Since I was young I've always been intrigued by these sesame/honey cookies, called in Morocco "Chebakia", not only for their beautiful flower shape but also because they are surprisingly delicious sweet treats and I love all the flavours in them! Chebakia is one of the luxurious, tasteful, traditional and special occasion sweet, served without fail on Moroccan Ramadan table with Harira on Ftour (Iftar) meal. However; in some regions in Morocco, chebakia is also served at wedding ceremonies and other special feasts. Traditionally, few days before Ramadan, the whole family usually gets together to make large numbers of these cookies, which are customarily shaped like a rose, symbolizing "Respect and Love".
Because of chebakia popularity and its cultural significance in Morocco, this has made these sesame/honey cookies synonymous with Ramadan. In fact, no Moroccan Ramadan is complete without chebakia, which can be bought almost anywhere in the street. My Mother taught me how to make chabakiya when I was a kid, and I remember she used to talk about how tricky making those cookies were, and how her chebakia would never taste like her mother's even if she used to make the best chabakiya I've ever tasted! So last weekend, I decided to make those little cookies, and they brought me back as little kid again. They made me think of my mother and where I come from. When I prepare chebakia, I always have those wonderful memories, and so will my lovely boys, one day!
Chabakiya or Chbakia [S H A B A K E E Y A} = الشّباكيّة, (also spelled Chebbakiya and Shebakia) is a general term for Moroccan traditional sweet sort of fried flower dessert, and which was originally considered as a confectionery Halwa [H A L W A} =حْلْوَة, which means "Cake" because of its sweet taste and flower crispy biscuit shape. It will sound odd for some of my blog followers; "A fried cookie? Come on, really?". Yes, indeed, it is a fried, chewy and sticky cookie that, strangely enough, goes so well with Harira, BUT NOT tea or coffee! The sweetness of Chabakiya is intended to offset the sour yet soft, touch of the national soup, called Harira. Give me one chebakia and a bowl of Harira any day, any time and I’d be a happy woman! .
Chabakiya is made with ingredients, very common in Moroccan Cuisine, such as sesame seeds, almonds, aniseeds, cinnamon, gum arabic, orange flower water, honey, yeast etc.... The dough is made by kneading wheat or white flour or mixture of both, with all the ingredients and mixed together, then flattened and cut into squares using a special Chebakia mold to cut the dough, then fried in oil and submerged in sweet honey syrup (usually orange flower water flavoured). The result is a declicious, sticky, sweet and slightly chewy cookie that looks like flower almost, and that tastes a little bit like a spicy, crispy, savory Fekkas, and a little bit like a hot glazed, sweet Almond/Honey Breewat. Both the flavour combination and the texture of chabakiya is amazing!
Chabakiya is a little time-consuming but well worth the effort. It's also endlessly adaptable, substitute more modern ingredients for different flavours, use corn or ginger or orange syrup instead of honey, so chabakiya is more sticky and shiny. If you don't like sesame seeds or almonds, replace them for hazelnuts or pine nuts or peanuts or pistachio or linseeds etc.... which will change the flavour quite a bit, but they will taste great! Don’t be intimidated by shaping technique of chabakiya, it is quite easy to make, and in fact you can create any shape you like! When making chabakiya, make sure not to overwork the dough (generally, 7 to 10 minutes seems reasonable). This detail is very important, since gluten development, resulting from overworking the Chabakia dough, will make it tough when cooked. It is also important to maintain the temperature of the frying oil because if the temperature is too high or if you overcook them, chabakiya will be too hard and if the temperature is too low, or you undercook them, the resulting chabakiya will be too pale, very greasy and unappealing. Note that chebakia will continue to colour slightly a few minutes after removed from the oil, so you will need to be careful when removing them.
1-In Fes and some other regions as Rabat, Salé etc.., this same chabakiya is called Mkhar9a (also spelled Mkharqua or Mkharka = المْخَرْقَة ).
2-Whereas in Wajda (Oujda - East of Morocco) and also some parts in Fes and also Agadir, it is called Griwech or Griwesh or Griwchat =كريوْشْ .
3-In Agadir (South of Morocco), besides the traditional Chebakiya, they have a special version of Chabakiya, called Bouchnikha = بوشْنيخَة ou Chebakiya Khyout (5yout) = الشّْبّاكيّة خْيُوطْ .
Below shows the photo of Bouchnikha, Agadir's version of Chabakia, by Meriya (CLICK HERE FOR MERIYA'S BLOG)
4-There are several different shapes of chabakiya, the most popular one is Chabakiya Blighat or Baboush = الشّْبّاكِيّة بْليغاتْ, which has the shape of the hand-made leather shoes called in Morocco Babouche = بَبُوشْ or Balgha (Balra) = بْلْغَة.
Below shows the photo of Chebakiya Blighat by Meriya (CLICK HERE FOR MERIYA'S BLOG)
5-There is a different type of Chebakia called " "Halwa Mja3ba" = الحلوة المجعبة. This is a very popular traditional type of Chebakia, and curiously enough, it is prepared by men only. The dough needs very slow rising time for 17 to 24 hours, and requires a lot of practice and patience to achieve success. There is a video here by Moroccan Chef Cook Choumicha which shows how to make Halwa Mja3ba. I took the picture below of "Halwa Mja3ba" from this Cuisine Marocaine Site!
I'm submitting this post to Susan's Yeastspotting, a blog devoted to yeast bread. Please check it out!
Here is Moroccan Classical Music, called "Andaloussi" by Ba Jedoub!