Wild Stab at Ksra (BBB March 2019)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for Ksra (do as I say, not as I did) to go with Moroccan Tagine; reading difficulties – again…; commercial yeast? we don’ need no stinkin’ commercial yeast! information about Bread Baking Babes;

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Ksra

There is really no single Moroccan bread, but there are countless variations on a theme – Naomi Duguid, Flatbreads & Flavors

BBB March 2019

I was thrilled when Kelly announced that this month’s BBBabe bread is Ksra or Kesra – to go with Moroccan tagine. How perfectly timed this is for us! It would give us a chance to use our tagine (as if we need an excuse).

When I was wandering around the internet looking at other peoples’ Ksra adventures, I was reminded that there is a recipe for Ksra in Flatbreads and Flavours. Hey, we have that book….

I raced to the kitchen to look. As I took Flatbreads and Flavors from our cookbook shelf, I remembered that we also have Anissa Helou’s book, Mediterranean Street Food. There was bound to be a recipe for Ksra there! Of course there is.

cookbooks

Most [Moroccan] households prepare their own dough and […] in the mid- and late morning, women or preschool children walk down the lane with the shaped loaves on a board, covered with a cloth. They carry the board balanced on their heads or slung on one hip. When you see the array of breads lined up for baking at a local bakery, […] you realize that there are nearly as many different kinds of bread as there are households.
    Household bread in Morocco was traditionally made with a sourdough starter […] but that is now changing as commercial dry yeast becomes more widely available.
 
– Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, Moroccan Anise Bread Ksra, Flatbreads and Flavors, p.242
There is nothing I like better than to buy bread from one of the Berber women who set up stalls in the medina. […] Morocco is an extraordinary country, only a few hours’ flight from sophisticated London or Paris, yet completely unspoiled by modern life. Going there is like going back in time to the Middle Ages. Last time I was there, I was taken to a farm a few kilometers away from Marrakesh, […] [O]ne of the young girls set about making the bread. She kneaded the dough in a large earthenware dish, shaped it, wrapped it in acloth, and left it to rest. When it was time to bake it, her mother set another flat earthenward dish over a raging fire built with olvie branches, and when the dish became really hot, she started baking the bread for our lunch. It was as much a delight to watch as it was to eat. Tunisian bread is similar to Moroccan but without sesame seeds and with ground fennel sees in place of the anise seeds.
 
– Anissa Helou, Moroccan Bread K’sra, Mediterranean Street Food, p.81

Here’s how things went with making ksra:

BBB Ksra diary:

19 February 2019, 09:23 It’s SO cool that Kelly grilled the bread. In February! Maybe, by a miracle, our snow and ice will be gone mid March. (I sure hope I haven’t jinxed anything by saying that. We can’t even carve a path to our garage right now because of the solid ice on top of equally solid snow that fell last week.)

Snow and Ice

5 March 2019, 17:18 I’ve been thinking about how much I had wanted to use our barbecue to bake Ksra. But no. I don’t think it’s going to happen. It has been lightly snowing all day today – to go on top of the 20 or so centimeters of snow and solid ice still on the ground.

I’m starting to despair. I do know we should expect snow until at least Easter. But it should only be a light dusting from now on. A light dusting to give the emerging crocusses a thrill (…not that there has been any sign of crocusses here yet). :stomp:

Because bread has been baked in Morocco for eons – long before commercial yeast was invented, I’m determined to use our starter. I based my idea for altering the recipe on Jane Mason’s formula in her book “All You Knead is Bread”. (I hope I’m not way too off-base)
i) Pick the recipe you would like to bake, note the amount [by weight] of fresh yeast that is called for and double it to get the amount of [natural starter] you need. Weigh this out in a bowl.
ii) Take 25% [by weight] of the flour that is called for in the recipe and put that in the bowl too.
iii) Take half as much water as you took of flour and put that in the bowl. […] Mush it all together with your hands, cover it and leave it overnight or all day on the counter. Write down how much [by weight] flour and water you used because you will need to subtract that from the total amount called for in the recipe and use the balance the next day.
 
– Jane Mason, All You Knead is Bread, p48

The only tricky thing is knowing what the equivalent for cake yeast vs active dry yeast required for the BBB recipe. Luckily, Carol Field has come to the rescue on this in her book “The Italian Baker”: 2+1/2 tsp (one package) [7 grams] active dry yeast = 18 gm cake fresh yeast

I have altered Jane Mason’s formula a little; I think that the amount of water should be equal by weight to the amount of flour in the leavener. Because, of course, I have already given myself permission to make changes to other people’s recipes…. But recently, I really liked actually getting that permission from Malin Elmlid:
[M]ake things taste the way you like them. Omit what you do not like and add what you think makes it better. Be creative. Make it yours. That is what I do all the time. If you choose a different ingredient or technique than I have chosen, you may get a different result. Maybe yours will be even better.
 
Malin Elmlid, Introduction, The Bread Exchange: Tales and Recipes from a Journey of Baking and Bartering, p.12

10 March 2019, 10:53am It’s almost eleven o’clock?? But, but, but, it feels like it’s an hour earlier!

Oh wait. It is. If we were sane, that is. (I keep imagining that THIS is the year the governments will come to their senses – or at least listen to their constituents, who have came to their sense eons ago – and abolish the biannual switching from standard to DST, once and for all. :stomp: )

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Making Ksra. Already in conniption mode because of switching to DST, I had a fit when I saw that someone had left the oven on overnight to dry out the rest of the really really really expensive rosemary we bought to put into last night’s dinner (which was delicious!) of Nigella’s Chicken. We would have used the rescued rosemary plant from our garden. But it just recently succumbed to powdery mildew. Why does it do that? Every year? How can we stop it?

Eeek! Off track again! Sorry about that….

The oven was on. And the leavener for the Ksra was there. Remind me not to start screaming about ruined bread until AFTER I’ve checked to see that everything is just fine. Because it was. Sorry, T. I shouldn’t have screamed so loudly. I hope I didn’t disturb the neighbours too. (No medal for me… :-( )

Mixing the dough was calming. I plan to squoosh in the salt about 20 minutes from now. Because, unlike Paula Wolfert, I do like to get my hands right in there.
Years ago, Moroccan women would knead their dough for up to 30 minutes to arrive at a silky, smooth mass. They often used a method called “knuckling” to add additional water to dough that was already saturated: the cook simply dips her knuckles into warm water, then uses them to press down on the dough while gradually working in the water. […] Many cooks enjoy doing this sort of kneading. Me? I have to admit that I don’t have the patience, but I do like good bread. Enter the food processor!
 
– Paula Wolfert, Bread with Sesame and Anise Seeds, The Food of Morroco, p.102

Not that I am going so far as to knuckle the dough for 30 minutes. Instead, I’m using Chad Robertson’s stretching and folding, letting the dough rest, then stretching and folding some mor.

As I mixed the dough, I kept thinking about whether I should add the aniseed at the same time as the salt.

I confess that neither of us is wild about aniseed. We’re also not wild about spices/herbs mixed right into the bread. (Unless the spice is cardamom. But don’t let me get distracted again….) I decided to think about it more after mixing the dough. I re-read the instructions and got to the shaping section:
Optional to brush the surface with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds or more anise seed.
 
– BBB Ksra recipe
[K]hubz or khobez is the bread in Arabic language. This traditional Moroccan Bread is sometimes called Khobz Kesra or Khobz Eddar. […] This Khobz is a most staple in Moroccan cuisine. It is simple, easy to make and very versatile. Sometimes people like adding different seeds or spices to the dough like anise, fennel cumin or black seeds.
 
– Amira, Amira’s Pantry | Khobz; a Traditional Morroccan Bread

Hello!! There are my answers! I’ll leave the aniseed out of the dough entirely and just put it on top of the bread. That should work perfectly. Yay. There’s a weight off what’s left of my mind.

13:56 I’ve now added the salt and turned the dough twice. It feels fabulous! It’s beautifully soft and silky.

T is about to go to prepare our tagine. In our tagine. :-) :-) We are going to eat like Sultans and Sultanahs!

17:27 The bread is shaped and has been in the oven with only the light turned on for about an hour.

– Sabah, SouSouKitchen | Pain Marocain with recipe (in English and French) included in video at the bottom of the post
K’sra is one of the easiest breads to make. You can use plain flour or semolina. I prefer the latter. In some parts of Morocco they use barley flour but it’s more difficult to get a good loaf using barley because it has no gluten. I like to make the festive or breakfast version with anise and sesame seeds.
 
– Anissa Helou, k’sra (or Moroccan bread)

Deciding to be festive rather than every-day, I scattered sesame seeds on one round and aniseed on the other round. If we were in a village in Morocco, I’d be carrying the cloth covered tray to the baker now. As it is, I think I’ll turn the oven on in a few minutes.
Pour 1 cup of hot water into the metal pan or tray for steam and quickly close the oven door.
 
– BBB Ksra recipe

Pour water onto a tray for steam? I don’t think so. I’m a disobedient BBBabe. But you already knew that…. :lalala:

I will liberally spray the tops of the rounds with water instead.

17:35 Oven is on. Bread stone (in 3 pieces fitted back together as closely as possible) on the middle shelf.

Now the only thing I have to decide is whether to poke holes in the top of the bread or not. What to do. What to do.

17:54 I poked holes with a fork. I sure hope it turns out!

The bread is in the oven now. I sure wish we could have barbecued it! But a.) the back garden is still completely covered in snow and ice, and b.) it’s raining and very windy.

I don’t know why, but in spite of what Kelly, the other BBBabes, Sabah, and Anissa Helou say about this being easy bread to make, I am suddenly filled with doubts that the bread isn’t going to turn out. Which makes no sense, does it? It smells great!

But if it doesn’t turn out, we can have couscous with our tagine, can’t we?

18:26 Oven spring! There’s oven spring!

Why oh why do I doubt myself?

But the breads look just a little too blonde. I’ll bake them for 10 more minutes. (I turned the heat down to 325 though.)

18:41 They’re just as blonde as before. Out they come.

Flatbread, eh? Wow! They’re so round! Maybe a little too round. But light weight! I can’t wait to taste this bread!

Aha! Here’s why they’re so round. I didn’t flatten them enough before poking them (one of these days, I’ll learn to retain what I’ve read…).
Flatten each ball into a ¾” thick round and let rest on a parchment lined or cornmeal dusted pizza peel for 20-30 minutes.
 
– BBB Ksra recipe

So our bread isn’t flat! C’est la vie! I’m just going to repeat Naomi Duguid’s words to myself: There is really no single Moroccan bread, but there are countless variations on a theme” and “When you see the array of breads lined up for baking at a local bakery, […] you realize that there are nearly as many different kinds of bread as there are households.

BBB March 2019

Dinner was fabulous! We reheated the bread with the aniseed topping, and cut it in half to have with tagine (T sort of followed this BBC Good Food recipe, adding artichoke hearts to the lemons and olives), and green beans with almonds. We also gave ourselves little bowls of really fancy olive oil that one of our friends gave to us this past Christmas. Then at dinner, we tore the bread into smaller pieces to dip into olive oil and/or tagine.

Did I remember to say that dinner was fabulous? :-) :-)

Tagine
Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
BBB March 2019

I’m not positive that we detected the flavour of the barley. But the bread is different in flavour and aroma from our regular bread, so I’m guessing we did.

And now I’m really glad that, in spite of both our misgivings about the addition of aniseed, I had obediently sprinkled it on top of one of the breads. Because it was delicious!

We’re still happy that I didn’t add the aniseed to the dough though. It’s nice to be able to have some of the bread just plain.

But next time – and there will be next times, especially once the barbecue is released from the snow – I will flatten the shaped rounds more. We think the bread would be significantly better if it was flatter.

Many thanks for choosing ksra, Kelly!

Here is the BBB recipe for ksra that we were given. And here is what I did to it:

Wild Ksra (Moroccan Anise and Barley Flatbread)
adapted from recipes in “New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and “All You Knead is Yeast” by Jane Mason

makes 2 round loaves

leavener

  • 26g whole wheat starter from fridge
  • 113g 100% whole wheat flour
  • 113g water

dough

  • 290g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5g wheat germ
  • 45g barley flour
  • 3g whole anise seeds
  • all of the leavener from above
  • 227g body temperature water, divided (hold back 27g for when adding the salt)
  • 9g seasalt

topping

  • sesame seeds and/or aniseeds
  1. leavener In the evening of the day before making the bread: Put the starter, flour and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is stirred in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on.
  2. mix the dough In the morning of the day you will be making the bread: When a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water – even amounts by weight – cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float. Put flours, wheat germ, all but 25g water, and leavener into a large mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes.
  3. adding the salt: In a small bowl, whisk the salt into the final 25g water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough.
  4. kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it’s coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  5. stretching and folding the dough: Turn the bowl as you fold and re-fold the dough into the center. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and early spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Repeat the folding step about 3 times in all at 30 minute intervals. You’ll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. After the final time of folding, the dough is ready to shape.
  6. pre-shaping and add the topping(s): Scatter a dusting of all-purpose flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using the dough scraper, divide the dough into two even pieces. Pat each piece into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Place them seam side down on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Run your hands under the cold water tap and gently rub the top of each ball to wet it thoroughly. Cover the tops with aniseeds and/or sesame seeds. Cover with a clean tea towel and let sit for about 20 minutes
  7. shaping: Without breaking the skin, press down on each ball to flatten it to roughly 2cm thick. (Do as I say, not as I did. Don’t be afraid to really flatten the dough ball.) Cover with the tea towel again and let sit – for a couple of hours to allow the dough to double.
  8. baking: To know when it’s time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the tea towl and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, leave the tray on the counter. Put the bread stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 400F.
  9. When the oven is preheated about fifteen minutes later, use a fork to pierce a pattern in the top of each bread. Spray the loaves liberally with water and, using a pizza peel, slide them onto the hot stone. Bake 30-40 minutes until they are nicely golden brown and sound hollow when knuckle-rapped on the bottom.
  10. cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

Serve the bread warm with tagine. Kelly suggests cutting the bread into wedges.

Notes:

Leavener: Like so many recipes on the internet and in the books on our shelves, the BBB recipe calls for using active dry yeast. This seemed counter-intuitive to me when baking a bread that has been made for centuries, long before commercial yeast was available.

Aniseed: Almost all the Ksra recipes I saw called for aniseed to be incorporated into the dough, with instructions to scatter more aniseed on top optionally.

 

The next day, we sliced the sesame-topped bread to make toast. It was surprisingly dull-tasting. We really missed the flavour of the aniseed. And the accompaniment of the tagine.

We turned the rest of the sesame-topped bread into crumbs to scatter on pasta or to use for vegetable gratin(s).

Note to self: when making ksra, flatten properly, always top with aniseed, and always serve with tagine….

Bread Baking Babes BBB: Let's Keep BakingMoroccan Ksra

Kelly is the host of March 2019’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

March Bread – Moroccan Ksra
 
Since Moroccan tagine happens to be one of my daughter’s favorite dishes, when I found this bread that is traditionally served with tagine, I knew I wanted to try it out. It is a flatbread with anise seed and in this version, barley flour or rolled barley. (If you don’t like anise you could always sub fennel or caraway I would guess.) I expect it will be great with any stew or soup type dinner. I couldn’t find my rolled barley in the freezer, so I ground some pearl barley into flour. If you can’t find barley, you can always use whole wheat flour, rye or semolina. I have seen this bread often topped with sesame seeds before baking, and it can be made on the grill as well.
 
– Kelly, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make Ksra too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the doughnuts 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 29 December 2018. 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.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ March 2019 Ksra.

 

As I was putting the books back on the shelf, I suddenly noticed that there is a photograph of k’sra on the front cover of Flatbreads and Flavors! So THAT’S what it’s supposed to look like! Next time. Really. I promise.

With your palms, flatten each piece of dough into a flat round loaf […] Just before baking, prick the top surface of each bread decoratively 8 or 10 times with a fork
 
Ouza has already made a large batch of bread dough and divided it into smaller individual doughs. Now she lights the fire in her kanoon to heat it for baking. […]
    Ouza bends to add more small branches to the fire in the bottom of the kannon. She places a shallow clay dish, the bottom part o fa tagine, on top of the kanoon to heat and then, sitting on a low three-legged stool like a tiny milking stool, she starts to prepare the loaves. The pieces of dough sit covered with a cloth on a tradirtional shallow basket, called a t’boug, lightly dusted with flour. working on the t’boug she flattens each piece of dough with the palm of her hand. […] She places it on an inverted sieve, shaped like a tamorine without bells, and waits for the fire to develop.
    Once the fire is well established, Ouza uses the sieve as a peel and deftly places the dough on the hot tagine. […] Soon the smell of baking drifts out from the kanoon, mingling with the wood smoke. […] Ouza smiles with pleasure as we exclaim at teh wonderful taste-slightly smoky-crisp on the outside and tender in the center.
 
– Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, Flatbreads and Flavors, p.242, 253-254

top left corner Flatbreads and Flavors cover

Detail on the cover of ‘Flatbreads & Flavors’ by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford
showing Ksra (the round bread with the fork holes)

 

This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, sourdough and wild yeast, whine on by .

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6 responses to “Wild Stab at Ksra (BBB March 2019)

  1. Kelly

    Wow, fabulous crumb and spring! I will be trying out your formula rather than my quick method for making it sourdough next time. Glad you were able to develop an appreciation for aniseed in the proper application! I love anise, fennel and caraway all! And your tagine looks amazing. There was 3 inches of snow on the BBQ when I grilled, but it wasn’t nearly so cold out as I expect it is where you are. And do be watchful, my kitty did get one fang hooked in the crust and was ready to drag it off when I snapped the picture! Maybe anise smells good to them like catmint?

    I love fennel seed. And I like caraway in its place – rye bread. But I don’t know what it is about anise that made me not want to add it. Thank goodness I did. (Did I manage to miss your quick method when I was displaying my stellar reading and comprehension skills?) – Elizabeth

    Reply
  2. Karen

    I had read too that sesame seeds were for the “fancy” version! It sounds like you had a wonderful dinner!

    Next time, if I decide to add sesame seeds, it will be in addition to the aniseed. Because the sesame on its own was rather dull. (Yes thank you, the dinner WAS wonderful.) – Elizabeth

    Reply
    1. Cathy (Bread Experience)

      Wow! Look at that oven spring! Your loaves looks fabulous and your dinner sounds divine! Btw, thanks for doing the conversions for the sourdough. It was very helpful!

      Glad to be of service, Cathy. :-) And yes, dinner was indeed spectacular. But I think it would have been even more spectacular if I’d read the instruction to flatten the rounds properly… next time. – Elizabeth

      Reply
  3. Tanna

    While I did use the rolling pin on mine, I think your loaves are perfect as well. Really, is there a right or wrong way to do any of this. Your quote from Malin Elmlid, Introduction, The Bread Exchange: Tales and Recipes from a Journey of Baking and Bartering, makes me think she’s just our kind of baker/cook!
    Have to try that tagine recipe! and the green beans look fabulous. Grilled would have been terrific but even without snow I have no grill here.

    A rolling pin! I should have thought of that. Then our loaves would have been perfect, instead of looking just like regular bread. And that was my immediate thought about Malin Elmlid too! And yes. You neeeeeed to try the BBC tagine recipe, Tanna. It is fabulous. You’ll be amazed at how the saffron stands out, in spite of all the other ingredients. – Elizabeth

    Reply
  4. Katie Zeller

    I’m wondering at the age of your cookbook that refers to Marrakesh as ‘going back to the Middle Ages’ lol It’s the only city I’ve been in where I’ve been cautious about crossing the street in a crosswalk with a green light. Cars, bikes, trucks, camels….. all as fast as possible and I have no idea how they manage to get to where they’re going in one piece.
    What kind of tagine did you make? We had a lovely cooking class in Marrakesh….
    Oh yes, your bread looks wonderful and I’m glad you were brave with the anise seeds!

    The cookbook was published a little over 10 years ago. But note that Anissa Helou wasn’t necessarily talking about Marrakesh when she was “going back to the Middle Ages” – she was talking about the farm just outside of Marrakesh. (I can only imagine the nightmare of traffic. I have experienced similar terror to your Marrakesh experience in the chaos of trucks, bikes, scooters, cars, cows, camels, etc. etc. on the streets of Calcutta.) – Elizabeth

    Reply
    1. ejm Post author

      What tagine(s) did you make in your cooking class in Marrakesh, Katie?

      The one we made was meatballs with saffron, lemons, olives, and artichoke hearts. (We mostly followed a recipe for “Moroccan meatball tagine with lemon & olives” on the BBC Good Food website.)

      Reply

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