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How to make kahk: Egyptian Eid cookies with three different fillings

These powdered gems will bring you back to your favourite childhood memories of home
Kahk has different variations across the Middle East but in Egypt it is a staple treat for Eid al-Fitr (@middleeatsyt/Instagram)

Kahk is a traditional biscuit served in Egypt during Eid al-Fitr. They are soft and lightly spiced, with traditional fillings of dates, honey, and even Turkish delight. This recipe will make kahk that melts in your mouth, and with three different fillings, you won't be able to stop eating them. We'll be making them with the traditional agwa and agameya fillings, which are spiced dates, honey, and walnuts. And we'll also be making a caramelized pecan filling in addition to some plain ones.

Eid has always been a joyous time for me, but it was never better than the special Eid holidays as a child when I would visit my grandmother. She would stuff me full of delicious food and desserts. My grandmother always served a whole spread of various treats, but the one I would be most excited about during Eid was kahk. I would sit at the table with a cup of milk tea and eat cookie after cookie until my clothes were covered in powdered sugar. When I got married, it naturally became a tradition to bake kahk with my wife and then give the cookies away to friends and family. 

To me, the greatest gift someone can give is food that takes a person back to a nostalgic moment and place in time. That's exactly what this recipe does, it transports me back to my childhood and spending Eid with my grandmother. I hope this recipe brings you some joy.

To make good kahk, you need to have good samna, also known as ghee. I'll show you how to make it from butter. It's really easy to do and it's the main ingredient in kahk, so it's worth doing. There is a step-by-step video of this recipe to help at the end of the article.

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Egyptian Kahk
You can fill your kahk with any filling you prefer or some even love it plain (@middleeatsyt)

Makes: 48-50 cookies

Preparation and cooking time: 2 hours (+ overnight for the ghee)

1. Ingredients:

To make the ghee (makes roughly 400g)

  • 500g high-quality butter
  • (You can also buy ghee ready-made from the supermarket, but this will have an impact on the taste)

Kahk seasoning

  • 1 tbsp mahlab powder (You can find this in most Arab or Turkish supermarkets)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground Chinese tailed pepper (cubeb pepper)

Kahk dough makes roughly 48 - 50 cookies

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 300g cold ghee
  • 50g powdered (icing) sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tbsp kahk seasoning
  • 90g whole milk
  • 1.5 tbsp Sesame

Agameya (honey walnut) filling

  • 40g ghee
  • 20g flour
  • 180g honey
  • 1 tbsp sesame
  • 100g walnuts

Agwa (date) filling - makes roughly 24 fillings

  • 120g pitted dates
  • 15g butter
  • 1 tbsp water (optional)
  • 1/2 Tsp cinnamon

Mokasarat (nut) filling - makes roughly 30-40 fillings

  • 110g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 250g Pecans

2. Method:

How to make the ghee:

  1. Place your butter in a heavy pot on the stovetop and turn the heat up to high. Use a large pot as the butter will foam up and double in size.
  2. Let your butter melt completely, it will foam up and after boiling a few minutes, the foam will disappear completely.
  3. Once the foam is gone, turn the heat down to medium-low and leave it to simmer. The milk in the butter will slowly start to evaporate when the fat turns fully translucent and you can see through to the bottom of the pot. Check for milk solids. These are clumps of cooked milk remains.
  4. Once the milk solids start to brown, you can remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Let it cool for 15 minutes and clean (preferably sterilise) a container to pour it into.
  6. Fold some cheesecloth into a double layer and place it in a funnel over the top of the container. You can tape the cheesecloth to the outside of the funnel so it doesn't move. If you don't have any cheesecloth, use a strainer instead.
  7. Slowly pour your melted ghee into the container. Your cheesecloth should capture any stray milk solids, but be careful and tilt the pot slowly so that you don't cause the milk solids to float and pour out.
  8. Leave the ghee to cool overnight, then it's ready to scoop out and use.
Making Samna Ghee
Making ghee from scratch gives the cookies an authentic taste and can be done in a few short steps (@Middleeatsyt)

How to make the kahk seasoning:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. If you are missing any spices, just leave them out and feel free to make substitutions with your favourite dessert seasonings.

How to make the kahk dough:

  1. Start off by toasting your sesame seeds in a small pot over low heat. You want to toss them every 15-30 seconds until they go from pale white to a light golden colour. Don't let them get dark as the flavour can get really overwhelming if they darken.
  2. Put your flour, baking powder, salt, kahk seasoning and toasted sesame seeds in a bowl and mix them together until well combined.
  3. Place the ghee and powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat them together on high speed for a few minutes. They will cream together and at first form a paste, but will then start incorporating air and will turn fluffy.
  4. Beat until the mixture is pale yellow and the ghee has almost doubled in size, then add all of your flour mixture.
  5. Switch to the normal beater attachment and mix the two together on medium speed until the flour is crumbly and resembles wet sand.
  6. Add your milk to the mixture and mix it in until well incorporated
  7. Test if your dough needs a few more minutes of mixing by grabbing a ball of the dough in your hand and then pressing an indentation into it. If the indentation remains and the dough around it does not crack, then the dough is ready.
  8. Leave it to rest for half an hour.

 Agameya (honey walnut) filling - makes roughly 24 fillings:

  1. Start off by toasting your sesame seeds in a small pot over a low heat. You want to toss them every 15-30 seconds till they go from pale white to a light golden colour. Don't let them get dark as the flavour can get really overwhelming if they darken
  2. Add your ghee to a small pot on medium heat and let it melt
  3. Mix in your flour to the melted ghee and cook for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add in the 180g of honey and stir to combine with the flour and ghee. Let it come to a boil and then remove from the heat.
  5. Chop 100g of walnuts into small pieces and add them along with the toasted sesame seeds to the cooked honey
  6. Mix thoroughly until well combined then place in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes

Agwa (date) filling:

  1. Pit dates and chop into small cubes until you are left with 120g of date cubes. I use Medjool dates but you can use any type for this.
  2. Melt your butter in a small pot on low heat, then add the chopped dates to it. If your dates were a dry variety, add 1 tbsp water to the pot as well.
  3. Leave the dates to soften in the pot and then add your cinnamon.
  4. Mix it all together and cook it until a soft paste forms.
  5. Once ready, place it  in a bowl.

Mokasarat (nut) filling - makes roughly 30-40 fillings:

  1. Add 110g of soft brown sugar and 2 tbsp of water to a pot on medium heat and cook them together until the sugar dissolves and it comes to a boil.
  2. Chop 250g of pecans or your favourite nuts into small pieces and add to the caramel that has formed in the pot.
  3. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
  4. Pour out onto a non-stick paper-lined baking sheet and spread it into a thin layer.
  5. Once the caramel has dried and solidified, you can remove it from the sheet and place it all in a bowl.
Kahk dough
Use the palm of your hands to roll the dough into smooth round balls (@middleeatsyt)

To assemble your Kahk:

  1. Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to portion out your dough into 20g balls. Weigh them at first until you get the approximate size, then portion out the rest of the dough into similar sized balls.
  2. Roll each ball in the palm of your hands until a soft and smooth ball forms, do this for all the dough.
  3. Use a melon baller or small teaspoon to scoop your Agwa and Agameya fillings into portions, half the size of your dough balls.
  4. Roll them into balls and set them aside in the fridge to cool for half an hour so they are easier to work with.
  5. To stuff the kahk:
    1. Place a ball of dough in your hand and make an indentation in the center of it with your thumb.
    2. Place a filling in the centre, or scoop 1/2 a teaspoon of the nut mixture in.
    3. Fold the remaining dough around the filling or over the nuts until they are completely sealed in the dough.
    4. Roll the dough into a ball once again in the palm of your hands.
  6. Use some kitchen utensils or stamps to decorate your different flavours nicely.
Kahk filling
Mark the outside of each piece depending on the filling so you can tell the difference (@middleeatsyt)

 Before baking your kahk run a quick test:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 160°C/320°F with the fan on. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place a single plain (no filling) kahk on the centre of the tray and bake it for 16 minutes.
  3. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 2-3 minutes then move it to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  4. It should be pale gold all over, and the bottom of the kahk should have browned to a medium brown colour. Cut it in half and the biscuit should be cooked through fully. If it is undercooked or the dough looks a bit wet in the centre, you'll need to add 2 more minutes to the cooking time. If the kahk is cooked perfectly, then keep the time the same. We'll refer to this as the baking time.
Sugaring Kahk
Finish off your khak by dusting a thin layer of icing over it, and serve (@Middleeatsyt)

Baking your kahk:

  1. Evenly space 12-16 kahk on your tray, with a gap between them as they will spread slightly. I recommend cooking the different flavoured ones separately.
  2. Bake your plain or nut-filled kahk for the same time as the baking time you determined in your test above. Bake your filled kahk for 2 minutes less than the baking time above.
  3. Remove them from the oven when browned on the bottom and leave to cool 15 minutes.
  4. Place some powdered sugar in a sieve and generously dust the kahk.

You can follow the step-by-step video here:

Plate your finished kahk up nicely and serve it alongside a glass of delicious Shay Bel Laban (milk tea)

You can follow Middle Eats on their YouTube channel and Instagram page @middleeatsyt 

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