International Recipes: Moroccan Chebakia Recipe
Chebakia are small sesame covered cookies that are extremely popular at weddings and other special occasions. They are also commonly served during the period of Ramadan.
Despite looking like a straight forward dish to prepare, they can be quite time consuming; so make sure you set aside at least a couple of hours for the preparation and cooking of these treats. It’s worth noting that this recipe is designed to make between six to eight portions, which is ideal for a couple or a small family. However, you’ll need to double all the ingredients if you wish to make more.
For the dough:
- 1 soup bowl full of golden un-hulled sesame seeds (toasted)
- 1/2 tsp. of mastic grains
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
- 880g cups flour (plus additional if necessary)
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground anise
- 1/2 tsp. saffron threads (crumbled)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. Moroccan yellow colourant (or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric)
- 1 extra-large egg
- 60ml cup butter (melted)
- 60ml cup vinegar
- 60ml cup olive oil
- 60ml cup orange flower water
- 1 tsp. yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
- 1l Vegetable
- 800ml honey
- 2 tbsp. orange flower water
- 150g cup golden un-hulled sesame seeds (toasted, for decorating)
Before you start with the recipe, make sure you’ve picked through the sesame to remove any debris from the pack. Then you’ll need to spread the seeds on a baking tray and toast them at 200C (400F, gas mark 6) for 10 to 15 minutes. After this time, the seeds should be crunchy and have a nutty flavour. The seeds should be left to cool thoroughly and then stored in an airtight container.
Making the Dough
Now for making the Chebakia dough. Using a food processor or blender, grind one bowlful of toasted seeds until they become powdery; continue this until the powder becomes moist enough to shape and handle.
Take the mastic grains and crush them with the sugar in a bowl, mixing as you go. Combine the grain mix, blended sesame, flour and the rest of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in the remainder of the dough ingredients and use your hands to mix and form a dough. Incorporate more flour if necessary to create a dough that is pliable, but still quite stiff in texture.
If you have a mixer, attach the dough hook attachment and mix for four to five minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, use your hands and knead the dough for seven or eight minutes. Following this, divide the dough into four portions and shape each piece into a smooth mound, placing each piece into a small bag to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Shaping the Chebakia
Once the dough has rested, take one of the pieces and on a floured work service, roll out the dough to about half a centimetre thick. Using a pastry cutter, or a sharp knife, cut the dough into rectangles roughly the size of your palm, approximately three inches by four inches.
Now we need to shape the dough into the flower shapes. To do this, you’ll need to make four evenly spaced cuts lengthways within the rectangle, without cutting through the edges of the dough. This means that there should be five equally sized rectangles of dough. Using the middle finger and ring finger of your right hand, take columns one, three and five, leaving two and four to dangle underneath. Then, with your left hand, flip columns two and four over while threading through the three columns from the other side. You should then have an elongated flower shape that can be evened up by pinching the corners. Now place this on a lined baking tray or sheet while the other portions are shaped.
Frying the Chebakia
Now for the frying. For this, you’ll want to pour in enough oil into your pan so that it is roughly one inch deep; heat this on a medium temperature. While you’re doing this, heat the honey in a separate pan almost to the boiling point, adding the orange flower water at this point and turning the mix down to a low heat.
When the oil is hot, cook the chebakia in batches of three or four, to ensure that the oil doesn’t lose its heat. You’ll know when they are done when they have a lovely golden brown colour, typically taking around 10 minutes. If your chebakia colour too quickly, the oil is too hot and the outside will cook too quickly.
Once your first portion has cooked, transfer them into the warm honey mixture using a slotted spoon to drain the oil. Ensure the cookies are submerged in the honey mixture to thoroughly coat them and leave them for five minutes; during this time, you can begin cooking another batch.
When the honey-coated cookies are ready, remove them from the mix and leave them to drain in a sieve or colander. While draining, sprinkle them with the remaining toasted sesame for an added crunch and maximum flavour.
These can be served while still warm, or after they have cooled, making a perfect daytime or evening snack.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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