Friday, May 24, 2013

Kak: a cookie with barakah

Disclaimer: the directions below are useless...
The Bentounes family lives in what is considered by thousands a sacred place. It is the mother zawiyya to the Alawiyya tariqat. Both the group and the place have continued to grow in number and in square meters since the sheikh Alawi founded both the early 1900s. Almost 100 family members live in various apartments in the house now and hundreds more come regularly for religious ceremonies or on pilgrimage to the burial place of the 3 generations of sheikhs. As this is the subject of my masters thesis, which I am currently doing my best to avoid, lets skip to the food.  
Tasks are shared in the community, especially the most important ones. Making Kak, for example. Think of a british cookie: sweet but crunchy and best with tea. We made hundreds. They made hundreds, I should say. Everyone giggled and said I must be tired and should go... and eventually I went... and they were still at it when I came back hours later.

Ingredients for infinite Kak
(do not, under any circumstances, try to make a full recipe!)
2 kilos flour
4 eggs
500g sugar (2 1/3 c)
1/2 liter vegetable oil
6 tsp baking powder
1-2 cups sesame seeds
l'eau de fleur

In a blender the size of your little sister, mix the flour, sugar, sesame seeds and baking soda.

With the blender going, add one egg at a time, then the oil progressively till it looks a bit like sand, working it all the while as needed to keep it even.

Slowly add the flour water (its a north african ingredient that tastes like the drop of juice you pull out of honeysuckles as a child) until the dough just sticks together in a big ball. It should be a fairly heavy dough, slightly sticky but firm and not stretchy.

Let the dough sit for about 10 minutes, then start breaking into chunks about the size of said little sister's fist.

It seems the key to Kek is this mysterious machine through which the women forced the dough, but hats off to whoever figures that one out because they immediately rolled it back out into a rope.

There is a perfect ratio of length to thickness as you roll. I know because I was corrected many, many times. What is that ratio? I'm pretty sure it is part of the mystical secret that one only receives upon initiation into the tariqat. Something like "here is the prayer you should recite 100 times every morning to get closer to god, and the perfect ratio for kak is 2:13."

Once the dough is rolled back into tubes, cut regularly around the edges, connect into a circle and place on oiled cookie sheets. Note: there is also a perfect distance for each cut. best of luck to you.

Bake. Can't tell you how hot or how long, but don't let them brown or generally overcook, they will get too dry. I would guess 175C for 12 minutes. Do a few batches and find your right ratio.

Share with hundreds of friends and send them around the globe in suitcases destined for distant relatives. Thankfully, they keep fresh for weeks on end. Its probably the Barakah.

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