April 17, 2011  •  Category: , ,


The wordka’akin the Lebanese dialect means any kind of dry cookie or galette; most ka’ak are dry, very crunchy, and come either plain or covered with sesame seeds.

This one is a very traditional ka’ak which uses grape molasses instead of sugar; grape molasses was used in a number of desserts, cakes, breads and cookies as well as in making beans and cereal dishes, in lieu of sugar.

Every year, we get a few jars of molasses  from our grapes; the grapes are taken to the village press. Out comes a wonderful thick,  caramel colored molasses that tastes sweet and reminiscent of pumpkin.

Here I used a grape molasses from the store made in Turkey. Most of the countries alongside the Eastern Mediterranean basin still make grape molasses. (Of course, it is a far cry from the homemade version). You can buy the molasses online as well.

These cookies are sold in Beirut in every pastry shop as they have come back in vogue and are advertised as healthy, natural and good for people with diabetes.

They are apparently made in the  village of Qartaba, with local grape molasses and olive oil, in celebration of Palm Sunday.


  • 1 Cup of whole wheat flour (135 g.)
  • 1 Cup of all-purpose flour (135 g.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/3 Cup (+2 tablespoons) of  olive oil (110 g.)
  • 1/2 Cup of grape molasses (125 g.)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of mahlab (see Note)
  • 1 Tablespoon of anise seeds (15 g.)
  • 1 Tablespoon of lemon rind (optional)
  • 1 Cup of toasted sesame seeds (135 g.)


  1. Place the white and whole wheat flour in the bowl of a food processor (or mixer); process a few seconds to combine. Add the mahlab, anise seeds, lemon rind and baking soda; process to mix the spices.
  2. Add the olive oil through the feed tube; process a minute or so until the oil is no longer visible and the dough is sandy in texture; add the grape molasses through the feed tube and process until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and clumps, a couple or so minutes more. If needed, add more molasses to the dough to make it hold together.
  3. Gather the dough: It should be moist, firm and compact. Pinch off small pieces and form into a small sausage shape, rolling it back and forth till it reaches 4 inches in length. Bring the two ends together to form a ring. Dip the ring in the sesame seeds. Place the cookies in a baking sheet lined with paper or silpat. Bake for 15 minutes at 325F or until the cookies feel dry. They will be extra-crispy as they cool. Store in a tight container for up to 7 days. (They won’t last seven days).


Source for the recipe: The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon by Chef Ramzi, adapted.

Note: Mahlab is a spice extracted from the inner pit of the black cherries in Lebanon; it comes in seeds, which can be ground in a coffee grinder, or in powder form; it is sold at all Middle-Eastern stores and online.


33 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Mark Wisecarver says:

    You brought back some good memories. 🙂

  2. Susan says:

    Even if they are ‘healthy’ they look delicious!

  3. Maria @ Scandifoodie says:

    I’ve made similar looking Greek cookies once and they were delicious. These sound so aromatic and tasty – gorgeous recipe!

  4. bergamot says:

    The cookie really sound scrumptious. The ingredients are really interesting and of course it is wholewheat so this one’s something I would like to try. Mahlab is something new for me.

  5. Banana Wonder says:

    These sounds delicious – very similar to Greek cookies. I like anything with mahleb in it! I had my Aunt in Greece mail me some 🙂 Happy Palm Sunday.

  6. Edgard says:

    Beautiful picture it makes me want to have Kaa’ak now!! It’s a childhood favorite we used to buy it from the bakery on our way home from school. A friend got us some from Detroit the other day but they weren’t exactly the same that we used to have in Lebanon.. I’ll definitely have to try this recipe out one day thank you.

  7. Rosa says:

    Pretty and delicious looking! I love the flavor of mahlab.



  8. Jumanah says:

    Those Ka’ak look gorgeous! I have never tried to make them on my own… thanks for sharing this recipe!

  9. Biksuit says:

    Jolis kaaks, et j’apprends bien de choses sur la cuisine libanaise dans ton blog.

  10. samir says:

    crunch crunch crunch..wish i had some…no leavening agents??

  11. Priya says:

    Kaak looks simply out of the world,..

  12. Juanita says:

    I love the photos accompanying this recipe.
    The recipe itself looks most interesting. I always appreciate the use of sweetners other than sugar.

  13. deana says:

    I tried to get that mahlab and they didn’t have it… best to keep trying because I imagine it makes a difference in cookies like these… that look awesome, btw. I can imagine they are good for you… and must taste like heaven, and like your homeland.

  14. Belinda @zomppa says:

    Gorgeous! Grape molasses? Not easily found here…but oh I wish I could find these beautiful cookies.

  15. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I’d never heard of these cookies, but they look lovely! I love the shape of them.

  16. Cherine says:

    Yummy, i love kaak with tea!

  17. Nadji says:

    J’en ai déjà mangé mais je n’en ai jamais encore fait.
    C’est peut-être l’occasion.
    En attendant, je t’en pique un.
    A très bientôt.

  18. Peter says:

    Sounds similar to our Koulourakia…great for dunking in coffee or tea. Have a wonderful Easter week!

  19. Min {Honest Vanilla} says:

    Wow it’s interesting to know about grape molasses and service to be pressed in the village 🙂 How interesting! Lovely snack for tea 🙂 By the way I also love the curvy plate 😉

  20. Rita says:

    These cookies look delicious. I’d have loved to have some for Palm Sunday, but, oh, they’re perfect for any occasion!

  21. Nadia says:

    lovely cookies and photos. the flavors of mahlab and anise seeds are delicious.

  22. Claudia says:

    Grape molasses is something I must try – I actually do love slightly dry cookies with a crunch. They are so fitting for Palm Sunday. By-the-bye, did try that wonderful asparagus tart – tell your daughter it was a hit in MN!

  23. Juliana says:

    Oh! I never had anything with grape molasses…sounds interesting. The cookies must taste good with all the yummie things in it. I am sure that would be great with tea 🙂 Have a great week ahead!

  24. Kathy says:

    Joumana, My mother and grandmother always made what they called Ka’ak. It was more of a sweet dough made with yeast. They also used mahleb and anise seed to flavor them. I have just made these recently on my blog. I have read that traditionally they are shaped in a circle but my mom always made them in a figure eight.

  25. Kankana says:

    they look perfect . I would love them with some ginger tea 🙂

  26. Susan says:

    I made these yesterday. They were very good. My husband said they reminded him of his childhood. They used to buy them from a bakery in Beruit. I guessed on the amount of baking soda. You didn’t list in the recipe how much to use. I was wondering how much baking soda you’re suppose to use.

    Thank you,


  27. Alice says:

    This was yummy 🙂 Too bad we ran out in less than a day…

  28. Magic of Spice says:

    Love the sound of grape molasses and these cookies sound so good…I can see why they are in all of the pastry shops 🙂

  29. Mariam says:

    I’d love to try this recipe, but what can I use instead of grape molasses and still get the authentic Lebanese taste?

    • Joumana says:

      @Mariam: You can use a dark honey. I am not sure you will get the taste you are looking for however, but it will be delicious, no doubt.

  30. Janine says:

    I am so excited to find and try this recipe for myself. Years ago, I was a mail carrier and a wonderful man on my route would bring a few of these out to me every couple of weeks or so. We didn’t speak the same language, but he managed to tell me he and his wife only made them once a year and then froze them. I gathered they were made for a religious ceremony and was honored he shared so many with me. My kids went nuts for them as well! I was researching what they could be when I ran across a wooden cookie press which I purchased because the pattern looked so similar to what they must have used. I could only remember “delicious, dense, anise and sesame seeds”. Thank you for posting!

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