In Arabic, the word for bread is "khubz," a general term to encompass all kinds of bread baked in the many countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Similarly, the Italians have "pane," but when it's time to get more specific, they've got words such as foccacia, ciabatta, grissini and piadina.
Americans may be more familiar with the word "pita," a pocket of slightly leavened dough that is filled with falafel and chicken shwarma at Middle Eastern restaurants or torn for dipping into a mound of hummus or baba ghanoush. No matter what you call it, Arab bread is flatbread or a lot flatter than the loaf-style breads of the Americas and Europe.
I recently tried making khubz for the first time and the experience was eye-opening. First, I was surprised at how easy it was to make. The dough was clean and unsticky when kneading and was manageable to roll out. Second, the dough emitted a seductive yeasty perfume while baking and I remember thinking, "Now you're really baking!" Third, the final results were delicious, offering a chewy bite and a lot more depth than any pita I've previously torn.
It worked equally well as a wrapper for under-the-broiler halloumi cheese and a dipper for roasted red pepper soup. I was also impressed by its reheat-ability; a few minutes in the oven was sufficient to bring it back to life. A batch of seven "loaves" kept well for several days in a plastic zip-style bag.
Perhaps you have another way of baking "khubz" or a favorite way to serve it. Please share all Arab flatbread ideas in the comments area below!
From "The Arab Table" by May S. Bsisu
2 Â¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110 degrees); add an extra Â¾ cup if using whole-wheat flour
1 Â¼ teaspoons sugar
5 Â½ cups all-purpose or whole-wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
Combine yeast, 1 cup of the warm water and sugar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Set aside until mixture is foamy and doubled in size, about 10 minutes.
Sift flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add remaining 1 cup warm water, yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix ingredients until dough pulls away form sides of the bowl, forming a ball. (Can also be done with a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook.)
Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Sprinkling as little flour on the dough and your hands as possible, knead the dough -- push, fold and turn -- about five minutes, until dough is smooth, elastic and doesn't stick to your fingers.
Coat a large bowl with remaining olive oil and place dough inside, turning to coat with the oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and set in a warm draft-free place until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, lightly dust a baking sheet and a kitchen towel with flour.
Punch dough and transfer to a floured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Divide dough into 7 equal pieces, roll each one into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, flatten gently, using a rolling pin or your hands. Roll dough out until about 5-6 inches in diameter, Â¼-inch thick. Lay loaves on floured towel, sprinkle flour on top, cover with a second towel, and let rest about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Preheat baking sheet 10 minutes before ready to bake.
Arrange 2 loaves on baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until they puff up, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool; repeat.
Can be frozen in plastic zip bag and thawed in refrigerator. Reheat at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.
Serve with sliced tomatoes and broiled halloumi cheese, cut into 1-inch-thick slices: Brush cheese with olive oil and place in a pan that fits in your broiler. Broil until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.
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