Chebakia are made from a pareve dough that is shaped like a flower then fried, submerged in a warm honey-based syrup and, finally, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.You might not expect it, but these cookies register as not too sweet. And, thanks to their bath in oil and their perfect pairing with a cup of coffee, they are somewhat reminiscent of a doughnut. Learn more about foods traditionally served for the Purim festival in Jewish communities around the world in our post “Purim Foods from Around the World.”
Makes 3 dozen cookies
Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Set on the countertop next to your stovetop.
Toast the sesame seeds: Toss sesame seeds into a skillet over high heat and cook until they turn golden and emit a nutty aroma, a couple of minutes. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the oil, roughly 80 percent of the water, vinegar, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and mix to form a rough dough.
Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead until it just comes together. Add the rest of the water little by little as needed and continue to knead until the dough becomes soft and pliant. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, and set aside.
Heat the oil: In a five-to-six-quart pot or large wok, heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When you wait for the oil heat up, make the honey syrup. In a small pot, combine the honey and water. Bring to a light boil, then turn off the heat and add the orange blossom water. Stir to combine. Place the pot with the syrup next to the pot with your frying oil, so you can easily submerge your cookies in the syrup after they are fried.
Form and fry the chebakia: Cut the dough into four equal sections, and work with one section at a time, keeping the others wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Roll sections into rough 20-x-13-inch rectangles that are approximately 1/16-inch thick. Using a pizza wheel, trim the edges of the rectangle to achieve a cleaner shape. Still using the pizza wheel, cut each rectangle into six smaller, even rectangles.
Working with one rectangle at a time, gently slice each into five strands with the pizza wheel, but make sure to leave a 1/4-inch uncut border on both ends of the rectangle.
Cross the two middle strands, then cross the next two inner strands behind the first two strands, and do the same with the third set of strands. Turn the ends under to form a rose shape. Place on your work surface and continue to form a few more roses, to be fried together in one batch.
When you’re ready to fry, place the formed chebakia on a metal spatula or spider and gently lower down into the hot oil. Hold the utensil in the pot briefly, then remove it leaving just the chebakia in the oil. Fry two to three minutes on each side until deeply golden.
Once the chebakia have achieved the desired color, remove them from the oil, one at a time, and immediately lower into the warm honey syrup. Turn each cookie to coat, then immediately transfer to the prepared baking tray. Brush with a little more syrup, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and let cool.
Continue forming and frying more chebakia, then re-roll any scraps and repeat the process.
Let the chebakia cool completely before serving. Cookies will last up to one week wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator.
A note about frying: Once anything is added to hot oil, the temperature of the oil will drop. Therefore, between each new batch of chebakia, you will want to bring your frying oil back up to 350 degrees before starting. This takes patience but will make your frying even and consistent from batch to batch.
This recipe originally appeared in Hadassah Magazine.