Sunday, 26 July 2015

Moroccan fekkas (biscuits) with chermoula paste

The aniseed version of these spicy fekkas was part of my morning breakfast during my childhood as it used to be the Moroccan "cereal" to dunk in milk. 

The name fekkas is quite funny and expresses how demanding those little nibbles were. Imagine women having to make big batches of dough, turn them to rods (between 5 mm to 4 cm, depending on the recipe), then send to a public oven, get the tray back, cut the rods in tiny pieces and send back for a second baking time. It was such a painful process (especially the cutting part) that they got called "Fekkas", from f'qaiss (something heartbreaking, that brings pain to the heart or nerve-racking).



The only thing that changed in the last 50 years is that more people acquired a home/domestic oven and that families have shrank in size, so we get to bake less volumes..






This combination I'm posting today is again one one my favourites and it's actually one of the firsts we've seen in the market (along with the previous one) since they started making savoury fekkas in Casablanca. It also gets better in the next days..

We usually make these and place different sorts in the middle of tables during wedding ceremonies, along with roasted salted almonds, to keep the guests busy before the big ceremony starts..

The variety of fekkas I'm proposing today requires double baking. Rods of dough are baked for a short time then left to cool to be cut thin and small the next day and baked again (just like the old ways).


Part of my to-go lunch


IngredientsServes 10 persons 
Prep: 20 min - Chilling: 2 hrs or freezing: 1 hour - Baking: 12-15 min + 12 -15 min
  • 250 g of all purpose flour
  • 60 g of butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsbps of olive oil
  • 30 g of cream cheese ( Kirri, La vache qui rit or philadelphia)
  • 3 tbsps of chermoula paste (without lemon juice or preserved)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of harissa paste or chilli powder or flakes (optional, unless you have it already added to your chermoula paste)
  • 1/2 tsp of instant dried yeast
  • 3 g of baking powder
  • 20-40 ml of water (depending on the texture of your chermoula paste)

Today's chermoula fekkas is on the left, the one on the right is posted here

Preparation

Mix all ingredients except the water which you should add depending on the absorption of the dough. A food processor can be used to cover this step. Form a well combined dough ball and divide it into 4 smaller dough balls.


Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C. Cover a baking sheet with baking paper.

Shape rods of dough anywhere between 5 mm and 1 cm thick and long enough to fit in the baking sheet. It's ok if you make then shorter too.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the rods start moving easily from the baking sheet if you push them with your finger. Also, the dough tend to become paler. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack.


Cover with a couple of kitchen towels to all the dough rods so they don't dry. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.

Use a sharp flat and uniform knife (a serrated knife will only give you more breakage) to cut 2 to 3 mm thick fekkas (slightly incline the knife for a diagonal cut). Ideally, you line up 2 rods in parallel next to each other and cut. It goes faster and limit the breakage.

Delicately transfer all these fekkas into a baking sheet (no greasing or baking paper needed this time). Bake at 160 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until they turn nicely golden. Pick up those which are browning faster. 

Once I see the inside of each fekkas paler and looking baked. I turn off the oven and leave them there for a few minutes. This is in case you bake a big batch and you are worried some of it might get over-baked.

Once completely cooled, store in an airtight containers or in plastic bags for 3 to 5 weeks.




Notes 

1 / To make make a quick chermoula, you need coriander and parsley, cumin, paprika, salt and garlic. Add a bit of water and olive oil to allow these ingredients to turn to a paste while you blend them (you could use a pestle and mortar). See the full recipe here.

Chermoula is freezer-friendly and can stay in the fridge (covered with olive oil) for up to a week. Very handy for salads, fish, grills and bbqs.

2 / What to do with breakage:
-  Eat them
- Use them to thicken sauces, as crumble on top of fish and vegetables or salads

3 / You could use these fekkas instead of croutons over soups and salads. It really lifts up the recipe.



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