A while ago, I spotted some moulds of different shapes in Essaouira and when asked, the shop keeper said it was for Fekkas d’lihoud. Now fekkas is a form of Moroccan biscotti and lihoud refers to Jews.
Being in Essaouira, I thought it was the place to look for more information about Sephardic cooking. I got busy and forgot about it.
Finding the baking pans
These thin biscuits as well as their famous baking pans have become a thing in Casablanca for last 5 years and come with different nuts and seed mix in bakeries.
It can also be made to order by the many women who cater from home. My brother brought us some a few years ago and recently my sister brought me an adapted version with chocolate and coffee! the latter was to die for!
So in my last trip, I decided to get hold of some of this iconic baking pans which can also be used to make brioches and thin cake loaves of different shapes: stars, triangles, flowers, rectangular..
In Morocco, these moulds cost next to nothing, unlike the birkmann brand that seem quite expensive considering that you need at least 3 of these even when you halve the recipe..But it’s out there, available via Amazon. Having lived in Germany and bought things from this brand, I know how good it is!
It’s also worth to get those thin bread pans because you can make all sorts of breads and bakes and cut them later on for canapes etc..
I understood the logic of the recipe then completely changed the additions: I made a less sweeter and also savoury one with anchovies. I substituted white sugar with coconut sugar in the recipe below. I added cranberries and dried strawberries.
The dough needs to be sticky and just slightly runny so do not go and add more flour. It has to flow in the moulds while it’s baking and take their shape.
What I’m posting today is a completely adapted version. As I mention in the list of ingredients, feel free to replace the seeds, nuts and dried fruits but make sure things go in harmony with each other and most of all make sure you stick to a minimum of sticky and sweet dried fruits as it might become excessively sweet.
Regarding the nuts, seeds and fruit mix, you can use a pre-mixed pack but just weight the total of each group to get closer to the one I’m giving down below.
Serves 30-40 people
Prep: 30 min – resting: min 8 hrs – baking: 30 to 35 min (in two times)
Basic ingredients for the dough
- 6 eggs. medium to large
- 400 g of all purpose flour ( I mixed 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 white flour)
- 200 g of sugar (I use half light brown and half white caster sugar, initial recipes call for 300g caster sugar!)
- 7 g baking powder
- A good pinch of salt
Nuts, seeds and dried fruits (open to options and substitutes)
- 150 g of almonds with skin on or slivered (whole almonds will need pre-soaking for a few minutes then pat-dried and roughly chopped)
- 150g whole hazelnuts,
- 150g whole cashew nuts,
- 100g pistachio
- 100g of dried apricots, raisins, goji berries or anything you have around (unsweetened)
- 4 tbsps of mixed seeds (or just unhulled sesame seeds)
- 2-3 tbsps of unsweetened dessicated coconut
- 1 tablespoon of lemon zest or
- 2 tbps of chopped candied orange or clementine peels
- or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
Preheat your oven at 160 degrees C. Grease the pans/tins/moulds with oil and dust them with flour. Discard excess flour.
Beat eggs with sugar and salt until foamy. Put the egg beater or whisk on the side and get a spatula.
Fold in the flavouring, dry fruits, seeds and nuts. Mix.
Sift the flour with baking powder and fold it in. Mix with the spatula or with your hands (I do).
Butter and flour the molds and pour the mixture to 2/3rds of it. They will rise.
Bake until golden and springy (about 20 min in my oven).
Remove from pan and cover tightly with a couple of kitchen towels. Once cool, place in the refrigerator between 8 and 24 hours (overnight will do).
Get a sharp knife and cut the fekkas 1 mm thin (I go to 2 mm and it’s still good but it should be 1 mm really!). This fekkas does not break if do things delicately and with concentration (and a good knife).
Cover a baking sheet with baking paper because the dried fruits might stick to it. Place the fekkas next to each other without leaving space as they won’t expand.
Bake for 10-15 min at 160 degrees. I prefer to bake them for 12 min and leave them in the hot oven (position OFF). Ideally they should not go very golden, they barely change colour and it will look to you as if it’s still soft but once cooled it will harden.
Once cooled, transfer fekkas to an airtight container and leave them in a dry place. It keeps for weeks.
Serve with hot or cold drinks.
- The ones I made were either with a mix of whole wheat and white flour or white brown and coconut sugar, which is why they look slightly golden to brown.
- I made them on the savoury side and dropped the sugar. I added herbs, anchovies, garlic and dried green onions. It was delicious with a dollop of cream cheese on top and some cucumber.