As Ramadan ends, a sinking feeling rests in my stomach. It is a challenging month, but the emotional rewards that include relaxing with friends and family after iftar are indescribable. But one thing does make me look forward to the end of the month is kahk, those lovely powdered cookies that crumble and dissolve in one’s mouth. Heaven with a cup of tea, and best enjoyed for breakfast in the morning.
It’s how I mark the return of breakfasts once again, but beforehand, the search for the perfect kahk consumes me, my mother and all our relatives for the second half of Ramadan. And deservedly so, not every bakery in town will sell the buttery fresh goodness or a kahk cookie properly stuffed.
Kahk comes in various shapes, colors and flavors. Those dusted with sugar powder is Egyptian kahk. They can be stuffed with nuts (mukasarat), Turkish delight (malban), sweet sticky dates paste (maamoul) or my favorite: a mixture of nuts, honey and butter ghee (agamiya). Oh yes, the calories consumed during the three days of Eid amount to those lost during one’s fast. But never mind, they are simply too good to resist and not eat in copious amounts.
This year, and ahead of everyone else, I bought kahk from Sedra, a beautiful bakery in Heliopolis’ Ard El Golf area close to two weeks ago. This way, I beat the lines and the crowd which force people to oftentimes stand outside the store towards the end of Ramadan. I bought agamiya-stuffed kahk at LE 44 a kilo. Nuts and maamoul are cheaper, some kinds starting at around LE for a kilo.
Sedra undoubtedly has the best kahk in town, and I will argue this to the grave with anyone. You can measure a good batch of kahk not only by its taste, but by its smell and how it crumbles in your mouth.
Kahk when baked will always have a certain powder added to enhance its smell and give that particular flavor. It’s not vanilla as much as it is an almost floral essence.
But, the best kahk is often times those made at home should one have the patience and a fleet of helpful volunteers to assist. Which is why, this year, my favorite kahk is that gifted to me by my Libyan mother-in-law, who sent me a batch all the way from Alexandria of both Libyan kahk and my favorite Egyptian kahk.
Libyan kahk is a hard cookie ring spiced with anise, and helps to aid digestion. It crumbles yes, but not as softly as Egyptian kahk.
Yet her Egyptian khak (proving once again that she’s a master chef in all cuisines) was buttery and sweet and flavorful. Both maamoul and agamiya. My husband-to-be has a good point when he kindly suggests I take cooking lessons from his mother.
Making kahk is an arduous process. Getting the dough just so, sitting with wet hands to roll them into particularly sized balls, stuffing and closing them, and piercing them with special tools to etch that particular look so particular to kahk cookies is a time consuming process and a difficult one to master.
But if one should be so fortunate as to have kahk baked at home, the smell and the flurry of activity is a reminder that although Ramadan is over, post Ramadan, the delights to come are great.
Sedra: 31 Shams el Din El Dahaby Street, Ard El Golf, Heliopolis. Tel: 2690-4160/61