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1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground anise
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of mastic gum (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon dry yeast + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon orange blossom water
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup warm water
Vegetable oil for frying
Honey mixed with a little orange blossom water
Toasted sesame seeds for decoration
Preparing the Ingredients:
1- First, pour ½ cup of raw sesame seeds in a flat pan. Toast the sesame seeds on medium heat for around 5 minutes, while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Taste the sesame seeds to check if they are ready, they should lose their raw taste and gain a warm roasted taste instead. Using a food mixer, grind the toasted sesame seeds until you get a fine powder.
2- In a small bowl, mix 1/ 2 tablespoon of orange blossom water with a pinch of saffron threads. Let it sit for a few minutes before using it.
3- In another small bowl, activate ½ tablespoon of dry yeast by mixing it with ½ teaspoon of sugar and a little bit of warm water. Let it sit for a few minutes before using it.
Making the Dough:
1- Now, we are going to mix all the dry ingredients together. In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of all purpose flour, the ground sesame seeds, ½ teaspoon of ground anise and ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a pinch of mastic gum that you crush with a bit of sugar to get a powder (if you dont have mastic gum you can just omit it), and finally ½ teaspoon of baking powder mixed with a pinch of salt. Using your hand, mix all the dry ingredients together.
2- Add a mixture of 1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil , 1 ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Continue mixing until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
3- Now add ½ teaspoon of white vinegar, the orange blossom water with the saffron, the yeast, and 1 egg yolk. Add ½ cup of warm water, little by little, while mixing all the ingredients with your hand, until you can make a dough ball. The dough should not be wet or sticky, thats why you should add the water little by little and not at once.
4- Place the dough on your kitchen counter, and knead it with quick and energetic movements using the palms of your hands. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it becomes soft and elastic.
Kneading and Shaping the Cookies:
1- Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 6 equal portions. Take each portion and roll it into a thin layer using a rolling pin, but not too thin.
2- Here my grandmother is using a Chebakia mold to cut the dough, but no worries, well show you how to shape it without the mold. Using the mold, cut the dough into squares with 5 columns. To shape the chabakia, first take columns 1, 3, and 5 using the middle finger of your right hand. Then using your left hand, flip columns 2 and 4, with the other columns, inside out, and you will get a flower shape. Place the flower on the counter and pinch its outer corners.
3- If you dont have a mold, you can use a pastry cutter to cut even squares. In each square, make 4 evenly lengthwise cuts. The squares are approximately the size of your palm. Again shape the chebakia the same way as with the mold.
4- Now, if you find it difficult to shape these cookies, just cut even strips and twist them!
Frying the Cookies:
1- Place the cookies in a pan, and let them rest while heating the frying oil.
2- To fry the chebakia, you will need two things. First, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan until hot. At the same time, in a saucepan heat some honey mixed with a little bit of orange blossom water. The honey should reach a boiling point after that, reduce the heat to medium to keep it hot.
3- Start frying the chebakia in the oil remember the oil has to be hot. The chebakia is done when it gets a beautiful golden brown color in all sides. When done, immediately remove the chebakia from the frying oil and dip it in the hot honey. Once totally soaked in honey, remove the chebakia from the honey and place it in a sieve to drain. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
4- Let the chebakia cool down for several hours before serving. You can store chebakia in an airtight container for up to one month if you keep it at room temperature or 4 months if you freeze it!
Its crunchy, its soft, its sweet its just perfect!