Moroccan Bread Recipe

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It is interesting to me that one of my grandfathers, a West Virginian who lived at the end of Horsemill Hollow, always referred to bread as 'the staff of life'. As anyone who has traveled to North Africa knows, bread is a special food, treated with the utmost respect and central to every meal. My Mountaineer gramps would have much in common with any man from any valley in Morocco when it came to respecting bread, the staff of life.

One rarely comes across a fork, except in the high-end or tourist restaurants, or as a guest in a well-to-do home. You will sometimes be given a spoon, usually a rather large spoon, as a utensil. However, bread is the common fork in Morocco. Only one's right hand is used for eating. Moroccan bread is highly absorbent. Moroccan bread is the primary eating tool.

It is a bread with robust character - absolutely nothing like the pita bread we always get in the States. It is also pretty easy to make. Follow this recipe and you will have two fine small loaves of real Moroccan bread. It will take about a 1/2 hour to get it together, a couple hours to raise once (only once), and about 45 minutes to bake. If you have not made bread before, FEAR NOT. This is easy! Take your time, get all your ingredients lined up (mise en place). Many nods and thanks to Paula Wolfert for 40 years of inspiration and teaching, especially for organizing some of the best recipes in the Moroccan repetoire. Now - read the directions carefully so you understand them. Remember that the longest time will be the rising of the dough. So you can do other things during that 2 hour period. Also, remember that in a Moroccan meal, the bread is not an afterthought - it is a vital part of the meal and savored as a most important element of the repast. Let's do it!

I even like this bread when I make a New Orleans-style muffeletta sandwich. Talk about cultural crossover!

Prep time:
Cook time:
Servings: 2 loaves
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Ingredients

Cost per serving $0.98 view details

Directions

  1. Yeast is a living thing and, like each of us, does not respond well to extreme heat. Never 'proof' (bring to life) yeast in a liquid with a temperature above 100 degrees. So get your water to 100 degrees and add the sugar. Let it rest for a couple of minutes in a warm place, then add the yeast. It should bubble and gain a little volume. Proffing the yeast will take several minute - you are basically waking up the yeast and feeding it.
  2. Mix the flours together in a large bowl by the whisk & shake method, whisking the flours with one hand, while the other hand shakes the bowl back and forth. This really blends any dry ingredients. Add the warm milk and just enough warm water to form a stiff dough.
  3. Lightly flour your board, turn the dough out onto the board and start to knead it with closed fists, pushing it away from you and then pulling the dough back. Add some more warm water, if needed. You are actually 'folding the dough over on itself. You can expect to do this step for about 15 minutes. You are getting the gluten to relax and become elastic and pliable. You want the dough to become smooth. During the last few minutes, sprinkle in the anise and sesame seeds and work them into the dough, distributing them, pushing outward, pulling back.
  4. When the dough has been thoroughly kneaded, divide the dough into 2 parts and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Catch your breath.
  5. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on a baking sheet.
  6. Grease a mixing bowl lightly and then put one of the balls into the bowl. You want to try to form the ball into a modest cone shape by rotating the bowl as you push the top of the ball against the side of the bowl with your other hand.
  7. Transfer that somewhat cone-shaped ball to the baking sheet with the cornmeal, then flatten the cone to make a disk about 5" in diameter: it will get bigger. Repeat this process with the second dough ball.
  8. Cover the baking sheet loosely with a warm, damp towel and set in a quiet place, away from any drafts, for two hours to let the dough rise. If you push a finger gently into the dough and it does not spring back, it is read to bake: if it springs back, the yeast is still doing it's job, so give it a few more minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees about an hour and 45 minutes into the rising process. Most ovens will come to temperature in 15 minutes.
  9. Place the rack in the middle of your oven.
  10. Prick the risen dough around the edges 3 or 4 times with a fork, this will vent some moisture as the bread bakes.
  11. Slide the sheet into the preheated oven.
  12. Bake for 12 minutes, then lower the heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for 30-40 minutes.
  13. The bread is done when you hear a hollow sound when you thump the bottom of the loaf. Double a kitchen towel and pick up the loaf to do this - the bread will be hot, the towel will protect.
  14. Remove from the oven, let it cool.
  15. In Morocco, the bread is usually broken and distributed by the host or the eldest male present at the table. You can cut it into wedges just before serving. It will keep for a couple of days if you wrap it up, but on the day of your dinner, you should make the bread in the morning.

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Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving %DV
Serving Size 383g
Recipe makes 2 servings
Calories 1067  
Calories from Fat 55 5%
Total Fat 6.4g 8%
Saturated Fat 1.83g 7%
Trans Fat 0.0g  
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 2361mg 98%
Potassium 655mg 19%
Total Carbs 217.35g 58%
Dietary Fiber 14.3g 48%
Sugars 6.15g 4%
Protein 34.58g 55%
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Reviews

  • Foodessa
    Interesting read as well as an appetizing sounding bread.
    Thanks for sharing you experience with us ;o)

    Flavourful wishes,
    Claudia

    Comments

    • Amos Miller
      March 25, 2012
      Hello, Martin - 10 grams, or 1/4oz. would be about right. I believe that most folks here use packages dry yeast, I use active dry yeast, which is explosively reliable and never fails to do it's job perfectly. Sorry for the lapse in complete info. I hope you can overlook that and will enjoy the fruits (rather, breads) of your labors.And, if you are STILL interested in measurements of dry yeast, I venture that a slightly rounded Tbs of dry yeast will weight 10 grams, or a full 1/4 oz. Hope this helps, and I look forward to your review. Try to take a couple of nice photos of your product, and I would welcome your posting them on the recipe page. Best regards, Amos

      • Amos Miller
        March 25, 2012
        Good day, Martin - Glad you found resolution and enjoyed the bread. Save your flaked sea salt for your meats - it will greatly enhance the depth of flavor on, for example, a roast or steak. The fine salts are always recommended for baking, breads, cakes, etc. When I recommend 10 rather than 7 grams, I am going to the 'rich' side of 1/4 oz, before the digital kicks over to 3/8ths oz. I want punch in my breads. Photos next time? Please remain in touch. Very best wishes, Amos

        • Martin
          March 24, 2012
          Hm - all sounds great, and I am about to embark on trying to do it, armed with a printout of your recipe as well as an original 1973 edition of Wolfert on the kitchen table.

          HOWEVER, while your automated conversion to metric measurements is a brilliant feature (though not needed here since my wife brought not only Wolfert into the marriage but also two complete sets of American measuring cups and spoons) I really take issue with one point in your recipe, a point you share verbatim with Paula W.:

          How much exactly is "one package of active dry yeast"? How much would that weigh in the Souks of Marrakech? Or on the Viktualien-Markt in Munich? Or, for that matter, at the Nasreen Dar supermarket in Cambridge, England?

          "Allisons Dry Active Yeast" comes in a 125g (just under 4 oz.) tin/can, and the label gives detailed instructions on how to activate it, and then says "use as directed in your recipe." Ugh.

          I guess you get my drift ...

          Anyway, thanks for your efforts, I guess I'll try a little research into how much yeast per flour is appropriate! If all else fails, we'll have to eat baguettes instead.
          4 replies
          • Amos Miller
            March 25, 2012
            Hello, Martin - 10 grams, or 1/4oz. would be about right. I believe that most folks here use packages dry yeast, I use active dry yeast, which is explosively reliable and never fails to do it's job perfectly. Sorry for the lapse in complete info. I hope you can overlook that and will enjoy the fruits (rather, breads) of your labors. And, if you are STILL interested in measurements of dry yeast, I venture that a slightly rounded Tbs of dry yeast will weight 10 grams, or a full 1/4 oz. Hope this helps, and I look forward to your review. Try to take a couple of nice photos of your product, and I would welcome your posting them on the recipe page. Best regards, Amos
            • Comment has been deleted
              1 reply
              • Martin
                March 25, 2012
                Thanks, Amos, for the quick info!

                I managed to find two solutions to my problem: a web search eventually yielded the answer (from a wholesalers' organization) that 1 "package" = 1/4 oz. = 7 grams. The second solution was that I found out that the afore-mentioned Nasreen Dar Supermarket carries not only the 125g tin but also boxes with Allison's Original Active Dry Yeast in sachets, which are (surprise, surprise!) 7 gm = 1/4 oz each. Also, current labels on the tin give a rough idea of how much to use for bread instead of just saying "look at your recipe".

                Over here, we are, in our way, fighting a little war trying to get Americans to be a little more aware of cultural idiosyncrasies and become more "international". Mostly, it's things like trying to teach software developers that telephone numbers are not necessarily 1+3+3+4 digits, that "ZIP" codes don't everywhere have 5 digits, and so on. I suppose "packages of dry yeast" are only a sideshow in that struggle!

                The breads came out fine! Sorry, no pictures - got to remember that next time! They were slighly short on salt, almost certainly because I used flaky sea salt, and measured it by volume with a spoon. The density of that sea salt is probably somewhat less than that of normal household salt.

                Best regards, Martin
              • Amos Miller
                March 25, 2012
                Good day, Martin - Glad you found resolution and enjoyed the bread. Save your flaked sea salt for your meats - it will greatly enhance the depth of flavor on, for example, a roast or steak. The fine salts are always recommended for baking, breads, cakes, etc. When I recommend 10 rather than 7 grams, I am going to the 'rich' side of 1/4 oz, before the digital kicks over to 3/8ths oz. I want punch in my breads. Photos next time? Please remain in touch. Very best wishes, Amos
              • annie
                February 10, 2011
                Interesting and sound fun to make amos
                2 replies
                • Amos Miller
                  February 10, 2011
                  I see in your photo, Annie, that you have at least 1 little one. I suggest you make the Limpa bread recipe I have put up. Kids LOVE it, it smells and tastes great and all you need is some room temperature butter for when those loaves come out of the oven! It makes an awesome toast and you'd be surprised at the dressing it will make to accompany a roast chicken!
                  • Amos Miller
                    February 10, 2011
                    Making bread is good fun - especially with kids, believe it or not - and a bit of good exercise. You also have the wonderful experience of being able to bite into a piece of warm bakery right out of the oven. That is why we always make at least 2 loaves - we tend to pretty much eat the first one right away! I hope you will try this recipe Annie, and let me know how it goes for you!
                  • Amos Miller
                    February 3, 2011
                    Hi, Nanette - I've never used a bread machine, so I have no idea if any of my bread recipes will work, as I have wriiten them. Moroccan bread is quite different from most other breads from Africa that I have encountered. Morocco is such a unique country, on the NW corner of that hugh continent. The influences of the Spanish, the French, the 5 different Berber groups, the Arabs, the Jews. It really is polyglot, which, I think, is why the cuisine is so wonderfully unique. Depending on where your nephew was in Africa, he may have been exposed to 'njeera in Ethiopia or 'aish in Eqypt. And, if he was South of the Sahara, I expect he would know the flat breads. Bottom line is, there is nothing I have found to substitute from Moroccan khubz when eating Moroccan food. But I bet you would like the Swedish bread recipe I put up today... Sadly all my bread recipes require some elbow grease. Great to hear from you! - Amos By the way, I really like your blog and hope we can connect on facebook.
                    • Nanette
                      February 3, 2011
                      I can't be Italian and not love a crusty loaf of bread. My nephew was in Africa on Mission Work so I will quizz him about bread that may have been eaten. We talked lots about his food experience, but I don't recall bread being discussed. I thought the reference below might interest you. Thank you for the great recipe. Can this bread be made in a bread machine (cheating just a bit)?
                      From the Melrose Mirror: There were public ovens in the Republic of Rome and the bakers of Greece were world famous. Bread has been referred to as the staff of life. It has been written that a substance called manna was sent down from Heaven to feed the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness. "And it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made of honey."
                      John 6:35:
                      I (Jesus) am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
                      N cucinananette.blogspot.com

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