“Foodie Fridays” are dedicated to my two great loves: food and Fridays. In these posts, I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite varieties of Moroccan and North African cuisine. This particular post is part of my Ramadan Edition, which covers dishes that are common during the month of Ramadan.
Chebakia is a Moroccan cookie that’s often served during Ramadan or other special occasions. It’s generally folded into a flower shape, fried, and coated with honey. Though chebakia is quite a time-consuming cookie, its sweet, crunchy texture makes the labor worth it; I personally think it pairs well with savory harira at the Iftar meal (the meal that signifies breaking fast).
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 soup bowl of toasted, un-hulled sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp. ground anise
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 tsp. of sugar mixed with a pinch of mastic, crushed into a powder
1 large egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup orange flower water
1 tsp. yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
5 cups honey
2 tbsp. orange flower water
6.5 cups vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup toasted, un-hulled sesame seeds, for decorating
Ahead of Time:
- Toast sesame seeds.
- Pick through the sesame seeds to remove any debris.
- Spread them on a baking pan and toast in a 400° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the seeds are crunchy and nutty-flavored.
- Allow them to cool thoroughly, then store in an airtight container until needed.
- Make the dough.
- Grind a bowl of toasted sesame seeds in a food processor until they appear powdery. Keep grinding until the powder becomes moist enough to press.
- Mix the ground sesame seeds with flour and other dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add the remaining bits, and mix with your hands to form the dough. Add more flour if necessary to achieve a dough that’s stiff but malleable.
- Knead the dough by hand for 8 minutes, or in a mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four portions, shaping each into a smooth mound.
- Place the dough into a plastic bag for 15 minutes, or until needed.
Make the Chebakia:
- Roll and cut the dough.
- Take a portion of dough and roll it to the thickness of a thin piece of cardboard. Lightly flour your work surface if needed.
- Use a pastry cutter to slice the dough into rectangles about the size of your palm.
- Make four evenly-spaced cuts lengthwise in each rectangle. These cuts should be almost the length of the rectangle, but should not cut through to the edges of the dough. The resulting rectangle will have five strips of attached dough.
- Fold the dough.
- Take a rectangle and thread the middle finger of your right hand through alternating strips of dough. This allows for the rectangle to drape over your finger.
- With your left hand, pinch the outer corners of the dough that are draped over your finger. This will form the center of the flower.
- While holding the pinched corners with your left hand, allow the strips of dough to slide down off your right finger while gently turning them inside-out around the pinched portion. Gently pinch the opposite corners closed once the dough is turned inside out. If done correctly, you’ll have formed the dough into an elongated flower shape.
- Place the folded piece of dough on a baking sheet or tray. Repeat the process with the remaining rectangles and dough mounds. Gather together the scraps of dough as you work, mold them into a mound, and return them to the bag for 15 minutes before you attempt to roll them out again.
- Cover the folded dough with a towel until ready to fry.
- Fry the dough.
- Heat one inch of vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat.
- At the same time, heat the honey almost to a boil in a large pot. When the honey is frothy but not bubbling, add the orange flower water and turn off the heat.
- When the oil is hot, cook the chebakia in batches. Adjust the heat as necessary to slowly fry each batch of chebakia to a golden brown color. This should take approximately 10 minutes if the oil is the correct temperature. If the oil is too hot, the chebakia will color quickly, but the insides will not be cooked crisply.
- Soak the chebakia in honey.
- When the chebakia are cooked to a golden brown, use a slotted spoon or strainer to transfer them from the oil directly to the hot honey.
- Gently push down on the chebakia to submerge them in the honey and allow them to soak for 5 to 7 minutes. They will turn an amber color as they absorb the honey.
- When the cookies have finished soaking, place them in a strainer or colander, allowing them to dry for a few minutes.
- Gently transfer them while still hot to a large platter or tray.
- Sprinkle the centers with sesame seeds.
- Allow them to cool for several hours before putting them in an airtight container for storage. Their shelf life at room temperature is about a month, and if frozen, they will be good for around five months.
- Note: Chebakia takes skill to make, so a video tutorial might be beneficial for the more visual learner.
If you prefer recipes in a video format: