Fekkas is a type of twice-baked Moroccan biscuit. It can be made from either a shortbread dough or from or enriched bread dough, and it’s cut in different sizes depending on the recipe.
The name seems to refer to how demanding those little nibbles were to make. It was such a painfully tedious process, especially the cutting part, that they got called “fekkas” from the Arabic word f’qaiss (something heartbreaking or nerve-racking). Imagine women having to make big batches of dough, shape them into rods or long sausages (between 0.04″/ 5 mm to 1.5″/ 4 cm, depending on the recipe), send them to a communal oven, get the trays back, cut the rods in tiny pieces and send back for a second baking time.
In the last 50 years or so, more people have acquired a home oven and families have shrunk in size, so we tend to bake smaller quantities. We also make more varieties, including small savory ones which are only baked once.
Moroccan petite fekkas with chermoula is one of the savory types, but it gets baked twice. It can be found for sale in small plastic bags in many souks and bakeries in Casablanca (and other cities, too). We serve it during afternoon tea or as part of a medley of nibbles at special events or weddings. For the latter, we might find them arranged next to centerpieces on each table, and guests who show up early will munch on them while awaiting the rest of the guests to arrive.
Savory fekkas tend to taste best a day or two after making them, after the flavors have had time to come together. So do try to resist the urge of finishing them earlier.
Moroccan Petite Fekkas with Chermoula - Fkikssate b'Chermoula
Adjust the heat or the spiciness to your liking. I often add paprika and thyme. Make a big batch as they tend to disappear quickly.
- 9 oz all purpose flour, sifted
- 2.2 oz butter, melted and cooled
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp harissa paste
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1.2 oz cream cheese
- 3 tbsp chermoula paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp instant dried yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 to 2 oz water, lukewarm, depending on the consistency of chermoula used and flour absorption.
For rolling and shaping
- 2 oz all purpose flour
- You can use a food processor or mix the ingredients by hand.
- Mix all liquid ingredients except the water. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Then add as much water as needed to make the dough. How much depends on the absorption of the flour. You need to form a smooth and non sticky dough.
- Divide the dough into 4 smaller dough balls.
- Preheat the oven at 338° F (170° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Shape rods of dough anywhere between 0.2"/5 mm and 0.4"/1 cm thick and long enough to fit on your baking sheet. It's okay if you make them shorter too.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until the rods start moving easily from the baking sheet if you push them with your finger. Also, the dough tends to become paler and springy to the touch. Ideally, place your tray on the middle rack. However, you can bake two trays at the same time if your oven can accommodate them. You may need to rotate the trays to ensure even baking.
- Once the dough rods are baked, remove them from the oven and immediately cover with a couple of kitchen towels. This prevents them from drying out and traps the steam, making them easy to cut later on. Set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
- Use a sharp flat and uniform knife (avoid a serrated knife as will cause more breakage) to slice the rods diagonally into petite fekkas about 0.3" thick. It works best to hold 2 rods parallel to each other and cut. It goes faster and limits the breakage.
- Delicately transfer all these fekkas to a single layer on a baking sheet (no greasing or baking paper needed this time). You do not need to leave space between fekkas as they won't expand or stick. Bake at 325° F (160° C) degrees for 12-15 minutes or until they turn nicely golden.
- Once I see the middle of each fekkas looking nearly baked, I turn off the oven and leave them inside for a few more minutes. This works well when baking a big batch and you are worried some of them might get over-baked.
- Once completely cooled, store in airtight containers or in plastic bags for 3 to 5 weeks. They can also be frozen.
- Eat them.
- Use them to thicken sauces or as a crumble topping for fish, vegetables and salads.