Chebakia and Ramadan and synonymous in Morocco. You simply can’t have one without the other. This presents a big problem for us. Chebakia are cookies made of flour, spices, honey, and sesame seeds. It’s the flour that is problematic. It’s safe to say that Moroccan families eat dozens and dozens of these cookies every Ramadan. They are made (or bought) in huge quantities and are time consuming to make – which makes it very clear to me why they’re a special holiday treat.
Last year I decided I would try to make a gluten-free chebakia to serve with harira during Ramadan. Traditionally these cookies are a very unique shape. The dough is rolled flat, cut into rectangles, then sliced 3-4 times in the middle of each piece of dough. It is then inverted to create a shape that reminds me of a flower. While this can be tricky to master, traditional dough has enough elasticity to make it possible.
I tried and tried to get a gluten free dough elastic enough to recreate the shape but sadly I couldn’t do it. It has been one of my lessons in gluten-free cooking. It’s possible to almost replicate the taste of most things, however it’s not always possible to get them to look the same.
Instead, I used a pastry cutter with a rippled edge to cut these into strips and I then twisted some of them as I put them in the fryer to create a different shape. This is totally optional, they’ll still taste great if you just cut into strips!
That being said, I am happy with how these turned out. A few things to keep in mind; the dough is much softer than traditional chebakia dough, they must be kept in the refrigerator or they will turn to a ball of mush, and they tend to brown much faster when frying. If you’ve got a celiac in the house, or are just cutting back on wheat, I hope you’ll enjoy these cookies as much as the original.
These gluten free chebakia don't have the classic folded shape of the original but they do have the same taste.
- 1 1/4c almond flour
- 1 1/2c rice flour + extra for dusting
- 1 1/2c corn or tapioca starch
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp anise seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- a pinch of saffron
- a pinch of mastic + pinch of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c melted butter
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1/4c white vinegar
- 3 Tbsp orange blossom water
- 1 tsp yeast + 1/4c warm water + 1 tsp sugar
- sesame seeds
- vegetable oil
- 2-3 cups honey
Preparing the Dough
- In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/4c almond flour, 1 1/2c rice flour, and 1 1/2c corn or tapioca starch along with baking powder, salt, anise seeds, cinnamon, and saffron.
- In a separate bowl, or ideally with a mortar and pestle, crush and blend the mastic and sugar. If you don't have a mortar and pestle you can use the back of a spoon to break it down. When you've formed a powder add this to the flour mixture.
- Prepare the yeast by adding 1/4c warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Leave to activate 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slowly add the butter, olive oil, vinegar and orange blossom water to the dry ingredients. Combine with a wooden spoon or your hands. Once the yeast has activated (bubbling) add it to the dough.
- The resulting dough will be a bit sticky, but should hold together in a large ball. Cover with a towel and set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Finishing the Cookies
- On the stovetop begin to heat vegetable oil for frying the cookies. The oil should be deep enough to submerge the cookies. In another pot, add the honey and turn the heat to low.
- When the dough has completed the resting time, dust a cutting board or surface with rice flour and pinch off a piece off a palm-size piece of dough. With a rolling pin (or a glass!) roll out the dough to about 1/4" thickness.
- Cut the dough into 1/2" width strips using a ribboned pastry wheel. Alternately, you can cut with a pizza cutter you just won't get the fluted edges.
- Gently drop pieces of dough into the oil and fry until light brown in color. If you notice your cookies are falling apart in the oil, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. If the dough gets too warm I found it tends to fall apart when cooked.
- Strain cookies with a slotted spoon after frying and place into the honey. Allow to sit in the honey for 30-45 seconds and then move to a drying rack or plate.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the cookies before they dry.
- Store in a sealed container, in the refrigerator. Cookies will keep for 1-2 weeks. You can also freeze them for longer storage time.
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Sunday 5th of June 2016
Salam Amanda My 8 year old son is on a GFCF diet for attention problems.. I am glad you shared this recipe bc he just adores chebakiya.. will let you know how things went biithni lah.. Thanks a bunch. Ramadan mubarak
Saturday 13th of June 2015
I would like to share a gluten free recipe with you from the city of Oran, Algeria where my husband is from: Calentica 1 cup gram (hummus) flour, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup oil, one egg, 1/4 cup oil (light tasting), about 1 teaspoon salt, (taste the mixture to adjust) Mix all together, whisking in water gradually to prevent lumps. let sit one hour. Heat a glass pie dish at 400 degrees farenheit with 1 Tablespoon of oil inside. Once heated, add mixture (whisk again)and place in the oven until top starts to raise in the middle and brown. (Sides will start to raise first when still not done.) Take out, sprinkle with powdered cumin, and serve warm with harissa and bread. This makes an excellent picnic food._
Sunday 14th of June 2015
They make a version of this in northern Morocco as well! I've never been too successful at making it but will try again with your recipe - thank you so much for sharing!
Saturday 13th of June 2015
Oops, in calentica recipe I mentioned the oil twice but it should only be once.
Tuesday 24th of June 2014
Hi!!! Thank u so much for posting this. We r now in Morocco and we r newly diagnosed with celiac. Such a bummer since everything here is with flour...everything. I was telling husband How is our daughter going to cope with this? I asked about GF products here, but it looks like it's not to available...well here in Rabat. I brought with me crackers..cookies..cereal..bars.. pasta and some bread (when on sale) here in the states. I heard about #glutenfreemama flour blends, and I also brought them..both t he almond and coconut blends. I will try ur recipe. I have bombed a recipe for harcha using cornmasa . Do u have another #GF recipes, especially Moroccan?
Wednesday 25th of June 2014
Hi Jennifer -- I have a lot of gluten free recipes - check out the Recipe Index towards the bottom and they're all listed. You should also find GF products in Marjane, Carrefour and La Vie Claire in Rabat. There isn't as much in Morocco as the US but there are some things available!
Monday 23rd of June 2014
If you were going to make this non-gluten free, would you just swap out the rice flour for regular flour?
Monday 23rd of June 2014
Hi Rachel -- You'd actually take out; 1 1/4c almond flour, 1 1/2c rice flour + extra for dusting and 1 1/2c corn or tapioca starch and replace with regular flour. I'd use about 4 cups of flour and add a little bit more if the dough feels too wet.
Saturday 27th of July 2013
Making this today! Moe commented the other night that it wasn't Ramadan without chbekia....so I'm fixing that today!
Monday 29th of July 2013
How did they turn out ??