Rgaïf, layered North African Flatbread (BBB February 2014)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Rgaïf, North African flatbread baked on a griddle; a Bread Baking Babes project; the BBBabes are celebrating 6 years of bread baking together; submission for YeastSpotting and Bake Your Own Bread; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) February 2014 – 6th anniversary رغايف rgaïf

Rgaif (BBB February 2014)

Two reasons to celebrate!
1.) It’s the BBBabes’ 6th anniversary
2.) There are two new BBBabes; we are a dozen again!

(I’m just going to pretend that I’m not a day late posting this. I have trouble with remembering anniversaries on time…. )

Six years! Many BBBabes have been here since the beginning. Some, like me, joined a little later. We’ve said fond au-revoirs to some of BBBabes and to others we say hello hello hello! We’re very pleased to say hello hello hello to Aparna and Cathy. We can’t wait to see what new techniques they have for us in their apron pockets. Please join us in welcoming them!

Lien (Notitie van Lien) chose this month’s bread recipe, a layered North African griddle bread. Talk about baptism by fire! …although, it’s not quite as frightening as flourless sprouted wheat bread, the first bread I made as a BBBabe. Hmmmm, are we getting soft and only choosing easy breads? :lalala:

It is not often that you see women cooking on the street in North Africa unless they are making this bread. They stand behind large flat griddles on which they cook the bread, flattening it further with their fingers, not seeming to mind the heat. Some occasionally dip their fingers in a small bowl of oil to drizzle on the bread while it is cooking – this slightly greasier version is definitely better. My Algerian food shop in London has a very similar version to r’ghäyef, which they call m’arek or m’hajjib. Theirs is larger and has a spicier filling. In Tunisisa there is another, similar bread, m’lawi, which is left plain.

– Anissa Helou, Moroccan FlatBread r’ghäyef, Mediterranean Street Food, p.85

BBB Rgaïf diary:

8 January 2014 11:23 What a great choice! This bread is one that has been on my radar screen ever since reading about it in Anissa Helou’s “Mediterranean Street Food”. I like to compare recipes and can’t believe there is NO recipe for it in “Flatbreads and Flavors” by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford. Luckily, there are many on the internet. I must say that I LOVE the many and varied spellings of the Arabic name ????? : rghaif, rgaïf, rghayef, r’ghäyef….

When I told T about rgaif being February’s bread, he didn’t recognize the name but when I described it, he started jumping up and down with joy, saying he’d had it in Egypt and that it’s fantastic. He said he stood for ages watching the women make the bread – they shape it on a metal plate – throwing the “thinner than paper” dough across the filling, slapping it onto the metal. He can’t wait for February.

Suddenly, I am filled with fear! WHERE is my battle apron? (cue hysterical laughter)

Wait!! When we made strudel, we used our dining room table (covered with a cotton picnic tablecloth) as a work surface. It worked pretty well….

You need to stretch the dough until it gets as thin as you can, thinner than paper if possible. It’s best done on a counter top, stretching the dough and sticking it to the surface, so it doesn’t spring back. This is not easy.
-BBB Rgaif recipe

Paper thin, eh?

Who me? Scared? Ha! I scoff at making paper thin dough!

I will not fail. I will go up to the rgaif dough and say, “Hello. My name is Elizabeth M. You terrified my BBBabe sisters. Prepare to be paper thin.

7 February 2014 14:19 Someone asked what kind of dry yeast was meant. Because the instructions say to put the yeast in with the flour, I think Lien must be correct; they mean instant yeast. But, of course, we can use any yeast we want. That’s what BBBabes do. :-)

I’ll be using active dry (which requires rehydrating first) simply because that’s what we have on hand. Some people say to use fractionally less instant yeast (aka bread machine yeast) than active dry. But I use it measure for measure in spite of what I’ve read:

for every cup of flour in the recipe, use either of
3 grams compressed fresh yeast
2 grams active dry yeast
1 gram instant active dry yeast
-Maggie Glezer, “Artisan Baking Across America”
Substitute twice as much (by weight) fresh yeast for the amount of dry yeast called for in the recipe.
-Daniel Leader, “Local Breads”
1 g fresh = 0.5 g active dry = 0.4 g instant
-Susan (Wild Yeast), wildyeastblog.com
2+1/2 tsp (one package) active dry yeast = 18 gm cake fresh yeast
-Carol Field, “The Italian Baker”

14 February 2014 04:52 I’m finally reading the recipe (as much as I’m capable of reading things, that is). I pretty sure I’m right that this dough is not left to rise after being kneaded and before being stretched out. I wonder what the yeast is there for then. It’s not as if it will have time to do anything, is it?

Still I’m very obedient. I will add the yeast.

I just looked at some YouTube videos and am relieved to see that none of the people stretch the dough out to much larger than 12 inch in diameter with the final squares (before being stretched) looking to be around 3-4 inch squares. The squares are then stretched out to be not much larger than 8 inch squares.

On woman on YouTube used a plastic lunch tray to stretch her pieces of dough out to about the size of large pie plates. Others used their countertops.

So forget the idea I had of using the strudel method with the table cloth on the dining room table! I’m going to use our countertop!

17:59 Anissa Helou has a video on her blog of some women making r’ghäyef but oh my!! oh my!! I’m NOT going to try that first method at home! (Run for the hills! Run for the hills!!)

When I was doing the research for my baking book, I kept coming across variations on the same breads throughout the Mediterranean, especially when it came to multi-layered breads. In some countries, the multiple layers are achieved by flattening the dough, folding it, then flattening it again (Moroccan r’ghayef, Tunisian mlawi or Algerian m’hajjib). In others, it is done by flapping the dough in the air to stretch it very thinly, then slapping it against a marble top and folding it (Egyptian fiteer or Turkish katmer), or it is achieved by rolling a disk of dough into a sausage, then squishing the sausage into a ring, and flattening the ring (Moroccan melwi).
-Anissa Helou, Where wearing the niqab is not an issue

15 February 2014 17:45 We talked about it this morning and decided that instead of having it for breakfast with honey, we would have this bread with tonight’s dinner. We also decided to make just half the recipe.

And yet, suddenly I’m very very very nervous. What if it doesn’t work? What if it tastes terrible? What if I can’t get it to stretch? What if I… NO!! Wait. No need to worry. I just remembered:

I will not fail. I will go up to the rgaif dough and say, “Hello. My name is Elizabeth M. You terrified my BBBabe sisters. Prepare to be paper thin.

18:33 Well! So far, it has been ridiculously easy. Even though I transgressed a little with the flour. There was some discussion about whether to use bread flour or all-purpose flour.

I decided to go with all-purpose. And then because this is an ancient bread recipe, I thought about how flour would be traditionally hand-milled. So I threw in a little whole wheat flour. And while I was at it, I decided to add Tanna’s favourite, ground flax seed (in for a penny, in for a pound…).

And speaking of pounds. Yes, I’m a freak. I carefully calculated everything by weight instead of using volumes. And then, because the dough seemed dry, I threw in some more water.

How much did I throw in? I don’t know. Some. (How much is “some”? Mum always defined it as “Oh, I don’t know… enough”)

I then hand-kneaded for 15 minutes rather than the 20 minutes indicated in the instructions.

The dough is beautifully soft and pliable.

19:04 I’ve been instructed to make FOUR breads. No more. Not six. Not five. FOUR. So, I think they are going to be on the large side….

19:31 Again. WHAT was I afraid of? It’s insanely easy. The dough wants to be stretched out! I keep wondering if it is going to turn out like paratha. It seems quite similar.

But I didn’t come even close to using the amount of olive oil called for. And each bread seems to be dripping in oil. In a good way.

We have the tava heating and are about to start cooking. (Ha. This will be the really easy part for me. T is going to do the actual cooking. :-))


Here is the Lien, BBB 6th anniversary February 2014 rgaif recipe. And here is what I did to it:

BBB Rgaif
adapted from a recipe in “Vrijdag couscousdag” by R. Ahali


  • 3 gm (0.5 tsp) active dry yeast
  • ± 125 gm (± 125 ml) water at 95F (35C) ¹
  • 250 gm (2 c) flour
        -230 gm unbleached all-purpose flour
        -10 gm whole wheat flour
        -10 gm ground flax seed
  • 2 gm Kosher salt (0.33 tsp by volume, with fine salt, no idea how much by volume with Kosher salt) ²
  • 23 gm (5 tsp) olive oil ³
  • semolina flour for dusting between the layers


  • bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • counter top
  • tava, griddle or cast-iron frying pan 4
  • stove

As well as reading the instructions, please take a look at the several stretching and shaping photos we took.

  1. mixing: About 30 minutes (or so) before you will be baking the bread, pour the 95F water into a largish mixing bowl. (why 95F??) Whisk in yeast until it has dissolved. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until they form a dough mass. Notice that it seems dry. Dump in some more water.
  2. kneading: Knead the dough in the bowl (or if you want, knead it on an unfloured wooden board) for about 15 minutes until it is soft and smooth. Cover and set aside.
  3. stretching and cooking: Turn the dough out onto an unfloured clean counter top. Oil your hands and squeeze corners of the dough into four even pieces, each about the size of a golf ball. Put three of the pieces back in the bowl and cover it with a plate while you stretch out the first rghaif. Start by pouring a little oil onto the countertop. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand and then stretch it with the palms of your hands pressing from the center outwards into a paper thin disc about 12 inches in diameter. Don’t worry if the edges are uneven. Don’t worry if there are holes.
  4. Heat tava (or cast-iron skillet) to medium high heat.
  5. Scatter a little semolina flour over top of the disc. Fold it into thirds. Scatter a little more semolina flour over top. Fold it into thirds again to form a square. Place the folded dough square on a parchment paper covered tray and continue stretching out the rest of the dough.
  6. When the tava is hot enough (use your fingers to flick cold water at the pan. If the water beads and dances before disappearing, the pan is exactly the right heat), take one of the folded squares and gently stretch it with the palms of your hands until it is about 8 inch square. Place the square onto the hot pan.
  7. Turn the cooking rghaif when it is golden brown on the bottom (about 3 minutes). Continue cooking until the second side is golden brown (another 3 minutes or so). Place the cooked rghaif on a rack in a warm oven. Do NOT stack them! They’ll get soggy.
  8. If you want to reheat the breads quickly before serving, place them on the hot tava for a few minutes.

For serving, place the hot cooked rgaif upright in a basket. Serve rghaif hot with tajine and a vegetable dish. Or serve them with honey and mint tea for elevenses.


1.) Water: Please, I know I say this every time. But do not use water from the hot water tap. Even though the other BBBabes are sick to death of hearing me drone on, I can’t stop now… (How old are your pipes? How old is the solder? When is the last time you flushed the sediment from the hot water tank? How many toxins want to leach out? Do you really want those in your bread?) Instead, heat the water in a kettle or microwave.

2.) Salt The BBB recipe calls for a quarter teaspoon of salt. But I’ve ranted about this before…. Salt is salt, right?

3.) Olive oil There is no need to measure the olive oil. You just need some. Melted butter would probably work too.

4.) Tava Tavas are available in many Indian grocery stores. They are made of carbon steel and are not only great for making flatbread, but also ideal for making crepes.


And the verdict? DELICIOUS!

We had them for dinner with tajine of peas and ground meat along with stir-fried chard and onions. Dinner was fabulous!

It turns out that rgaif are indeed quite similar to paratha (T says they are like the restaurant parathas in India where they often do not use butter). And because we’re butter hogs, we’re thinking that the next time we make rghaif, we’ll use melted butter instead of olive oil. Although… the olive oil version are awfully good.

Ha!! You see? All you need is a battle apron and you too will stretch those rgaif into submission.

Many thanks for this wonderful stretch, Lien!

Bread Baking Babes Rgaïf, layered North African Flatbread (BBB February 2014) Lien (Notitie van Lien) is the host of February 2014’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

It’s about layering again. […] It was a recipe that wandered over my desk for over a year, so here it is. If it works like it should I think it will be a nice recipe for our 6th anniversary, for sweet and savory Babes and a glass of red or white to go with it. […]

And very nice it was too. And Lien is right. It went perfectly with a lovely Shiraz. But I bet it would be equally wonderful with mint tea!

We know you’ll want to make rgaif too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make rgaif in the next couple of weeks and post about it (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 27 February 2014. 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:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ February bread:

Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

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 that was hosted by Heather (girlichef) and has now been taken over by Carola (Sweet and That’s It)

[BYOB] 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.

And Carola wrote:

Homemade bread is healthy! As healthy as you decide: choose the best ingredients (if you can afford it, organic and GMO free) and you’ll be surrounded by the most delicious scent and fascinated by the most delicious taste.

Let the adventure continue!

For more information about BYOB, please read the following:

  • BYOB: Bake Your Own Bread (Scroll down to “Monthly Link up Summary” at the bottom of the post)


(Rgaif (BBB February 2014) on flickr)


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11 responses to “Rgaïf, layered North African Flatbread (BBB February 2014)

  1. Katie

    Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make these when I had guests….. Oh well, next time. There have been other ships that I’ve missed LOL So I want your complete dinner, tagine, bread, chard, sigh…..

    You do want our complete dinner, Katie! It was really delicious. It’s not too late. You could easily have it tonight. None of it takes long to put together. – Elizabeth

  2. Baking Soda

    Wow! I just love to see the dark spots on the loaves, I can almost taste them. Kudos for just doing it and showing such great results! WIll done my battle apron today!

    edit 20 February: The dark spots are the best part, Karen! I’m so glad that I didn’t pay attention to the instruction to not worry about holes when I was stretching the dough! -Elizabeth

  3. Jamie

    Wow, you are a fount of wisdom and information and thanks for all the links at the end. But easy? Everyone found this much easier than I did who stretched out 6 of them and still did not get the hang of it. But seeing everyone’s perfect Rgaïf I know I have to attack it again until mine is as beautiful! I am glad that you stood up to this insolent, scary bread and put it in its place! Job well done, Babe!

    edit 20 February: Ah, yes, Jamie. I think I know why you imagine yours was wrong. It’s because you paid attention to the instruction to avoid holes when stretching the dough. (If it’s any consolation, we tried them again to have them for breakfast and I made the huge error to use ALL wholewheat flour and melted butter instead of oil. Talk about insolent, scary bread! Alas, I was cocky and instead of putting it in its place, there I was, armless and legless, screaming at it “it’s just a flesh wound” and “’tis but a scratch” as I tried desperately to get it right and failed miserably, dooming us to eating a bread that was better suited as soles for sandals.) – Elizabeth

  4. ilva

    Same here, I was really worried about making this one but the fun I had! and everyone loved it here, all bread gone in half an hour!

    edit 20 February: Yes, indeed. It’s wonderful what a little adrenaline can do, isn’t it, Ilva? -Elizabeth

  5. barbara

    “Prepare to be paper thin”. He hee.

    The bread looks great, very paratha-y.

    edit 20 February: It was indeed very paratha-y. So much so that we tried making it again AS paratha – ie: with butter. And because I’m such an expert, I decided to uses all whole wheat flour and leave out the yeast. OH dear. It appears that the yeast does make a difference. It wasn’t nearly as stretchy and I didn’t get proper layers at all. (I forgot to say, “prepare to be paper thin” too) :stomp: -Elizabeth

  6. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Prepare to be paper thin … well maybe not while eating all these beautiful breads! I did feel rather silly having spent so much time in the worry zone over this one and then it was just silly easy. Love your pan. When I’m home I’ll use my crepe pan for these, it will be perfect.
    Yes, I remember your by fire first bread as a Babe but even that was fun. Gone soft with easy? I don’t think so. I think we have to learn over and over the same thing. We just have to do it, worry doesn’t get it there. Gut it up. Put on that battle apron. Go for it!

    edit 20 February: It’s a fabulous pan, Tanna. Next time you find yourself in a large city, go to and Indian grocery store. There will likely be tavas there. Get one of their little rolling pins too. (You’ll need the rolling pin if you are trying to beat all whole wheat flour paratha into submission.) -Elizabeth

  7. Cathy (breadexperience)

    And I thought I got hung up in the research, but I believe you’ve outdone me. :) Very informative post. Your dinner sounds wonderful!

    edit 20 February: Hahaha. I do get carried away, don’t I? I must say though, that dinner was wonderful, Cathy. It was! -Elizabeth

  8. Ckay

    Elizabeth, yours is surely one of the blogs I most enjoy reading … I love your “dialogues”… Thank you for making me smile – every time!
    And thank so much you for having shared your baking adventure with Bake Your Own Bread… Lot’s of smile around the earth ;-)

    edit 14 March: Thank YOU, C! -E


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