Ramadan is coming up and we are kicking off a new series “Healthy Ramadan”. We are revisiting 4 staple Ramadan Moroccan recipes with a healthy twist. We are starting with chebakiya, a key element in Moroccan Ramadan table. However, instead of frying it, we are baking it!
500 grams (about 4 cups) flour, plus additional if necessary
70 grams (2.5 oz.) of golden unhulled sesame seeds
70 grams (2.5 oz.) almonds
A large pinch of saffron threads
40 ml (2 1/2 tablespoons) orange blossom water
A few gum arabic pebbles
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground anise
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant (or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric)
60 grams (1/4 cup) butter, melted
40 ml (2 1/2 tablespoons) olive oil
20 ml (1 1/2 tablespoons) white vinegar
Water for mixing
Vegetable oil for frying
500 grams (1 pound) honey
A handful of toasted sesame seeds
Step 1: Preparing the ingredients
1- Place the sesame seeds in a pan, and roast them on medium heat for a few minutes until they lose their raw taste.
2- Place the roasted sesame seeds in a food processor and mix until you get a smooth paste.
3- Roast the raw almonds in the oven at 180 C / 350 F for 15 minutes.
4- Let them cool a bit, then place in a food processor and mix for 10 minutes until the almond powder starts releasing its natural oil and transforms into creamy almond butter. Stir the almond mixture from time to time to evenly spread it in the food processor.
5- Place the the gum arabic pebbles in a flat surface, add the sugar, and grind them with the bottom of a cup until you get a fine powder.
6- In a small bowl, combine the saffron threads with the orange blossom water. Let the saffron mixture sit for a 10 minutes before using it.
Step 2: Making the dough
1- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. First, sift the flour. Add the gum arabic powder, ground cinnamon, ground anise, baking powder, salt, yellow colorant, sesame paste, almond butter, melted butter, and olive oil.
2- Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until well combined.
3- Strain the saffron mixture. We are using the flavored orange blossom water only. You can add more water to the leftover saffron threads and keep it in the fridge for later use.
4- Keep mixing then add the vinegar. Mix.
5- Add water little by little while pressing the ingredients with your hand to combine them until you are able to form a rough ball.
6- Place the dough on a flat working surface and knead by hand for around 10 minutes. You can also use a kneading machine if you want. The dough will become softer and more malleable.
7- When it is ready you can do a test: gently press the dough with your fingertip, the dough will make a dent, then it will come up again.
8- Divide the dough into 3 portions.
9- Cover the dough portions with a plastic wrap and let them rest for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Shaping the Chebakia
1- Take each dough portion and with a rolling pin, roll the dough.
2- Gently flip the dough to its other surface so it does not stick, and continue rolling into a thin layer.
3- Using a pastry cutter, cut the dough into a large square and remove the leftover borders.
4- Cut the dough into long rectangles that have a width of 7 cm.
5- Cut each rectangle into squares. They are around 7 cm by 7 cm or approximately the size of your palm.
6- Now cut 4 evenly lengthwise cuts within the square to form 5 equal columns.
7- To shape the chebakia, first take columns 1, 3, and 5 using your index finger, then using your other hand, pinch the tips.
8- Remove your index finger from the 3 columns, and flip columns 2 and 4 to frame the other columns, and you will get a flower shape.
9- Place the flower on the counter and pinch its outer corners.
10- If this is too complicated, cut smaller squares with the dough and combine opposite corners of the square, to create a nice cylindrical shape. You can also cut strips in the dough, and just twist for another interesting shape.
11- Let the shaped chebakia rest for 20 minutes before cooking it.
Step 4: Cooking Chebakia
1- Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and once hot, place the chebakia cookies in the oil and fry them until they become deep golden brown.
If you want a healthier version, then just place the chebakia cookies in a baking pan covered with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 180 C / 350 F for 30 minutes or until it becomes golden brown.
Step 5: Final Steps
1- While the chebakia is cooking, heat up honey in a saucepan. Add a little bit of gum arabic powder.
2- Place the chebakia directly from the frying oil or oven into the warm honey.
3- Remove the honey from the heat, and let the chebakia absorb the honey for 5 minutes.
4- Place the chebakia in a strainer to remove excess honey.
5- Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the chebakia.