An incredible bread chapter! […] The chapter on salads redefines salad!
-Tanna, review of “The Food of Morocco” by Paula Wolfert, goodreads.com
Intrigued, I immediately got the book out of the library. I love the description of “knuckling” on the ‘Bread with Sesame and Anise Seeds’ on page 102. For that page alone, the book is a keeper!
Years ago, Moroccan women […] 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.[…] When the cook hears squishy sounds, she knows she’s doing it right. If the dough gets too wet, she simply switches to an ordinary kneading motion, which tightens the dough, or adds a little low-gluten flour and knuckles in a few more drops of water to loosen the dough again.
-Paula Wolfert, Bread with Sesame and Anise Seeds, “The Food of Morocco”
I meant to try knuckling with the Marrakech Tagine Bread. But (here’s a big surprise…) I forgot.
In retrospect, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t do the knuckling. There is quite a lot of Semolina flour in this bread. We get our Semolina flour in India Town, where it is labelled fine grain Sooji. It is quite grainy, however, and as I was kneading the bread, every time I kneaded and turned the dough a quarter turn round, about 5 minutes in (when the dough wasn’t even close to being smooth) my thumbs started to tingle from being sanded. I’m not sure how happy I’d be to have sanded knuckles.
But the dough did finally become nice and soft and produced really good bread. When it rose, it honeycombed beautifully (nope, no photo…) with long long strands of gluten.
Moroccan Semolina Bread
based on the recipe for Marrakech Tagine Bread in “The Food of Morocco” by Paula Wolfert
makes 4 rounds
- 1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
- 0.5 c whole wheat flour
- 2 c semolina flour
- 1.5 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 c lukewarm water
- pinch sugar
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp fine seasalt
- mixing: Early in the afternoon of the day you’re going to make the bread, whisk the yeast into the all the water ¹. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the rest of the ingredients until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- kneading Scatter a very light dusting of flour on the board and turn the dough out. Now wash and dry the mixing bowl; this cleans your hands AND allows the dough to rest.
- Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft and silky. Try not to add too much extra flour. Place the kneaded dough into the clean mixing bowl and cover it with a plate. Leave it in a no-draft area to rise until it has doubled. I put the bowl into the oven with only the light turned on; it took about 3 hours for the dough to rise. Wolfert says to let the dough rest for just 15 minutes. (I decided that we wanted bread with a more developed flavour, not to mention that our kitchen is quite cool.)
- shaping Scatter a generous handful of flour on the board and turn the dough out. It will be pretty sticky. Use the dough scraper to fold the sticky dough in half and gently pat it to remove the excess flour. Divide the dough evenly into four pieces. With each piece, gently grab the outsides of the dough to create a false braid. Keep fake braiding until the dough curls up on itself to become a tight round. Place it on a well floured section of the board and press it down to form a disc about 5 inches in diameter. Cover the shaped breads with a clean tea towel, followed by plastic grocery bags and put them into a no-draft spot to rise. Wolfert says to let them rise for 45 minutes. I put them into the oven with only the light turned on for about 2 hours.
- baking Put a stone in to the barbecue and turn it to high heat. (If you’re using the oven, turn it to 400F – make sure to take the rising bread out!!) With the palm of your hand, gently press down each round and poke a few times with a fork to form discs.
- Immediately put the discs onto the hot stone. Close the lid of the barbecue and bake for about 15 minutes. During baking, you will have to move the bread around to account for uneven heat (hot spots!) Try to work as quickly as possible so you don’t lose too much heat.
- The bread is done when it sounds hollow on the bottom. Put the finished bread into a cloth lined basket while the rest of the dinner is being served.
Serve immediately with grilled meat ², a tagine or fuhl. Wolfert says the bread is also wonderful slathered with butter and drizzled with honey.
1.) Water: Wolfert calls for using an electric mixer and to “slowly add lukewarm water and the olive oil […] until the dough is silky smooth and slightly sticky“. That just seemed like too much work. Hence my method of dumping everything in together… (it still might have been fun to try the knuckling though.)
2.) What to serve: Paula Wolfert calls this bread “Tagine Bread”. I wanted to have it with Moroccan Chicken with olives and preserved lemons (that Anissa Helou suggests serving good crusty bread). But as barbecue season has just begun, we had the bread with grilled chicken (rubbed with ras-el hanout), grilled lemons, olives and steamed broccoli. We dipped the bread in oil. The next day, we heated up left-over bread and had it with fuhl.
- useful links
» Google Books: Marrakech Tagine Bread recipe in “The Food of Morocco” by Paula Wolfert
» Gourmet Sleuth: Cooking Conversions Calculator
- recipes from OUR kitchen:
» chicken with prunes and apricots
» Moroccan-style chicken with preserved lemons and oil-cured olives
» bread recipes
» more bread recipes
The bread has quite a soft and tender crumb – but still nicely grainy from the semolina. And of course, the outer crust was wonderfully crisp and chewy. It was particularly good dipped into oil and I can well imagine that it would be fabulous with tagine.
We had planned to serve preserved lemons with the dinner but had forgotten that we’d used them all up. So we decided to try grilling lemon slices. They were quite a revelation. They look beautiful AND while they aren’t quite as soft tasting as preserved lemons, they are almost as satisfying. Next time, though, we’ll drizzle them with a little olive oil just before serving.
While we were waiting for the bread to finish baking, I noticed that our lovage is just beginning to flower. This is quite thrilling! Last year, we tried unsuccessfully to grow lovage from seed. It sprouted but refused to grow.
I was bemoaning the fact to a colleague last October and she very kindly dug up a huge clump of her lovage and brought it to work the next day. As soon as I got home, I divided the lovage mass into two and immediately planted it in two separate places in our tiny shady garden: one clump in the ground and one clump in a large pot by the side of the house. And then started biting my nails. It was already quite cold. The ground wasn’t quite frozen yet but it did seem rather late to be doing any trans-planting. So we were ecstatic when both clumps sprouted and flourished early this spring. (Too bad I didn’t take photos in April!!)
We’re so excited to have our own lovage at last. We use it in place of celery when making stock. It adds virtually the same flavour with the added advantage that we no longer have to find limp grey green former celery in the “crisper” drawer of the fridge.
Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:
Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB)
BYOB is a monthly event hosted by Heather (girlichef)
that encourages you to start (or continue) getting comfortable baking bread in your own kitchen. Anything from simple quick breads to conquering that fear of yeast to making and nurturing your own sourdough starter. All levels of bakers are welcome to participate.
I wonder what this bread would be like if it were not pressed down and forked to become flat just before being baked….