Aish Baladi (bookmarked)

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feed the hungrysummary: recipe for Aish Baladi (100% whole wheat flatbread); using Michael Pollan’s method of sifting the wholewheat flour; toasting the bran; bookmarked; Toronto celebrates Canada Day with a duck; we’re not paying attention; hunger;

Bread is the Staff of Life

Bookmarked Recipes - last Sunday of the MonthBookmarked Recipe: Aish Baladi

Aish Baladi Not long ago, I saw the loveliest stack of round bread at Karen’s Kitchen Stories with the intriguing hashtag “Eat Like an Egyptian”. They looked not unsimilar to pita bread, but seemed to be covered with beads. They looked incredible.

So I did a little more reading about Aish Baladi.

Aish Baladi is an Egyptian whole wheat flat bread that looks a lot like pita bread, but is unique to Egypt.
 
– Karen, Karen’s Kitchen Stories, Aish Baladi – Egyptian Flatbread
If you ask me about the single most food item I miss from Egypt, it would have to be the bread. Egyptian pita bread, or Aish Baladi, is the cornerstone of Egyptian cuisine. It’s not only a major component of the meal itself, but bread is also widely used as a utensil; hey, I’ll use delicious bread over a fork and knife any day!
 
– Alia, breakurfast, Egyptian Pita / Aish Baladi
Similar to pita, but made with whole wheat flour, this Egyptian flatbread is traditionally baked in scorching-hot ovens in Cairo’s bustling markets. Home cooks can achieve similar results with a baking stone and an oven cranked to high.
 
– Matt Taylor-Gross, SAVEUR, Aish Baladi recipe
The chewy brown pita-type pockets known as aish baladi, or country bread, make great sandwiches stuffed with ful (boiled, spiced fava beans) and ta’maya (fava beans boiled and mashed with coriander and other green herbs).
– Susan Hack, Conde Nast Traveller, Egypt Street Foods
[This bread] is the most widely available bread throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. […] [I]n Egypt, […] the local pita—called baladi—is made from 100 percent whole wheat flour and freshly baked several times a day in neighborhood bakeries. 
– Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid, Flatbreads & Flavors, Pita, khubz, baladi | Eastern Mediterranean, p181
The Egyptians give the same word to bread as they do to life, aish. […] As you walk through any market in Egypt, you’ll see people carrying large stacks of bread on trays on top of their heads. […] The addition of [toasted] bran gives Egyptian pita its characteristic crunchy texture.
 
– Amy Riolo, Nile Style | Egyptian Cuisine and Culture, p35, 36

So. Aish Baladi isn’t just any kind of pita. I loved the idea of adding toasted bran! Clearly, we had to try this bread.

[I]f you’re used to buying commercial varieties of pita bread, I urge you to try this recipe […]
Egyptian stores sell toasted, finely ground bran that has the same consistency as commercial breadcrumbs. The addition of the bran gives Egyptian pita its characteristic crunchy texture.
 
– Amy Riolo, Nile Style | Egyptian Cuisine and Culture, p36

And I thought, instead of adding extra bran, I’d use Michael Pollan’s method of sifting whole wheat flour.

In effect, I was making white (or whitish) flour circa 1850, pre-roller mill […] It still had the germ, but only those particles of bran small enough to slip through an ordinary sieve. However, I reserved the sifted bran in a bowl, and after shaping the loaves, I rolled them in the stuff, making sure that every last shard of bran was taken up by the wet skin of dough.
 
– Michael Pollen, Part III: Air, the education of an amateur baker, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Aish Baladi And because we didn’t really want to heat up the kitchen by turning on the oven, we baked the bread on a pizza stone in our gas barbecue.

100% Whole Wheat Egyptian-style Pita
based on recipes in Karen’s Kitchen Stories, SAVEUR, and Amy Riolo’s book “Nile Style | Egyptian Cuisine and Culture”

makes four pita (~15cm rounds)

  • 1.25 c (160gm) 100% whole-wheat flour
  • 150ml (150gm) water at body temperature
  • 4gm (0.75 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp (3gm) Kosher salt (please read Salt is salt, right?)
  • a few large spoons wheat bran
  1. SIEVING THE FLOUR Place a sieve over the mixing bowl and pour in the flour. Use a pastry cutter (or a wooden spoon) to push the flour through, leaving the larger pieces of bran in the sieve. Reserve the bran.
  2. MIXING THE DOUGH Three or four hours before you will be baking, pour the water into a smallish bowl and whisk the yeast until it has dissolved. Pour the yeasted water on top of the sifted flour. Add salt and, using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together. Plunge in with one hand and fold and turn the dough for about 5 minutes. It will be pretty sticky. Don’t freak out. Put a plate over the bowl and leave in the oven with only the light turned on. Check it about an hour later and turn the dough a couple of times then let it rise until it’s roughly doubled. It will still look a bit sticky but more like sticky mousse….
  3. TOASTING THE BRAN While the dough is rising, put the bran from sieved flour into a cast-iron pan placed over medium heat. Notice that there really isn’t very much bran so throw in a few more spoonsful. Use a wooden spoon to stir the bran until it is toasty – this only takes 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. SHAPING When the dough has doubled, use a small pastry cutter to cut it into 4 even pieces in the bowl. Scatter the toasted bran on a board and remove the loose moussey dough pieces one at a time onto the bran. Turn the slack dough piece over, moulding it as best you can into a sort of round, to cover it completely with bran. Repeat until there are four floppy bran covered roundishes. Roll each one out into a disc that is roughly 15cm in diameter and 0.5cm thick. Place the discs on separate squares of parchment paper laid on cookie trays. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for about an hour.
  5. BAKING Make sure the heat is high – Simona Afifi, Scarf Gal Food Put a pizza stone into the barbecue and turn the barbecue to high. You want the heat to be as high as possible. Put the discs (along with their pieces of parchment paper) onto the hot stone and close the lid of the barbecue. Leave the flame on. After about 3 minutes, using blunt nosed tongs (to avoid poking holes in the bread), turn each disc over, removing the paper that might be flaming at the corners, and close the barbecue lid again. Check again about 3 minutes later and be thrilled that all four discs have puffed completely. Close the lid and let them cook for a minute or so more.
    • Of course, the bread can be baked in the oven as well. Here are two methods: Set a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven, and preheat the oven to as high as it will go. […] Using a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet, transfer the parchment sheets to the baking stone, one sheet at a time, and bake for 8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool briefly, and then serve immediately.
       
      – Karen, Karen’s Kitchen Stories, Aish Baladi – Egyptian Flatbread
      Place 2 to 3 pitas on each baking sheet […] Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place bread under the broiler and bake for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until puffed and golden. Serve warm.
       
      – Amy Riolo, Nile Style | Egyptian Cuisine and Culture, Egyptian Whole Wheat Pita Bread | Aish Baladi, p37
    • This bread can also be baked on the stove-top. Rose Levy Beranbaum outlines her method in the Bread Bible. She oils her pan. But we have found that this is not necessary. Here is what we do, using our tava (concave Indian tempered steel pan) but I would think a cast iron frying pan would work just as well: 1.) place uncooked disc on unoiled hot tava;
      2.) look for little bubbles and uniform lighter colour;
      3.) turn over half cooked pita;
      4.) move pita from tava to rack over med high to high heat;
      5-8.) use tongs to move the pita around on rack so it puffs all over;
      9.) sometimes little holes appear to deflate the pita.
      Cooking Flatbread on the Stove
      (Simona Affifi uses a similar method of stovetop cooking.)
  6. SERVING Serve the bread warm. SAVEUR magazine suggests serving the bread with Tahini-parsley dip. I bet it would be good with zhoug or ful too. But because we’re rulebreakers, we served it with Persian-style grilled meat… it was delicious!

Notes:

:: WATER TEMPERATURE: Please remember that you should always use water from the cold water tap and heat it up. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Please heat the water in a kettle or microwave. Add cold water to the heated water until it is ~96F (body temperature). If you are allergic to using a thermometer, you can check the temperature by putting a few drops of water onto the inside of your wrist: if it feels warm, it’s too warm; if it feels cold, it’s too cold; if it feels like a cross between cool, warm and nothing, then it’s fine. Please note that before the yeast is added to the water, the liquid temperature must be BELOW 120F (49C) because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

 

Aish Baladi

On 1 July, Canadians celebrated the 150th anniversary since confederation. There were dinners and drinks and dancing and fireworks. And a giant rubber duck in the harbour….

Early on 1 July, in the soft air listening to birds calling, we rode our bikes through empty streets to the lake to see the giant duck. It was even more ridiculous than we thought it would be. We couldn’t stop laughing!

Giant Rubber Ducky
Giant Rubber Ducky
Giant Rubber Ducky
:!: :!: :!:

We’re Not Paying Attention
On Canada Day, while some of us were busy laughing at a giant duck, and all of us were celebrating Canada’s accomplishments, we were patting ourselves on the back and congratulating ourselves about how we embrace the world. And yet…

[T]here have never been so many hungry people in the world.
 
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2010
    [I]t’s shocking that so little heed is being paid to what the United Nations says is the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945: the danger that about 20 million people in four countries will suffer famine in the coming months, and that hundreds of thousands of children will starve to death.
    Not heard of this? That’s the problem. According to U.N. and private relief officials, efforts to supply enough food to stem the simultaneous crises in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are falling tragically short so far, in part because of inadequate funding from governments and private donors. Of the $4.9 billion sought in February by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for immediate needs in those countries, just 39 percent had been donated as of last week.”
– Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, No one is paying attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, 25 June 2017
20 million people are on the brink of starvation. It’s time to act.
– UN, World Food Program, 2017

Sure, you may have heard on the news that the famine is officially over in Sudan. But is it really?? Isn’t this a little like telling people who have just gone through a hurricane, that has just been downgraded to a severe tropical storm, that there is no cause for alarm?

And what about other parts of the world?

Governments are extremely reluctant to call a food crisis a “famine”, because it implies they have failed to stop a food shortage from turning into a major humanitarian crisis. Similarly, aid agencies tend to avoid the f-word, either because they are dependent on the state for access to the vulnerable communities, or because it implies they too have failed in their response to the food shortages. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines famine as more than two people per 10,000 dying every day.
 
– trust.org, Food emergencies and responses
South Sudan no longer has areas in famine, but almost two million people are on the brink of starvation and an estimated six million people — half the population — will face extreme food insecurity between June and July, according to reports by the government and the United Nations released Wednesday.
 
– Sam Mednick, The Associated Press, CBCNews, South Sudan Famine Easing, 21 June 2017
To a visitor, bread [in Egypt] can seem unbelievably cheap, because it is subsidized by the government. The quality of the baladi, as well as its price, is strictly controlled by the government; bread is an important political issue, just as it is in many other places all around the world.
 
– Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid, Flatbreads & Flavors, Pita, khubz, baladi | Eastern Mediterranean, p181
In Egypt, aish is the word for bread, but it is also the word for life. When Egyptians are under stress, people say akl el aish murr—”eating bread is bitter”—a proverb that more accurately tries to say: Unemployment is high, economic opportunities are scarce, corruption is ripe, marriage and food are expensive, traffic is unbearable, etc. […] For Ahmed, who sells bread at market price, bread tastes bitter. “I make about 10 percent profit,” he says about his bakery. “The price of gas and flour are too expensive.” A subsidized, 50-kilogram sack of flour costs eight Egyptian pounds, but 162 pounds for Ahmed. A tank of gas—taller than Ahmed’s youngest worker, 13-year-old Mustafa—is between 80 and 90 pounds.
 
– Lorena Rios, MUNCHIES, Delivering Bread in Cairo Is a Balance of Life and Death, March 2015
Stark geographical disparities exist between the region of Upper Egypt, desert areas in Sinai and the Red Sea — which are some of the country’s poorest areas with high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition; and between the more developed Lower Egypt region — where Egypt’s manufacturing, construction and trading take place.
 
– UN World Food Programme | Egypt, 25 June 2017
The world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night.
 
– oxfam.ca, There is enough food to feed the world

empty bowl Please note that there are impoverished and hungry people everywhere in the world. And there are many viable organizations that need your help as they attempt to feed those in need. Here are just a few possibilities. Please look in your community for others:

And don’t forget about these sites online.

Bookmarked Recipes - monthly Bookmarked Recipes Some time ago, Ruth (Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments) created this event to urge herself (and everyone else) to actually make the several recipes they have bookmarked in various books, magazines and internet pages. For a time, Jacqueline (Tinned Tomatoes) took over hosting the event. Because she is vegetarian, she asked that submitted recipes be vegetarian OR that alternatives be given for how to make the dish vegetarian.

However, “Bookmarked Recipes”, is no longer officially happening. You might like to look at previous bookmarked recipes:

 

(If you have something to add or say about stopping world hunger, please remember to post your thoughts and ideas on your blog, facebook, at work, etc. etc.)

Bloggers Against Hunger Bloggers Against Hunger
The Time to Act is Now

 

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  • I’m definitely going to have to do these in the barbecue. I also love “loosy moussey.” It worked out! I’m so happy!! Love the rubber ducky too!

  • Yes, Karen, do try them on the barbecue! Four discs fit easily on a standard pizza stone. And, of course, they take no time to bake at all. Do watch for hotspots though. We amused ourselves greatly near the end of baking the bread, by moving a flatter disc over to the back corner of the barbecue, and watching as it ballooned up before our eyes.

  • MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Clearly this is one to bake … BBQ or stove or oven.

  • Yes, do, Tanna! It’s so satisfying.