Chebbakia is a delicious Moroccan treat made with toasted sesame seeds and flavored with saffron, orange blossom water, olive oil and cinnamon. It’s a cookie so fragrant it fills your kitchen with a most heavenly smell as it cooks and tastes even better when ready! Chebbakia is traditionally fried but I do love this baked version, and I think you will like it too. When the chebbakias are cooked, they’re bathed in a pot of warm honey for a little while until they’re shiny and sticky, then they’re sprinkled with sesame seeds. A true delicacy!
As most Moroccans are celebrating Ramadan at the moment, you’ll find pyramids of glistening, heady-smelling chebbakia in every market. But homemade always tastes best, of course! Best wishes to all who are observing the holiday!
BAKED CHEBAKIA RECIPE
Yield: about 20 cookies
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 25 min
If you don't have saffron, you can skip it and increase the amount of anise and cinnamon to make the cookies more fragrant.
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (preferably unhulled) sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon anise seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unrefined brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
¼ cup orange blossom water
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
12 oz honey
Toast the sesame and anise in a medium skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 5 minutes. Grind them in a food processor into a powder.
Transfer the ground sesame and anise to a mixing bowl. Add the turmeric, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, baking powder and flour. Whisk to combine.
Crumble the saffron threads into the orange blossom water and let steep for a few minutes. Add to the dry mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients except the honey. Gather the dough and lightly knead it for a minute or two. Shape it into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out with arolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a butter knife or a fluted pastry wheel cut the dough into rectangles about 2.5x3 inches. Cut 4 lines lengthwise on each rectangle without getting to the edge. The cuts should stop about ¼-inch from the edges. Fold the rectangles the way you would a paper fan (by alternating forward and backward folding motions). Pinch the ends together and push them in slightly. This should fan out the strips. If necessary, manually separate the strips to fan out the cookie some more. (Alternatively, you can cut the dough into strips, stack them up and pinch the ends.) Place on the prepared pan. Gather the scraps and repeat until you’ve used up all the dough.
Bake the chebbakia until crispy and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Five minutes before the chebbakia is cooked, warm up the honey in a medium pot over low heat. As soon as you take the chebakias out of the oven, place them in the warm honey for about 10 minutes, turning them once. ( I keep the stove turned on at very low heat to keep the honey warm and runny.)Using a slotted spoon, transfer the soaked chebbakias to a plate. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Allow to cool before enjoying. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.