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Biscotcho/Kahk Cookies Recipe – aish.com

Learn to make the well-known Sephardic cookie.

Kahk – also known as ka’ak, biscocho, biscotcho, torta and roskita – are an ancient form of hard, round biscuit that is found throughout Jewish communities in the Middle East.

There are many forms of this popular biscuit. For years, kahk were a savory treat, often flavored with sesame seeds; with the popularization of sugar in the Middle East during the Middle Ages, many cooks began baking sweet kahk pastries as well. Kahk is often baked using a yeast-based dough, though some modern cooks make kahk with dough leavened with baking powder. Syrian Jews bake a delicious kosher for Passover version of kahk that uses ground almonds instead of wheat flour, called kahk bi loz.

In Spain, Jews baked small round pastries twice – like Italian biscotti – and called these hard pastries variously threads or biscochos. Jewish bakers made their ring-shaped cookies differently from their non-Jewish neighbors: Jewish cooks generally used oil in their pastries (as opposed to butter or lard); another Jewish innovation was adding eggs to the dough. Spanish Jews also developed a softer version of threads, which was only baked once and was more cake-like, which became a beloved Shabbat treat. When Spain expelled its Jews in 1492, Sephardi (Spanish) Jews took their love of biscocho/roscas with them to new homes.

“Biscocho” soon came to mean any cookie in Ladino, the language of Sephardi Jews. Hard, ring-shaped cookies became a hallmark of Sephardi Jewish cooks across the world. Like kahk, there are many versions of biscocho/roscas/roskitas. They can be savory or sweet. In some communities they lost their traditional round shape. For instance, “alhashu threads” are popular Purim cookies among Balkan Jews: these are crescent-shaped cookies stuffed with walnuts.

Here is a traditional recipe for Biscuits:

INGREDIENTS

  • 385–420 grams (3 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 120 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil
  • 200g (1 cup) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉/180°C. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 385g (about 3 cups) flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a stand mixer (or using a handheld electric mixer and a large bowl), beat 2 eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and orange zest at medium-high speed until pale and creamy, 2–3 minutes.
  4. Add the flour mixture in two additions, beating to incorporate and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until a firm but pliable dough forms. If the dough is too wet or sticky to handle, add up to 35g additional flour (¼ cup), 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, until the desired consistency is reached. (You may not need all of the additional flour.)
  5. Working on a lightly floured surface, pinch off a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it into a rope that is 15cm (6-inches) long and about 1.25cm (½-inch) thick. Repeat with several more pieces of dough. Using a sharp knife, score little notches about 16mm (¾ -inch) apart along the length of each of the ropes.
  6. With the notched edge facing out, form each rope into a ring, gently pressing the ends together to seal.
  7. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat the rolling, scoring, and shaping process until all of the dough is used.
  8. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg. Brush the rings with a little egg (you may not use all of it) and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake, rotating the sheets front to back halfway through, until the cookies are gently puffed and golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. They will continue to firm up as they cool.

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