How to Make Chebakia - Mkharka (Moroccan Sesame and Honey Cookies)

  • 01 of 09

    Halwa Chebakia (Mkharka)

    Moroccan Chebakia (Mkharka). Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Halwa Chebakia – or simply chebakia – is a Moroccan sesame cookie made by folding dough into a flower shape, frying it and then dipping it in hot honey flavored with orange flower water. The cookie is also known as mkharka.

    Chebakia is particularly popular in Ramadan, when many Moroccans like to eat it alongside Harira. It's also served for special occasions.

    Chebakia can be time-consuming to make, and a bit tricky if you're unfamiliar with how to fold the dough into the flower shape. The following photos show the traditional preparation following this Chebakia Recipe.

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  • 02 of 09

    Make the Chebakia Dough

    Make the dough, divide it and leave it to rest. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    See the Chebakia Recipe for the full list of ingredients.

    The recipe calls for a large amount of golden unhulled sesame seeds. Ahead of time, pick through them to remove dirt and debris, and then toast them in a 400° F (200° C) for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow them to cool before proceeding with making the dough.

    To make the dough, grind a bowlful of the toasted sesame seeds until they're powdery and moist. Blend them with the dry ingredients, then add the remaining wet ingredients and mix with your hands to form a dough. You want the dough to be firmer than bread dough but pliable. (A good example might be the texture and firmness of Play Dough.) Add more flour if necessary to achieve this.

    The dough then needs to be kneaded by hand for seven or eight minutes, or in a mixer with a dough hook for four or five minutes. In the photo above, we mixed the dough by hand in the bowl of our stand mixer and then used the mixer to knead the dough.

    Divide the dough into four portions, shape each into a smooth mound, and place the dough in a plastic bag to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

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  • 03 of 09

    Roll Out and Cut the Chebakia Dough

    Roll Out and Cut the Dough Into Rectangles. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Take one of the portions of dough, and roll it out to the thickness of a thin piece of cardboard. Lightly flour your work surface if necessary.

    Use a pastry cutter to cut the dough into rectangles approximately the size of your palm. Make four evenly spaced cuts lengthwise in each rectangle. These cuts should be almost the length of the rectangle, but should not cut through to the edges of the dough. The resulting rectangles will each have five strips of attached dough.

    Gather up the scraps of dough, mold them together, and return them to the plastic bag to rest.

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  • 04 of 09

    Folding Chebakia - First Thread the Dough on Your Finger

    Thread the Dough Onto Your Finger and Pinch the Corners. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Take a rectangle, and thread the middle finger of your right hand through alternating strips of dough. In the first photo, you can see that the rectangle is draped over the finger, hanging by the first, third and fifth strips of dough.

    With your left hand, pinch together the outer corners of dough which hang near the tip of your finger. This will form the center of the flower shape.

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  • 05 of 09

    Folding Chebakia - Turn the Dough Inside Out Around the Pinched Corners

    Fold the Strips of Dough Down and Around the Pinched Corner. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Click the photo to see larger images.

    While holding the pinched corners with your left hand, allow the strips of dough to slide down off your right finger and gently turn them inside-out around the pinched portion. If done correctly, you'll have formed the dough into an elongated flower shape.

    If you want, you can lightly pinch the elongated ends to taper them.

    Place the folded piece of dough on a baking sheet or tray. Repeat the process with the remaining rectangles and mounds of dough.

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  • 06 of 09

    Heat the Oil and Honey

    Heat the Oil and the Honey. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Cover the trays of folded dough with a towel until ready to fry.

    Heat one inch of oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. At the same time, heat the honey almost to boiling in a large pot.

    When the honey is frothy but not bubbling, add orange flower water to the honey and turn off the heat.

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  • 07 of 09

    Fry the Chebakia in Batches

    Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    When the oil is hot, cook the chebakia in batches. Adjust the heat as necessary to slowly fry each batch of chebakia to a medium brown color. This should take about 10 minutes if the oil is the correct temperature. If the oil is too hot, the chebakia will color quickly but the insides will not be cooked crispy.

    When the chebakia are cooked to a medium golden brown, use a slotted spoon or strainer to transfer them from the oil directly to the hot honey.

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  • 08 of 09

    Soak the Chebakia in Honey

    Soak the Chebakia in Honey, Drain and Decorate with Sesame. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    When the first batch of cookies are all in the honey, gently push down on them to submerge them. Allow the chebakia to soak for 5 to 7 minutes. They'll turn a rich, glossy amber color as they absorb the honey. In the meantime, you can begin frying another batch of cookies.

    Note: The longer you soak the chebakia, the more honey they will absorb, and the sweeter and less crispy they become. How long to soak them is a matter of personal preference. However, too short of a soaking will result in pale-colored chebakia that eventually lose their glossy coating.

    Remove them from the honey to a strainer or colander, and allow them to drain for only a few minutes. Gently transfer the cookies while hot to a large platter or tray, and sprinkle the centers with sesame.

    As you finish soaking other batches of chebakia in the honey, simply drain and add them to the platter in a mound, garnishing each batch with sesame.

    Note: If the honey cools and thickens before you've finished making all the cookies, simply reheat it briefly over medium-low heat. This can be done even if some chebakia are in the pot soaking.

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  • 09 of 09

    Store the Chebakia

    Freshly Made Chebakia Cooling on a Platter. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    This photo shows a full batch of the Chebakia Recipe cooling on a large serving platter. The batch of cookies weighed about 2 kg, or close to 4 1/2 lbs.

    Allow the chebakia to cool for several hours before putting them in an airtight container for storage. They'll keep at room temperature for a month or longer, and will freeze well for four or five months.

    Serve chebakia with harira, at iftar for Ramadan, or with tea or coffee.