This month’s recipe, jachnun, was chosen by the always intrepid Lien (Notitie von Lien).
Jachnun is one of those dishes that everyone in Israel loves […] to be prepared a day in advance and baked all night long, so that there would be hot food on the sabbath, when lighting fires is prohibited. […] Brought over by Yemenite immigrants from Aden […] Originally, it was baked under the coals in families’ outdoor tabouns, recall immigrants’ children. It’s traditionally served here with grated fresh tomato, skhug (Yemenite hot sauce), and a hard-boiled egg, cooked in the pot along with the dough. You can find it sold at roadside stands, restaurants and rest stops […] Mind you, there are people still making jachnun from scratch. (There are supposedly even people still baking it under coals — though not many.)
– Liz Steinberg, Jachnun — Yemenite breakfast, Cafe Liz
Jachnun, a hearty, heavy, crepe-like Yemenite bread, is most often served with grated tomato and spicy z’hug on Saturdays as part of the Sabbath brunch. Observant Jews who don’t cook on Saturdays place a tightly covered pan of jachnun in a barely warm oven on Friday night (or drop the tin in the embers of the taboon and slow-bake it until they pull it out Saturday and serve it for lunch. Traditionally one egg for each guest is baked on top of the dough within the sealed tin; when they are peeled and quartered the next day, the shell and the white are deeply browned. […] This is hearty, heavy eating at its best — eat one or two pieces and you’re happily satisfied for hours. […] Do remember that it bakes for twelve hours.
– Uri Scheft, Jachnun, Breaking breads: A New World of Israeli Baking, p.149
Twelve hours of baking!! The egg too?!
I admit it. I was terrified. I even considered saying that I was sick. Or that my dog ate my homework. (And we don’t even have a dog!)
But no. How could I bow out of an anniversary recipe? That would just be wrong.
So. I forged ahead (without the egg…). And surprise, surprise, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I thought it was going to be.
Here’s how things went:
BBB Jachnun diary:
Monday, 2 January 2017, 20:07 Talk about adventuresome for our Anniversary Bread!
– Tanna, in message to BBBabes
NO kidding! But I must say that I really like the sound of the zhug.
And wow. Watching the YouTube video, I can’t get over how much she manages to stretch the dough. It seems even thinner than Strudel!
But all that margarine is really giving me pause…. (What do you think would have been used traditionally instead of margarine – before margarine had been invented?)
Friday, 10 February, 00:24 I have to admit that the 12 hours of baking has been weighing on me. I am also a bit horrified at the idea of slathering the dough with margarine. Ewwwwww!
I looked at Liz Steinberg’s recipe again:
I also used olive oil in place of the margarine, which made my jachnun drier and distinctly not greasy. Using clarified butter, known as samneh, is also a viable (non-parve) option, and this gives the jachnun a lovely flavor you won’t find in the commercial variety.
– Liz Steinberg, Cafe Liz | Jachnun — Yemenite breakfast
Okay! That’s more like it.
I can’t decide if I’ll use butter or olive oil.
Saturday, 11 February, 19:32 I imagined I would be making this yesterday but I chickened out.
When I googled for pictures of jachnun, some were brown, some were greasy looking and some looked like dead body pieces.
-Lien, in message to BBBabes
I’m determined to tackle this recipe on Monday.
500 g bread flour (you can use whole wheat or half/half, but the dough will be harder to stretch without tearing)
25 g date syrup […]
-BBB Jachnun recipe
Date syrup?? We need date syrup for this really scary bread?? Oh oh….
Clearly, my brilliant reading abilities have kicked in again. Maybe I can find some tomorrow.
Still, I can’t get over being quite nervous about the outcome for this bread. I think I will be making just half the recipe. Or maybe a quarter.
21:24 And it just keeps getting scarier. Lien reported about the jachnun she made, saying she had to baked them for 15 hours!
After 12 hours [of baking], the bread still looked… well sort of dead somehow. I let it bake for about 3 hours more […] I took the pan with the rolls out of the oven. I peeled off the lid and paper, and it looked very unappetizing, greasy and pale. Not at all like the picture in the book with a crispy golden top. So I place the pan back in the oven without the lid and baked it for about 20 minutes on 200ºC in a fan oven. Well that improved a lot, the top was now golden and flaky. […] Of course we have no problem putting our oven on any time of any day, so we don’t have to bake our bread like this. I guess if you have been brought up with this tradition, you can probably appreciate it better.
-Lien, in messages to BBBabes
15 hours of baking!!! Yikes
Sunday, 12 February, 09:32 What on earth is that giant fluffy white stuff falling from the sky? And why is it doing it on a day that I have to drive north on the highway?! So much for getting date syrup on the way home.
Monday, 13 February 2017, 10:19 No date syrup yet. Yesterday’s drive on snow-covered highways was a little too daunting and so I hid inside all day today, to recover.
But we do have dates. And it made me realize that I could probably make date syrup without too much difficulty. Onto the internet I went:
Date syrup is my go to sweetener of choice. I use it to sweeten my yogurt, top my morning oats, smother my waffles, etc. It’s an excellent, all natural sweetener and is really the only “sweetener” I ever use.
-Ashlae, Oh, Ladycakes | How to make raw date syrup
After reading Ashlae’s recipe (and you know how well I read), I washed a few dates well and poured boiling water overtop. I left them to soak for about 40 minutes. And then 30 minutes more. And then forgot about them. An hour or so after the 30 minutes more, T went into the kitchen and reported that hey were still hard as rocks.
So we boiled the dates until they got soft. We were finally able jto remove the pits. And the result is more like date sludge than syrup.
Ashlae suggests adding lemon juice. But I forgot. Who cares… ?
16:05 Once again, not following the instructions, I mixed the dough like chapati dough, using mostly white flour with just a little whole wheat and hot water. I have to wonder what the pinch of baking powder will do though. Especially because I put in “half a pinch”.
I decided it was too much work do all those folds in a lightly greased bowl, so I just kneaded it until it was smooth smooth smooth.
Window pane test?!
I don’ need no stinkin’ window pane test!
So far, it turns out that there was no need for fear. The dough is in its hour long resting period right now. (I’ll be baking them tonight.) It will probably come as no surprise that I pretended not to notice the instruction to lightly grease the resting bowl. I figure there will be quite enough fat once I start smearing the stretched dough with butter. (Here’s hoping that it stretches nicely without me having taken the WP test)
18:31 Ha! That wasn’t scary at all! I found it to be incredibly easy to stretch out thinly. (I let the dough rest for about an hour and a half.)
Even though I initially thought I’d use olive oil, I switched at the last minute and used salted butter. Because I made only half the recipe, I formed only four rolls and put them into a parchment-lined casserole dish.
I cannot get over how thin the dough can become!
Rolling them into logs was child’s play. Why on earth was I so afraid?!
21:40 Ignoring the instruction to cover the container tightly, I put a cookie sheet on top of the casserole and into the 250F oven it went.
22:45 Wow, what deliciousness is wafting from the kitchen!! Worried that the oven might be too hot, we turned it down to 200F
Tuesday, 14 February, 04:29 I woke up out of a deep sleep, staggered down to the kitchen – without my glasses on – peeked under the cookie sheet to see a lovely lightish golden colour and turned the oven down to 150F.
09:13 Wow – dark gold! Ermmm, or maybe that’s mahogany coloured? And even darker on the bottom. In retrospect, I probably should have turned the oven off at 4:30 this morning.
Clearly, our oven is too hot.
The jachnun are really really hard on bottom, almost impossible to eat. We had to use our biggest sharp sharp knife to saw through each one. But the top half was definitely edible. I really like the hint of date flavour.
Naturally, in my frenzy of fear, I completely forgot about the condiments. Especially the zhug! Rats Rats Rats! I really wanted to try that!
You can never have enough grated tomato. […] [It’s] so simple–cut a ripe and juicy tomato in half and grate the cut side against the large-hole side of a box grater until you get to the skin. […] Be sure to use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find […]
The egg [with the jachnun] makes the meal complete, while the grated tomato and z’hug add a light, fresh, peppery counterpoint.
– Uri Scheft, Flatbreads, Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking, p148-149
Of course, we didn’t have any tomatoes (where on earth would we find decent tomatoes in February?!) and we didn’t have any coriander leaf. So we mixed up some za’tar while the eggs were boiling. (No million-hour baked eggs for us. I simply refuse to even try baking one egg for 12 hours! Making the jachnun was a big enough stretch for me.)
So. How were they? I confess that judging by the jachnun that came out of our oven, it’s not something I’ll be racing to try again. They were really hard on bottom, almost impossible to eat.
We served two of them with hard-boiled eggs and za’tar. But we really wanted to try zhug so went out and got some so we could try it with hummus for lunch.
Wow Wow Wow! We LOVE zhug! And, naturally, I tried the zhug with another jachnun (T refused; he’s afraid of breaking his teeth). What a fabulous combination. (Jachnun and hummus is not quite so successful….)
Thank you for this incredible stretch, Lien! Happy Anniversary BBBabes!
Here is the BBB February 2017 9th Anniversary Jachnun recipe we were given. And here is what I did to it by making only half the recipe:
makes four rolls
- 250gm flour ¹
» 200gm unbleached all-purpose
» 10gm high gluten
» 40gm 100% whole wheat
- 12gm date sludge (or date syrup, if we had it)
- 10gm honey
- tiny pinch baking powder (why? I can’t imagine it makes a whit of difference)
- ±150gm just boiled water (I added about 20gm more….)
- 6gm salt
- ~30gm salted butter, softened so it’s spreadable
based recipes in Flat Breads and Flavors by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford, and Mediterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou
- 1 birds-eye green chili
- 1 dried cayenne pepper
- small bunch coriander leaf
- small bunch parsley
- ground cumin
- black pepper
- ground cardamom
- splash (or two) olive oil
- mixing and kneading the dough: in the early evening before baking: Put all the dough ingredients except the butter into a bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon, then knead in the bowl, adding more water if there is still too much flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Continue kneading for at least 5 minutes until the dough is very smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside on the counter or in the oven with only the light turned on ofr about an hour.
- shaping: Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Set three of the pieces aside, covering them to keep them moist. Shape one of the pieces into a ball. Smear a little butter on the counter and flatten the ball on the greased counter. Constantly smearing the dough with butter, stretch it out until it is a very very thin rectangle. Fold one third of the rectangle into to middle. Smear more butter on top. Fold the other third over top like a letter. Smear more butter. Tightly roll, from the narrow end, to form a log. Place it seam side down in a parchment papered casserole dish. (Some people suggest laying pieces of stale bread in the bottom of the dish and covering it with parchment paper before adding the shaped jachnun. Repeat with the other 3 pieces. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside until it’s time to put the jachnun into the oven (you can probably put them in right away).
- baking: Cover the casserole dish with a cookie sheet (or lid, if you have a lid for the dish) and place in the middle of the oven preheated to 200F. Or lower – the BBB recipe suggests 250F and that was way too hot for our oven. (Rrrrrrr… As I was typing this up, I see that Lien said 225F…). Leave the dish in the oven overnight – for 12 hours.
- make the Zhug: Toast dried chili in olive oil. Set aside and allow the oil to cool. Place all other ingredients into a blender. Add chilli and cooled oil and whir until smooth. If it seems too dry, add a little more olive oil. Apparently, zhug can be kept refrigerated in a covered clean jar for up to 2 weeks. Good luck with that. If you’re like us, it will be all gone in a day.
Serve the jachnun, still warm from the oven, in the morning with hard boiled eggs and zhug….
1.) flour The BBB recipe calls for “bread flour”. Because I’m incapable of making bread with only white flour, I decided to add a little whole wheat flour. Because we cannot easily find unbleached bread flour, I added a small amount of vital wheat gluten (high gluten flour) to our unbleached all-purpose flour, to raise the protein level.
2.) zhug The BBB recipe is slightly different from the one we made. Searching through various cookbooks and the internet produced various recipes for zhug (aka zhoug, z’houg, Sahawiq, Skhug, etc.) All of them called for coriander leaf (cilantro), garlic, chili pepper of some kind, cumin, cardamom and a tiny bit of olive oil. Many called for a mixture of parsley and coriander leaf.
I’d love to try Jachnun again. But in Israel – from a vendor.
However, I confess that I’m not sure I’ll bother to try perfecting the cooking time and temperature in our ancient oven for homemade jachnun. We will, however, be making zhug many many many more times. It’s a keeper!
Today, we still have one jachnun roll left. It’s the ugliest, slightly misshapen one. I’m going to try cutting this last jachnun roll into pieces to use as croutons for soup tonight.
I’ll let you know how it goes. If I haven’t broken our good knife and/or all my teeth.
Lien is our host for February 2017’s 9th Anniversary Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:
This recipe was stuck in my head for a while. I guess the 12 hour baking time did that. Then I wondered is this a bread? No yeast, but baking powder?! No yeast can still make real bread, think flatbread, wraps and so on. […] So I let it sink in for a while to decide if it was bread worthy or not. It is not sweet, not eaten with sweet things, even if it is a breakfast item. And it’s function is a bread… I can see it like that, and so it is, and that’s what we’re baking. […] Traditionally served with hardboiled eggs (those are boiled in the bread pot), grated tomato and Zhug, a spicy hot sauce.
We know you’ll want to stretch out make jachnun too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make jachnun in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 28 February 2017. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.
For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:
- BBB Kitchen of the month: Lien, Notitie van Lien, Jachnun: February 2017
- BBBuddy guidelines
- about the BBBabes
Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ February 2017 9th Anniversary bread.
- Aparna, My Diverse Kitchen
- Cathy, Bread Experience: Jachnun #breadbakingbabes
- Heather, All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
- Ilva, Ilva Baretta Photography
- Jamie, Life’s a Feast
- Judy, Judy’s Gross Eats: Jachnun
- Karen, Bake My Day
- Karen K, Karen’s Kitchen Stories: Jachnun
- Katie, Thyme for Cooking: Bread Baking Babes celebrate 9 years with Jachnun
- Kelly, A Messy Kitchen: The Babes tackle Jachnun… Happy Anniversary!
- Lien, Notitie van Lien: Longest bake ever for the Bread Baking Babes this month! (kitchen of the month)
- Pat (aka Elle), Feeding My Enthusiasms
- Tanna, My Kitchen in Half Cups: Jachnun ~ BBB ~ Questions of BREAD ~ 12 hours baking
As Katie has so fittingly said in the past:
As always, we have some very busy Babes at the moment….. But just so you know: We’re all still BABES!
edit 21 February 2017: We had one jachnun left over and I didn’t like to throw it away but it really was like shoe leather on one side. So I wrapped it in plastic to sit for a couple of days (softening it with its own moisture) and then was able to slice it in rings (discs??) to use as croutons. Croutons made with jachnun are GREAT! Many thanks again for this truly remarkable stretch, Lien!
- Vaguely Related:
» Rgaïf, layered North African Flatbread (BBB February 2014)
» za’tar: a new favourite spice mix
» Harissa (WHB#83: garlic)
» Paratha: easier than chapatis!
» mmm… cherry strudel