareness about the project and involving more people of the community,” Chemali said.
The Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) also opened the extensive facilities of its industrial kitchen to the women. Little Helps took over USEK’s ovens Tuesday afternoon, with help at hand from university staff.
If they do sell out, the group will have raised at least $10,000.
In partnership with a United Nations coordinator who is working with refugees, the supplies bought with the proceeds will be distributed as needed to needy families in the Bekaa Valley and the capital.
“We are only six people," Choueiry said. "But if each of us will do a bit, we can do a lot.”