Algeria: Griouech

Griouech, also called chebakia is a North African pastry which may be presented in various shapes and is coated with honey and sesame seeds. #algeria #morocco #196flavors

Algeria

griwech chebakia

This month, we stopped in Algeria to celebrate the upcoming Independence Day which falls on July 5th and this feature was perfectly timed this year, as Ramadan started on June 5th and will end on July 5th!

Throughout the month, we shared recipes that are not only traditional recipes from Algeria, but most of which are also recipes often prepared during the month of Ramadan like chorba or makroud.

The recipe that I am making today is another example of recipe that is not just popular in Algeria but also in Morocco. It is often prepared during the month of fasting.

These North African pastries are called grioueche, griwesh, griwech or griwchat (كريوش) in Algeria and East Morocco (Oujda). They are especially popular in the west of Algeria in Tlemcen and Oran.

In Morocco, these pastries are mostly known under the name of chebakia or chebakiya (الشباكية). In Fez, and in some other cities such as Rabat and Salé, they are also called mkhar9a, mkherka, mkharqua or mkharka (المخرقة).

In Agadir, in the southwest of Morocco, you will find another version called bouchnikha (بوشنيخة), chebakiya khyout or 5yout (الشباكية خيوط). These bouchnikha that are prepared with fewer ingredients and shaped with a pasta maker (fettucini accessory) are a bit harder than the traditional chebakia which are fairly soft in texture. The name bouchnikha comes from a traditional toothpick used in Morocco.

As many North African pastries such as makroud or zlabia, griwech is a pastry that needs to be deep fried before being covered with honey. If you’re on a diet, I confirm that griouech may not be the most appropriate recipe for you!

griwech chebakia

To make griouech, you will need a special utensil which can take many forms. Either a cookie cutter to cut dough squares, a fluted pastry wheel, or a special pastry wheel with 5-6 wheels like the one I used. I actually bought this pastry roller cutter in a Moroccan bazaar last month when I was visiting the French capital. I couldn’t wait to use my new toy ever since!

The basic form of griouech is a square with inner slits (generally 4 to 6). Starting with these squares, you can shape several types of grioueche or chebakia for quite different visual results. The most traditional form for grioueche is the one I chose to make and which more or less resembles an elongated braid. Traditional chebakia, meanwhile, is more like a flower and particularly a rose. Actually, the rose symbolizes “respect and love” during Ramadan.

You can also let your imagination run wild and create other shapes! There is event another version of this pastry called chabakiya blighat or bligha (الشباكية بليغات) whose shape is the traditional babouche slipper!

Another variant of chebakia is called halwa mja3ba (الحلوة المجعبة). This popular version is curiously only prepared by men. The dough is generally set aside for more than 20 hours, which allows it to triple in volume. The dough is then pushed through a thin funnel before being fried. The result is rather similar to jilapi (zlabia).

But the main differences between mainly Algerian griouech and mainly Moroccan chebakia beside the shapes? Well, although there will surely be exceptions in some families or regions, it appears that the chebakia includes some ingredients that are not often found in traditional griouech recipes, including spices such as cinnamon, aniseed or saffron, or baker’s yeast instead of baking powder, mastic gum, as well as ground sesame seeds which are incorporated into the dough.

Saffron is used for taste but also to give some color to these pastries. When I was preparing the griouech, Vera even shared with me her tip to use carrot peelings in the cooking oil! Except I did not have any carrots in my kitchen.

North African and Middle Eastern pastries are often drenched in a syrup commonly called honey, but that is generally nothing more than simple syrup, often flavored with orange blossom water, lemon or orange zest. For griwech, real honey is actually used! It is combined with orange blossom water before being heated to liquefy.

I brought my griouech at my friend Myriam last weekend and we savored them while the kids were splashing in the pool. And the kids didn’t say no to a small snack as they came out of the water. Yes, swimming makes you hungry!

This recipe is validated by our Algerian culinary expert Assia Benabbes, author of culinary blog Gourmandise Assia (in French).

griwech chebakia

Recipe of Griwech

Ingredients

    4 cups flour
    10 tablespoons butter (or margarine), melted
    1 egg, beaten
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar
    1 tablespoon orange blossom water
    1 pinch of salt
    1/2 cup water (more or less)
    For the icing
    1 cup honey
    1 tablespoon orange blossom water
    For the topping
    1/4 cup sesame seeds

Preparation

In the bowl of a food mixer, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and mix for 1 minute.

Pour melted butter and beat for a few minutes until incorporated.

Add the vinegar, orange blossom water, and beaten egg. Beat for 2 minutes to mix well while adding water to obtain a smooth dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Form 3 to 4 balls. Spread each ball with a roller pin to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. It is also possible to use a pasta roller.

Cut small squares using a pastry wheel and make 4-5 incisions inside these rectangles. Alternatively, make the square cuts with the special mold or with the special griouech or chebakia pastry roller.

Place a square in the left hand, then insert the pointing finger of the right hand between the odd strips (one strap in front, one strap behind, etc).

Take the lower left corner and insert it inside the strips by picking it with your right thumb and pointing finger. Take the top right corner with the left hand and spread both hands outward to form a sort of elongated braid.

Repeat the same operation with each ball of dough until there is no more dough.

After all the griouech are formed, deep fry them over medium heat for about 1 minute. Turn them over halfway so both sides turn golden. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towel.

Pour honey and orange blossom water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat for a few minutes to liquefy the mixture.

Dip each griouech in melted honey and place in a large dish. Sprinkle both sides of each pastry with lightly roasted sesame seeds.