Anise rolls (Zalebieh)

January 8, 2011  •  Category:


Every year,  I get so relieved the Christmas holiday is finally over, I forget one celebration that always brought us goodies when we were kids: Epiphany  aka  Ghtass. My grandmother would make fritters called ouwaymate and  these zalebieh on the eve of January 6 of every year.

This is a healthier version of zalebieh, which is baked, not fried; in which sugar is replaced by molasses. Flavored with anise and olive oil and  garnished with sesame and nigella seeds. Taste like a gingerbread, in bread not cake form.

See, this is to encourage good eating habits!

Nigella seeds is believed to aid in digestion. One of my friends will swallow a tablespoon of the black seeds every day for that purpose. She claims the seeds have never let her down.


  • 1 cup of whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour (a few tablespoons more if the dough is sticky)
  • 1 teaspoon of dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of date molasses (or other sweetener)
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • toasted sesame seeds, nigella seeds, as needed


  1. Place the flours, the yeast, anise and cinnamon and dash of salt in the bowl of a mixer; mix for 30 seconds till the dry ingredients are well-incorporated. Add the olive oil and mix for a minute or so until the oil disappears and the texture is like coarse sand.
  2. Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until warm. Add the milk and the date molasses to the flour mixture and mix for a few minutes until the dough is compact, shiny and not sticky. You may need to add a few more tablespoons of flour at this point to achieve that.
  3. Cover the entire surface of the dough with a tablespoon of olive oil and place in a greased bowl; cover with a damp towel and place the dough in a warm place. (I have two ovens, so I place the lower one on very low setting and place the dough in the top oven. The residual heat helps with the rising). Give the dough a couple of hours or longer to rise.

  1. Plop the dough on a work surface; now either roll out and cut with a cookie cutter, the rim of a glass or use a wooden mold. If using a mold, take small pieces of dough, insert into the mold, press hard with the palm of your hand and tap the mold on the work surface to release the cookie.
  2. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 15 to 25 minutes until dry and firm. Brush the cookies with a little molasses diluted in a couple of tablespoons of water if you wish to give them a shine. This step is optional. The cookies will keep for a week in a tin or a plastic container.


22 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Ivy says:

    The cookies sound wonderful and love the wooden mold.

  2. MaryMoh says:

    These cookies look so pretty. I love the fish shape. These cookies look like the Chinese moon cake cookies. I love anise seeds….beautiful smell…mmm.

  3. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    Love the fishy form! I guess I should get nigella by the kilo to start a good habit

  4. zerrin says:

    This is such an outstanding cookie recipe! I love the way you shape them, so lovely! Never heard of date molasses before, I must check if we have it here in Turkey.

  5. Nadji says:

    De petits gâteaux que je ne connaissais pas du tout. Je note.
    Ce change de la petite friture habituelle en chocolat.
    A très bientôt.

  6. Patricia says:

    Hi Ms Taste of Beirut

    Love the sound of this recipe. Your site is lovely. Will tell my Lebanese friend about it as she is always going on about Lebanese food being the tastiest 🙂

    And thanks for taking the time to visit my lavender blog. Have you used lavender in cooking? It is becoming more popular here in Australia. As it is a herb and a member of the mint family, stands to reason that it can be utilised in cooking.

    Patricia Perth Australia

  7. tigerfish says:

    Cute “fishy” fritters 😀

  8. Sushma Mallya says:

    very interesting…looks nice

  9. Rachana says:

    The cookies look lovely and loved the wooden mold.

  10. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    Ils sont jolis comme tout ! J’ai déjà vu ce type de petit moule en bois mais je ne savais pas à quoi ils servaient … Zut, maintenant, je ne sais plus où c’était … Bah, je retrouverai. En attendant, je copie la recette !
    Bisous et bon dimanche

  11. Mark Wisecarver says:

    Such an inspiration! Much love. 🙂

  12. oum mouncifrayan says:

    un résultat parfait! bravo

  13. pierre says:

    On est raccords tous les deux avec les graines de nigelle je les adore !!Bizz

  14. Tall Clover Farm says:

    Joumana I may have to try the healthy version and the deep-fried version. Now on to Ebay to find a cookie mold!

  15. Banana Wonder says:

    Yum! This is my kind of cookie, made with olive oil. Love the shapes.

  16. Heni says:

    Hmmm very interesting not the usual fried honeyed Zlabia I was excepting seeing the title but looks interesting enough for me to try!

  17. OysterCulture says:

    I actually have everything on hand to make this delicious sounding recipe – this is rare and I’m taking it as a sign. What a delicious treat!

  18. Jamie says:

    These are so adorable! And wow love the flavors! Intriguing recipe that sounds absolutely delicious!

  19. Caffettiera says:

    As an Italian, I tend not to forget Epiphany. As a child I got a sock full of all sorts of sweet treats.I did not like too much traditional Christmas sweets but I loved the high quality chocolate and almond paste my gourmet mother filled my sock with. I guess she really cared about Epiphany because it was when she used to get presents when she was a child.

    These little cookies are very interesting and quite healthy indeed. I am slightly put off by nigella seeds in sweet things, I’ll probably substitute with black sesame.

  20. Pauline says:

    I have saved this recipe too so very interesting. I was recently introduced to Nigella seeds by another Foodie, until then I had no idea that the beautiful flowers in my garden were so useful.

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