Looking through Lovers’ Windows to Celebrate Spring (BBB May 2017)

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Bread Baking Babes May 2017 summary: recipe for Shubbak el-Habayeb (Lovers’ Windows); timing and the beauty of refrigeration; a Bread Baking Babes project;

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) May 2017: Shubbak el-Habayeb

black cat In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring

It’s spring at last! Time to open up those windows!

BBB May 2017 And what wonderful windows have been chosen for the BBBabes this month from The Book of Buns by Jane Mason. Karen (Karen’s Kitchen Stories) chose an Iraqi bread, Shubbak el-Habayeb, which translated into English is “The Lovers’ Window”.

There is a beautiful bun from Iraq called shubbak el habayeb. This translates into the Lovers’ Window which I think is the nicest name of any bread in the whole world. We need more love and we need more windows into other cultures so let’s bake these and take them to protests and refugee centres, to airports and mosques. […]
In 2010 I woke up one morning and realised I could change the world through bread. I set up Virtuous Bread to make it fun and easy for people all over the world to make, find and learn about good bread and in so doing to forge the link between bread and virtue. […] I would like to help create a world in which we are more responsible regarding the choices we make: what we eat, what we do, how we treat each other, and how we can build communities that are based on positive and progressive relationships.
-Jane Mason, Virtuous Bread
The name of these beautiful buns is translated as The Lover’s Window, which kind of makes me want to cry every time I think about it – it’s just lovely! I would love to know who named it and whether they ever found their true love.
– Jane Mason, The Book of Buns

Here’s how this month’s BBB breadmaking went:

BBB Shubbak el-Habayeb diary:

orange blossom water and mahlab 2 April 2017, 13:59 Woohoooo!! Another use for the orange blossom water that is still lurking in the cupboard AND the mahleb that is in the freezer. Great choice, Karen!

11 May 2017, 11:28 I just looked at the recipe again. It really looks good! I’ll make it on Monday… but I’ll omit the rose water. We haven’t had very good luck with getting decent rose water, so have pretty much given up on it. But orange blossom water seems like enough, don’t you think?

15 May 2017, 08:32 Oh oh. I’m feeling like I’m getting in under the wire again. This morning, I contemplated putting off baking BBB bread until tomorrow. But. I just realized that tomorrow is the 16th….

I reviewed the ingredients one more time before going down to mix the dough. A cup of sugar with just 4 cups of flour?! Eeeek, that seems excessive.

In my usual fashion, I’m going to reduce the amount of sugar. Shhhhh! Don’t tell T!

11:23 Mixing the dough went fine – although, I’m afraid that I didn’t exactly follow the instructions. Naturally, I played fast and loose with the eggs, using only one and substituting the other with flaxseed and water. Not to mention that it must be time to get my glasses checked. After I measured the cardamom and mahleb, I realized that I had used the 3/4 tsp rather than the 1/2 teaspoon on the ring of measuring spoons.

I found the original recipe to be a bit low in hydration, so I added water slowly as I kneaded it, which I included in the instructions.
-Karen K, message to BBB

No kidding! This dough was really dry. I kept having to squoosh in more water as I kneaded.

12:15 Ha. No wonder my dough was so dry! As I was tidying the counter after lunch, I noticed that a good shot of the water I had carefully weighed was still in the measuring container, hiding beside the knife block. Oops! No wonder I had to keep adding water! :lalala:

It’s finally warm enough to barbecue and we’re planning to make focaccia tonight. I’m thinking that we should bake the BBB bread on the barbecue too. When mixing the focaccia dough together, I realized that our yeast is past its due date. Oh dear. Another thing to panic about.

13:40 Quel relief! Both doughs are beginning to rise.

16:28 The BBB dough is rising nicely. I hope I didn’t go overboard with the hydration though. It’s pretty sloppy!

17:04 Hmmm, are we really going to be able to bake this tonight? I really should have known that an egg and butter rich dough wouldn’t necessarily rise in time to bake by this afternoon. Even though it’s beautifully warm outside today, it still went down to around 6C last night so the house is still quite cool.

17:07 Sudden change of direction!! I just put the dough in the fridge to continue rising overnight. I’ll shape and bake these tomorrow morning… which means I might be late. Sorry, Karen!!

But. It also means that I may remember to make date paste to go with them. Won’t that be delicious for a late breakfast?

Another recipe dug up from Nawal Nasrallah’s Delights from the Garden of Eden. […] These rolls can be served plain or stuffed (with cheese or date paste). This particular one is called lover’s windows (shubbak el-habayeb).
-Joumana Accad, Taste of Beirut, Iraqi sweet rolls (Shubbak el-habayeb)

16 May 2017, 07:42 What a beautiful soft morning! Accompanied by the happy sound of robins calling, I fetched the beautifully risen dough out of the fridge, divided it into what I thought was 12 pieces, forming each into a ball. I puttered around in the quiet kitchen for 15 minutes, putting parchment paper on the cookie sheets, and then weighing dates and getting butter out of the fridge to make a tiny bit of Joumana Accad’s date paste.

Then I began to roll the dough into squares. It was a breeze.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten… hey!! Why is there only one dough ball left?!

I took bits of dough from the larger squares until it seemed like there was enough to make one more square. Ha! Easy as pie.

I tried using a knife to cut the slits for the windows. THAT didn’t work! But the pizza wheel was perfect.

Cover each sheet pan with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for one hour.
-BBB Shubbak el-Habeyeb recipe

Cover with oiled plastic wrap? I think not! The trays, with 12 Lovers’ Windows (I counted twice to be sure) covered with a tea towel and an ancient plastic grocery bag cut and splayed out into a sheet, are now in the oven with only the light turned on.

In an hour or so, I’ll glaze the windows. Of course, I’m not going to use an egg. That’s just too tricky and slimy. I’ll brush with milk. I’m considering transgressing a little more to sprinkle some of the windows with poppy seeds, but I haven’t decided completely yet. :lalala:

10:04 Time to turn on the oven!

Whisk together the glaze ingredients and brush the glaze over the rolls on one of the sheet pans. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
-BBB May 2017 recipe

“Whisk together the glaze ingredients”?? Oops! I simply brushed the shaped buns with milk and then sprinkled them with sugar, fleur de sel and sesame seeds. And then for colour, I decided to throw on a few poppy seeds as well. Why not?

Then, into the oven (preheated to 400F) they went – onto the top shelf to prevent them from burning on the bottoms. I also turned the oven down to 375F. Of course, I have no idea what temperature our ancient oven is at when the setting says “400F”, so it may well be that we baked the buns at 400F, or even 425F.

11:34 The buns look and smell fabulous. They took 20 minutes rather than 15 minutes, so perhaps the oven was really at 375F. But the buns are light-weight and perfectly golden. What beautiful oven spring!

BBB May 2017 We served the buns with brie, date paste and/or butter. Wow. I can’t decide which way they’re best.

Because I made such a small amount of date paste, it’s all gone. So we’ll have to try the next ones with Karen’s suggestion of orange marmalade. Oooh, that sounds good, doesn’t it? Is it time for a snack yet?

Thank you, Karen! These are delicious!

Here is the BBB May 2017 Shubbak el-Habayeb recipe we were given. And here is what I did to it:

BBB Shubbak el-Habayeb and Date Paste
based on recipes in Jane Mason’s “The Book of Buns”, and Joumana Accad’s website, Taste of Beirut

buns | Date Paste

makes twelve buns


  • 2gm active dry yeast
  • milk:
       »30gm skim milk powder
       »225gm water at body temperature
  • 50gm sugar (the BBB recipe calls for twice as much)
  • 600gm flour:
       »500gm unbleached all-purpose
       »85gm 100% whole wheat
       »15gm wheat germ ¹
  • flour (the BBB recipe calls for all-purpose flour only):
       »500gm unbleached all-purpose
       »85gm 100% whole wheat
       »15gm wheat germ ¹
  • egg, etc. ²:
       »1 egg
       »45gm water at body temperature
       »14gm flaxseed, finely ground
  • 3/4 tsp orange blossom water (the BBB recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom (the BBB recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 3/4 tsp ground mahlab (the BBB recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 12gm Kosher salt ³
  • 50gm butter, melted and cooled
  • ~120gm water, at body temperature
  • Date Paste
    based on the filling for date bars on the Taste of Beirut website

  • 30gm dates
  • 1 Tbsp salted butter
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • splash water


  • milk (the BBB recipe calls for an egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water)
  • sugar
  • coarse salt (I used fleurs de sel from the Camargue)
  • sesame and poppy seeds (the BBB recipe calls for sesame seeds only)
  1. dough:
    • The day before the morning you plan to bake the buns: (If your kitchen is a normal temperature, you should be able to bake the buns on the same day you mix them.) Pour body-temperature water (do the baby bottle test on the inside of your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot – I’m going to assume that you remember what I’ve yammered about when saying that you should NEVER use water from the hot water tap…) into a mixing bowl large enough for the final dough to triple. Whisk in yeast, milk powder and sugar until they are dissolved.
    • Dump flours, wheat germ, egg, water and flaxseed, cardamom, mahlab, orange blossom water, and melted butter on top of the yeasted ingredients. Put the salt at the very top. Set aside for a few moments.
  2. mixing and kneading:
    • Using a wooden spoon, mix as well as you can. If it seems really really really dry, dribble a little more water onto the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl to make a slurry. Stir the slurry into the dry dough. If it still seems dry and difficult to knead, slop in more water and squoosh it in with your hands.
    • Using one hand to turn the bowl and the other to dig down to the bottom to lift the dough up to the top, turn, fold, turn, fold, etc. the dough until it is smoothish and no longer looking like porridge. As you knead, resist any temptation to add more flour. Feel free to add more water. Don’t freak out that it seems tricky to get the water mixed into the dry dry dry dough.
    • Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a plate and allow the dough to rise until almost completely doubled. If your kitchen is normal, put it on the counter in a non-drafty area. If it’s cold, put the dough into the oven with only the light turned on. If it’s really cold, put a bowl filled with hot water into the oven to cosy up to the rising (you hope) dough. Feel free to do a few folds and turns as the dough is rising.
    • When it becomes clear that the dough is NOT going to rise completely before dinner, make an executive decision to put the covered bowl in the fridge overnight.
  3. shaping:
    • The next morning, (or the same day, if you have a normal temperature in your kitchen) breathe a deep sigh of relief that the dough has doubled in the fridge. Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board (just the smallest dusting will be enough). Divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces. Form each one into a ball. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for 15 minutes.
    • Flatten each ball out into a square that is about 1/2 inch thick. Notice that there is only one ball left, as you are flattening the tenth ball. Roll your eyes as you steal pieces of dough from each already flattened ball, to form the twelfth ball. Try not to hurt yourself while you beat yourself up that it turns out it’s true you can’t count. Place the squares on two parchment covered cookie sheets.
    • Use a pizza wheel to cut 3 slats into each square. Pull the squares apart so that there are holes. Cover the trays with a tea towel, followed by a large plastic bag. Place the trays in the oven with only the light turned on and leave to rise for about an hour.
  4. preheat the oven: After about an hour, remove the trays from the oven. With the rack on the top shelf, turn the oven to 400F.
  5. date paste: Pit the dates and put them into a heat proof bowl, along with butter, sugar, orange blossom water and water if your dates are quite dry. Put the bowl into the oven as it is preheating. When the mixture is bubbling, take the bowl out of the oven and use a hand-held blender to smooth everything out. Set aside in a small serving bowl.
  6. baking: When the oven is hot, slather the tops of each rectangle with milk. Be generous. Sprinkle each with sugar, coarse salt, sesame and poppy seeds. Put the trays on the top shelf of the oven and immediately turn it down to 375F. (We use the top shelf to prevent bread that has honey or sugar in it from burning on the bottom) Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the pans around and continue to bake for 5 more minutes.
  7. cooling: Allow the buns to cool on a footed rack. (The bread is still baking internally when first removed from the oven!) In The Book of Buns, Jane Mason writes, Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack, before eating them while you think of your true love.

    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.


1.) Wheat germ After reading “Cooked” by Michael Pollan, and noting that our flour never seems to go bad, I have decided to always add at least a little bit of wheat germ that we now always have on hand in the freezer.
When millers mill wheat, they scrupulously sheer off the most nutritious parts of the seed—the coat of bran and the embryo, or germ, that it protects—and sell that off, retaining the least nourishing part to feed us. In effect, they’re throwing away the best 25 percent of the seed: The vitamins and antioxidants, most of the minerals, and the healthy oils all go to factory farms to feed animals, or to the pharmaceutical industry, which recovers some of hte vitamins from the germ and then sells them back to us—to help remedy nutritional deficiencies created at least in part by white flour. A terrific business model, perhaps, but terrible biology. […]
[M]ills have been expressly designed to produce the whitest possible flour, splitting off the germ and embryo […] To leave the germ in the flour would literally gum up the works, I was told by an experienced miller by the name of Joe Vanderliet. This is why it is always removed at the beginning of the milling process, even when making “whole” wheat flour. […] Vanderliet claims that many large mills, including ones he used to work for, simply leave the germ out of their “whole-grain” flour “because it’s just too much trouble”—a serious charge, but a difficult one to prove.
– Michael Pollan, Thinking like a Seed, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, p576,577, 602,603

2.) Leaveners The BBB recipe calls for “2 eggs” and no flax seed or extra water. I have a horror of bread with an eggy taste; not to mention that free-range farm eggs are not cheap. So I substituted one of the eggs

Use two tablespoons flaxmeal plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder plus 3 tablespoons water for each egg called for in recipe.
Cook’s Thesaurus, Eggs

3.) salt The BBB recipe calls for “12 grams/1 tablespoon salt”. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As far as I know, 1 teaspoon of table salt weighs 6gm so the volume measurement should be 2 teaspoons. But perhaps the BBB recipe is calling for Kosher salt, which is more coarsely ground than table salt. Nevertheless, I ALWAYS weigh the salt. (For more information about measuring salt, please see Salt is salt, right?)


BBB May 2017

Bread Baking Babes BBB May 2017

Karen K is our host for May 2017’s Bread Baking Babes‘ project. She wrote:

Shubak el-Habayeb is an Iraqi bread, and the name, translated, means The Lover’s Window.
I found this bread in the book, The Book of Buns, from Jane Mason.
This is a fragrant bread, with orange blossom water, rose water, cardamom, and mahleb. Mahleb (or mahlab) is a powder made from the seeds of the St. Lucy’s cherry. I had a jar in my pantry, which I had hunted down from when I made Ka’kat, so when I spotted this recipe, I knew I had to make it! […] This bread is delicious the day it is made. Leftovers should be wrapped individually and frozen. It’s wonderful with butter, orange marmalade, and/or date syrup..  
– Karen K

We know you’ll want to make Shubbak el-Habayeb too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the bread 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 May 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.

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’ May 2017 bread.

Orange Appeal: Savory and Sweet Orange Appeal: Savory and Sweet
by Jamie Schler with photos by Ilva Beretta,
(Gibbs Smith Publishing)



This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes on by . black cat

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10 responses to “Looking through Lovers’ Windows to Celebrate Spring (BBB May 2017)

  1. Elle Lachman

    And I thought that I messed with the recipe…but you are the queen of surprises and I love the changes you made. Your rolls are so beautiful, with a lovely crumb and golden crust.

  2. Karen

    Those look so lovely and puffy! I always enjoy your stories. I’m often guilty of not reading a recipe all the way through. Thank goodness bread is so forgiving! I nearly panicked when I read here that the original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar in your comments, so I checked, and the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup. Phew!! Looks like you reduced it down to 1/4 cup (and I won’t tell T =)

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      They puffed up way more than I thought they would! Especially considering that the yeast is on the old side.

      Yes, I reduced the sugar to 1/4 cup. And for us, it was plenty. Next time I might reduced it even more and use honey instead, adding just a tablespoon….

      Thank you again for a terrific choice.

  3. katiezel

    Mmmm I’m thinking goat cheese and whole dates. I can so relate to your playing fast and loose, (I mean that is a good way) with the recipe. It’s meant to be a guide, right?

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Goat cheese and whole dates…. That sounds great. With or without the bread!

      Yes, that’s it! The recipe is just a guide. It’s not meant to be followed to the letter, is it?

  4. Bread Experience

    Wow! Your rolls really puffed up! I love that you incorporated whole wheat and wheat germ. Sounds delicious especially with the date paste!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      I couldn’t believe how much they rose. I’m really glad I added the wheat germ and that little bit of whole wheat. I think it added an extra depth of flavour. And they were great with the date paste. (Really good with orange marmalade too.)


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