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.
- 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.