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!
- 1 package of dry active yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 C warm water + a 3/4 C warm water
- 1 C whole wheat flour
- 3 1/2 C unbleached flour
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 C warm whole milk
- 1 T anise seeds
- 1 tsp sesame seed
- corn meal
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When the dough has been thoroughly kneaded, divide the dough into 2 parts and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Catch your breath.
- Sprinkle a little cornmeal on a baking sheet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the rack in the middle of your oven.
- Prick the risen dough around the edges 3 or 4 times with a fork, this will vent some moisture as the bread bakes.
- Slide the sheet into the preheated oven.
- Bake for 12 minutes, then lower the heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for 30-40 minutes.
- 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.
- Remove from the oven, let it cool.
- 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.
|Amount Per Serving||%DV|
|Serving Size 383g|
|Recipe makes 2 servings|
|Calories from Fat 55||5%|
|Total Fat 6.4g||8%|
|Saturated Fat 1.83g||7%|
|Trans Fat 0.0g|
|Total Carbs 217.35g||58%|
|Dietary Fiber 14.3g||48%|