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Chebakia (Moroccan Ramadan Cookies)

Chebakia (Moroccan Ramadan Cookies)

Featured Spices
2 cups flour
½ cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon anise seed, ground
pinch saffron threads, crumbled
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon palm sugar
¼ teaspoon turmeric (for yellow coloring)
½ teaspoon instant yeast
¼ cup water, warmed
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
handful of almonds, roasted
water, as needed for mixing dough
vegetable oil for frying

Garnish and glaze:
1 cup honey
½ - 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (to taste)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Chebakia are special Moroccan spice cookies, traditionally served during Ramadan. We make them with sweetly spiced dough, shaped like a flower, then fried crispy, and soaked in orange blossom honey sauce. How could you go wrong?

Not only are chebakia mouth-wateringly delectable to eat, these cookies are exceptionally creative and very interesting to make. There are a variety of methods for creating the delightful flower shapes, and everyone’s flower looks a little bit different. The instructions may sound complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it quite simple. Or…simply make little twisted columns and call them rose stems.

Toasting sesame seeds

To toast the sesame seeds, heat a dry skillet over medium. Add the seeds and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally (about 3 – 5 minutes). Remove and set aside.

Making chebakia dough

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they lightly brown.

Using a food processor, grind just until the almonds reach a fine powder—pulsing in short bursts so you don’t wind up making almond butter. Set almond flour aside.

In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water. When the yeast begins to bubble, it is ready for use.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the anise seeds, saffron threads and toasted sesame seeds until they become very fine and the sesame seeds begin to release their oils.

Into a medium mixing bowl, add the following:
vinegar
oil
butter
egg
yeast mixture

Use a whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following:
flour
ground sesame seeds
cinnamon
ground seeds and spice mixture
baking powder
salt
palm sugar
turmeric

Whisk to mix thoroughly, and then stir in the wet ingredients. Use your hands to mix the dough. Add small amounts of flour if dough is too wet, or water if dough is crumbly and dry. Continue mixing until dough is smooth and moist but not sticky.

Transfer the dough into a bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside to rise about 15 – 20 minutes.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to about ¼ inch thick.

Using a cookie cutter or knife, cut dough into 3 inch squares. Make four slices, from just below the top of each square, to just above the bottom, so you have five equally spaced strips cut inside the square.

Folding the chebakia cookies into roses (a.k.a. working cookie art magic)

Pick up a square and thread your right-hand middle finger under the first strip of dough, over the second, under the third, over the fourth and under the fifth. Now you should have strips 1, 3 and 5 laying over your finger. So far so good, right?

Now, using your left hand, grasp the bottom-left corner of the dough and wrap it up around (behind) your strip-laden index finger so the bottom and top left-hand corners meet. Pinch together the two left-hand corners. You now have a partial cocoon with strips 1, 3 and 5 over the top of your finger and strips 2 and 4 under. If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! Here comes the truly tricky part…

Begin turning your cookie inside out by pulling strip 3 (in the middle) over strip 5 (on the left), and strip 1 (on the right) slightly over strip 3. As you gently peel the strips off your finger, spread strips 1 and 2 (making a space between the first set of strips that straddled your middle finger), carefully pressing the remaining, twisted strips up through the center. You should have the rough shape of a flower. Right? Don’t worry, you have more to practice with.

Place your flower cookie on the working surface and repeat this process to fold the remaining cookies. Don’t forget to breathe.

Making glaze

In a saucepan, bring the honey and orange blossom water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and keep hot while frying the cookies.

Frying chebakia

Heat 1 inch of oil over medium-high in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, lower your chebakia cookies into the oil and cook in small batches until they turn deep golden brown (about 2 – 3 minutes per side).

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried chebakia works of art into the saucepan with honey glaze sauce. Allow the cookies to soak up the honey for about 5 minutes before removing them. Place the cookies in a sieve or heatproof colander set over a bowl and allow them to cool. Sprinkle their gorgeous little tops with sesame seeds and serve after they’ve completely cooled down. Pat yourself on the back while chewing delightedly for a job a well done. Practice often (*wink*).

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Chebakia (Moroccan Ramadan Cookies)
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