Chebakia - La Rose des Sables

Chebakia, also known as mkharka, griwech or rose des sables is one of Moroccan cuisine’s most delightful pleasures. It is a chewy, yet crunchy sesame, honey and turmeric wonderfully fragrant cookie. It has so many levels, you really have to try it to understand how amazing it tastes!

Chebakia is commonly prepared in Morocco during the month of Ramadan and is usually served next to a velvelty harira to break the fast. I don’t really know why these delicious cookies are not prepared through the whole year in Morocco. I think it is related to the fact that chebakia requires long hours of preparation and Moroccans tend to keep it as a treat for Ramadan. Just a thought!

Moroccan women tend to gather before Ramadan to cook seriously massive batches of chebakia (actually that’s why it take them so long, if you do the quantity below it won’t take more than 2 hours). They usually start in the morning only to finish very late in the evening. Well, that’s how my mom and my aunts do it.

All this, to tell you that when I decided to make chebakia a few weeks ago I waited until my mom came to visit, not because I couldn’t do it by myself but just because it’s one of those things you really enjoy doing with good company and music in the background.

I really like how we call chebakia in French, la rose des sable, sounds very romantic and dramatic doesn’t it? A bit like this song! La rose des sables means the rose of the sands or the desert rose, the cookie being shaped in the form of a rose I guess that’s where the name came from in French.

A quick note on the shape of the cookie. Traditionally the chebakia is folded in the shape of a rose but you know I am bit of a rebel and like to play around with things. Below you will find out how to do it in the shape of a rose but please feel free to be creative and find other ways to shape it. As long as it is folded, the dough won’t break during the frying process and it will be just as yummy. That said,  although the rose shape is a bit technical once mastered it is very easy and quick to make.

Enjoy!

Chebakia – La rose des sables

INGREDIENTS

Chebakia dough

  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • ½ teaspoon caster sugar
  • 500 gr plain flour, plus more for dusting
  • 250 gr sesame seeds, very finely ground
  • 250 gr almond flour
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange blossom water
  • 1/3 cup melted butter  (80 ml)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (80 ml)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground anise
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of salt

Frying and soaking the chebakia

  • Frying oil
  • 1,5 kg honey
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 250 gr roasted sesame seeds, to sprinkle

METHOD

Preparing the chebakia dough

• Activate the dry yeast by adding ½ teaspoon of sugar and 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water in a small bowl. Stir with a fork and leave for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.

• In a large bowl transfer the remaining ingredients including the foamy yeast and mix them all together using your hands. If your dough is too sticky add a bit of flour to it and if it is not light enough add a couple of tablespoons of water until you reach a soft dough consistency.

• Flour a worktop and use your hands to knead the dough for 8 minutes until smooth and slightly elastic. Divide the kneaded dough in 5 equal parts and cover with a damp towel or place in a plastic bag for 15 minutes.

• Lightly flour a worktop and roll out a portion of dough until 5 mm (0.2 inch) thick.

• Use a fluted pastry wheel and cut out approximately 7 cm x 5 cm (3 inch x 2 inch) rectangles then add four evenly spaced slits across each rectangle.

Now is time to fold the pastry! This is the most difficult step in my opinion, because you can damage the pastry if you don’t handle to folding technique properly. I always need time to remember how to do it! Traditionally the chebakia is folded in the shape of a flower, a rose to be precise but you know I am bit of a rebel and like to play around with things. Below you will find out how to do it in the shape of a rose but please feel free to be creative and find other ways to do it! As long as it is folded and pinched on the corners, the dough won’t break during the frying process and it will be just as yummy as in the rose shape.

• To fold the chebakia in a rose shape, pick a rectangle of dough, hold it with one hand and thread your index finger of the other hand through the alternating slits. Pinch together the corners of the rectangle closest to the tip of your index finger. Gently pull your finger out of the slits and in the same time push the pinched corners through the center inside out. Finally, open up the pastry dough to form a rose. Place the chebakia on a tray and cover with a dry towel.

If you feel like you need visual support, I found this video that shows how to do it. 

• Press the remains of the dough together and repeat until all the dough has been used.

Frying and soaking the chebakia

• When ready to fry, heat up 4 cm (2 inches) of frying oil in a deep pan over medium high heat until it reaches 180 C (350 F). Don’t forget to reduce the heat to medium once it reaches the right temperature. 

• Meanwhile heat the honey with the orange blossom water in a large frying pan. Avoid burning by controlling the heat, (start on medium high and reduce the heat once the honey is foamy).

• Place the chebakias in the frying pan and cook them in batches until they are cooked and golden, about 5 minutes, flip if necessary.

• Once the chebakias are cooked, use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer them to the simmering honey and soak the pastries for 6 to 8 minutes.

• Use a slotted spoon to gently transfer the chebakias to a cooling rack, sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and leave to cool before serving.