The latest addition to my cookbook library is Honey & Co’s The Baking Book, by Sarit Packer and Itomar Srulovich. It has the same UK publisher as my friend Rachel’s Five Quarters (which boasts a couple of my recipes), so I went along to the launch event a few weeks ago, bought a copy, got it signed and have been trying out the recipes since.
I love enriched doughs, so I was drawn to the recipe for kubaneh. Sarit’s family has Egyptian and Yemeni connections, and this bread is from the latter culture, specifically it’s a Yemenite-Jewish Sabbath breakfast bread. Reading more about it now, it’s traditionally baked overnight in a sealed tin. While Sarit’s version bakes for a fairly long time, it’s not overnight.
Some versions include whole eggs, and can be eaten as more savoury affair, with tomatoes or a tomato dip, or skhug, Yemeni hot sauce*. This one is sweeter. It’s rich in butter (or smen/semneh fermented sheep or goat milk butter; or margarine, depending on your dietary restrictions and inclinations and shopping options) and drizzled with honey, which caramelises together slightly.
Why haven’t I heard of this before?! Just my kind of thing.
I’ve tweaked the process slightly and given the ingredients in a more consistent format, so as to also include bakers’ percentages (below).
It’s a fairly moist dough – the original recipe says 300-350ml water, but I split the difference at 325ml: 325g. That works out at about 65% hydration, so quite wet and sticky. Check out my post on handling sticky doughs.
For this baking vessel, they use a “traditional lidded aluminium pot” but say you can also use a 20cm fixed bottom round cake tin, with a “lid” made of foil.
I used fresh yeast. You could use 10g active dry/granular yeast instead. If you only have instant/powdered yeast, you don’t need to mix it with liquid first – just combine it with the flour.
60g light soft brown sugar
15g fresh yeast
325g water, at about body temperature
250g strong white bread flour
250g plain (all-purpose) white flour
6g fine salt
Unsalted butter, softened (or margarine or smen, if you can get it. Very unlikely here in England!)
Here is it in bakers’ percentages (rounded):
|Light soft brown sugar||60g||12%|
|Strong white flour||250g||50%|
|Plain white flour||250g||50%|
1. Mix together the water, sugar and yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast.
2. Weigh out the flours into a large bowl and add the salt.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and bring together a dough. I don’t have a mixer, so my instructions are for doing it by hand. If you do, just mix until well combined and smooth.
4. Turn out the shaggy mixture onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead. I used the Dan Lepard technique of not kneading too much, then returning the dough to the bowl, cleaned and oiled, leaving for 10 minutes, then kneading briefly again. Repeat this twice more, then return to the cleaned, lightly oiled bowl.
5. Cover with plastic or a clean, damp tea towel and leave to prove for a couple of hours, or until doubled in size. The time will depend on the ambient temperature. It’s about 20C in my kitchen on a mild English summer’s day, and it took about two and a half hours.
6. While it’s proving, liberally grease the cake tin with butter, and grease the underside of the foil lid too. If you have a lidded pot, grease that similarly.
7. Sarit describes the next step as “the strange bit” – you moisten your hands then “flip the dough about in the bowl to knock it back”. Do it three times, keeping your hands moist.
8. Oil a tray, then divide the dough up into eight pieces and place them on the tray. The dough weighs 900g, so eight pieces at around 112g.
9. Oil your hands a bit then take each piece, stretch it slightly, and put a blob of butter in the middle. I used pieces at about 10g, half a walnut size.
10. Smear the butter a bit then wrap the dough around it to form rough balls.
11. Put the balls in the prepared tin, one in the middle, the rest equally spaced around it.
12. Put some more flecks of butter on top, drizzle with honey then cover and prove again until the dough “almost reaches the top” – too high and it’ll “overflow when baked.” I drizzled a bit more honey and added a bit more butter before baking.
13. Preheat the oven to 220C.
14. Put the tin, with its lid, in the oven and bake for half an hour.
15. Reduce the heat to 200C and continue baking for another half an hour.
16. Reduce the heat again to 180C and continue baking for another half an hour.
17. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven “for at least an hour”.
18. It’s best served warm, so if you’re an insomniac and have been doing this all night, or proved it overnight in the fridge and baked it early, enjoy it thus.
It’s surprisingly soft and chewy, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get nice caramelised bits. I won’t be doing it every week, but it’s a great addition to my enriched breads & breakfast bakes armoury. It’s also reminiscent of English lardy cakes, particularly the fruit-free versions from my part of the country, Hampshire and Sussex. Though obviously the fats used are a bit different for that gentile bake.
It’s also got me thinking about that most indulgent of fatty-sugary-doughy caramelised concoctions, the Breton kouign amann, which is more a pastry than a bread. Still, I might have to revisit that soon.
* Aka zhug, zehug; the Honey & Co The Baking Book also has a recipe for this, to accompany their lahooh, Yemeni pancakes.
5 responses to “Kubaneh – Yemeni Jewish breakfast bread”
I hate breakfast, and yet I’ve had breakfast two mornings in a row now. Something to do with the Kubaneh. Surprisingly light and not too sickly. Really rather good and now makes me want to go to Honey & Co for breakfast.
I recently got my copy of the Honey & Co baking book as well. The Kubaneh recipe has already been mentally earmarked. And I agree, it reminds me of Kouign Amann as well. Will have to give this a go next time I have a crowd to feed for breakfast (it just sounds like the thing that needs to be eaten warm in one go, people fighting over the caramelised bits and everyone slightly overdoing it).
Yes, good for a crowd but it also made fab toast a few days later.
Only five years late with a comment on this post, but better late than never. Semn is in reality a form of clarified butter, but heated beyond the normal point of ghee production. In the east of the Arabian peninsula ghee is used, but in the west and south (including further into North Africa), they use semn as well as home-made clarified butter similar to ghee. If you want to make semn, I found the following useful verbeage on a Yemeni food blog somewhere in the blogosphere and have edited it just a tadge. I imagine you could also buy good quality ghee and warm it through a bit further to make semn, although I haven’t tried it so I don’t know if the chemistry will be right…
“Use a decent-sized saucepan because the butter will foam and expand. Use unsalted butter with a minimum fat content of 82%. A good amount to start with is 450 g. Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring gently until it is melted. Once it is melted, it will start to foam and expand. When it is starts expanding, turn down the heat to very low and stir with a wooden spoon until it shrinks back to normal size. Eventually it will stop expanding and just bubble. At this point you no longer need to stir. Watch carefully for browning. Because it is foamy, you won’t be able to tell its true colour until after it has cooled. It is crucial that you watch out for tiny specks and the colour of the foam. You want the specks to be a dark brown, not a coffee brown which means it has burned. The foam should be a golden brown. Once it reached the right colour remove from heat. Let cool until just warm. Pour the liquid into a clean, warm jam jar, but really try to avoid pouring in the solid material that had settled to the bottom of the pan. Put the lid on the jar. Semn will solidify once cooled, and will store at room temperature. When you need it, scoop some into a bowl and heat in the microwave or in a pan on the cooker until melted.”
Hope this helps. Tim H
Thanks Tim. Don’t think I’ll be making much semn. Hard enough looking after my sourdough….