Kaak lebi hilw, or orange biscuits (Libya)

Libya is a large country in North Africa. Their cuisine mixes Arabian and Mediterranean influences similar to other North African cuisines, with some Italian twists. Like in some other African (and South American) countries that have been Italy’s colonies pasta dishes are popular. One of the most popular dishes is bazin, some kind of a barley porridge, but it didn’t sound terribly interesting to me.

This recipe was a bit confusing at first. It was titled “orange and cumin biscuits” yet the ingredients say “crushed fennel seeds (kammon kaak or sweet cumin)”. Some googling revealed that “sweet cumin” refers to either fennel or anise. I only had whole fennel seed and powdered anise, so I used the latter.

Also, I had been too lazy to make tahini (ever since the prices suddenly doubled in Finland, I’ve been making my own), so I used almond butter and a few drops of roasted sesame oil. It tastes almost identical. I added 1 tsp of orange zest (though it was frozen and might have lost its flavour) and a little vanilla which were not a part of the original recipe.

The cookie dough seemed very oily and I was worried it would be too greasy, but the final cookies turned just fine texture-wise. However, while the dough had a very interesting orange anise flavour with a hint of sesame, despite my addition of orange zest the final cookies only had very subtle flavour, making them quite ordinary sugar cookies. Not a dessert or treat, but something you have with tea. Using freshly pressed orange juice might have improved the flavour.

I’ve halved the recipe and it still makes plenty of cookies (20-30) as you can guess from the amount of flour. Note that there is more orange juice now that a part of it also stands in for the egg, together with the soy flour.

Kaak lebi hilw

Kaak lebi hilw

1.5 tbsp soy flour
1.6 dl/2/3 cups orange juice
1 tbsp tahini
100 g/1.2 dl/0.5 cups sugar
1.2 dl/0.5 cups oil
350 g/6 dl/1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp crushed anise or fennel seed

Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F. Mix the soy flour, tahini and a few tablespoons of the orange juice together to form a paste. Add all the other ingredients and mix into a dough. Roll the dough about 6 mm or 1/4 inch thick and take crescent (or other) shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a light golden brown (be careful with crescents, the tips can brown very quickly!). Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

4 Responses to “Kaak lebi hilw, or orange biscuits (Libya)”

  1. 1

    Those look really pretty and yummy. Sorry to hear tahini prices doubled in Finland,how much are they now per jar?

  2. 2

    It’s close to five euros, both in grocery stores and ethnic stores (you used to be able to get a jar for 2.50). Quite a lot since I’d rarely manage to use up the whole jar. Luckily sesame seeds haven’t increased in price, they’re only a little over one euro for a box. I just made a small batch of tahini yesterday.

  3. 3

    Kallista on.Täälläkin hinnat ovat menneet ylöspäin ,mutta luomutahinini maksaa siinä 2½-3 euroa. Seesaminsiemenet kai ovat maailmalla kallistuneet…..

  4. 4

    Beautiful picture! I make cookies similar to these at christmas, but they are Almond & Vanilla based…


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