Krachel — also called el gors — are brioche-like Moroccan sweet rolls traditionally flavored with anise seeds, sesame seeds and orange flower water. They’re a popular offering at breakfast or tea time, where you’ll find them served plain or alongside butter, jam, cheese, chocolate and other spreads.
Although we can buy krachel at almost any Moroccan bakery, they’re not always up to standard so we usually make them at home. You do need to plan ahead a bit since several risings are necessary for best texture, but overall they’re not a lot of work and your family will thank you.
Not everyone likes the bite or flavor of anise seeds, so feel free to omit them. If you want the characteristic flavor without the actual seeds, use some ground anise instead. Both anise seeds and sesame seeds are normally incorporated into the dough, but you can simply garnish the rolls with sesame if that’s your preference.
You can make krachel by adapting your favorite sweet dough or brioche recipe to include the seeds and orange flower water, or follow my version below. Butter gives the best flavor, but sometimes I substitute shortening as it will yield a lighter, fluffier texture.
The rolls freeze beautifully, so I usually double the recipe so that extras are on hand. Even so, they always disappear quickly.
Please remember to allow time for the dough to rise before and after shaping.
These brioche-like Moroccan sweet rolls are light, fluffy and rich with flavor from anise seeds, sesame seeds and orange flower water.
Start making krachel well in advance of serving as the dough must rise twice for best texture.
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds OR
- 1 tbsp coarse granulated sugar
Dissolve the yeast in a few tablespoons of warm (not hot) water and set aside to proof for 5 to 10 minutes while you start to make the dough.
Measure the flour, sugar, salt, sesame seeds and anise seeds into a large bowl and stir to combine.
Add the proofed yeast to the bowl along with the eggs, butter, milk and orange flower water. Stir to form a very sticky dough. If necessary, add a little milk or flour to get this consistency.
Knead the dough with a stand mixer or by hand until smooth. It should still be quite sticky, but it will be easier to work with once it has risen.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and a then a towel, and leave to rise 1 to 2 hours, until very puffy and doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough, turn it over, and leave to rise for another 45 minutes to an hour.
Oil a large baking sheet (or line it with parchment paper). Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape each into a smooth ball. Arrange the balls of dough on the baking sheet and leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Flatten each ball of dough by patting them down into a disc-shape. Cover with a towel and leave to rise for an hour or longer, until puffy and light.
Preheat your oven to 450° F (230° C).
Make an egg wash by combining the egg and tablespoon of milk. Brush each roll with the egg wash then garnish with sesame seeds and/or coarse sugar.
Bake the rolls in the preheated oven until deep golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Midway through baking, rotate your pan(s) front to back (and top to bottom if baking two sheets at a time) for even browning.
Transfer the krachel to a rack to cool completely before storing or freezing.
- Golden, unhulled sesame seeds are preferred in Morocco over white unhulled seeds. The rolls shown in the photo were garnished with the unhulled sesame.
- Orange flower water adds lovely traditional flavor. Please select 100 percent pure orange blossom water and avoid artificially flavored varieties.
- Instead of proofing the yeast, you can add yeast directly to the dry ingredients and then pour the warm milk on top. This method is fine if you bake frequently with yeast and feel assured that the yeast you have on hand is fresh and active. However, if you rarely bake with yeast or are worried that your yeast may have expired, then proofing it is an important step so that you can be assured that the yeast is active.
- In either case, be sure that your milk or water is warm but not hot. Hot liquids will kill yeast while cool liquids won't activate it.
- As with all sweet doughs, try to keep the dough as sticky as possible while kneading as this will yield a lighter-textured roll.
- Allow ample rising time for sweet doughs like this one, particularly if your kitchen is cold. If time becomes an issue, you can eliminate the second rising of the dough with a slight compromise in texture.
- Krachel keep well at room temperature only for a day. Store extras in plastic storage bags in the freezer. They and other sweet rolls can be warmed in the microwave directly from the freezer; just avoid overheating or the rolls will dry out.
- If reheating krachel in an oven, wrap the rolls in foil to keep them from becoming hard and dry.
- Although not traditional, using Crisco shortening in place of the butter will yield a very light, fluffy roll. Coconut oil might also work but I haven't tried it. Do not, however, use margarine-like Moroccan versions of shortening.
- If you try to avoid using refined white flours, you can substitute a little whole wheat flour and/or durum flour for some of the white. You may need to adjust liquids so that the dough has the correct sticky texture.