My khubz (flat bread) is not quite flat - but it is tasty!
By Andrew Stark. Published 2020-08-24
"If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens." - Robert Browning
"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity" - Voltaire.
Those that know me know that I abhor spending time in the kitchen cooking. To me it has always been a "waste of time", frivolous. Don't get me wrong, I love a good meal and a delicious meal cooked by those you love is even better. It's just I always seem to have other "more important" things to be doing.
Well not today. I've been trying to eat vegetarian for the last couple of weeks which has led me to venture into the kitchen with great trepidation - I'll cover the benefits I've seen in going vegetarian along with no alcohol and more exercise in another post; stay tuned. Today led me to the trusty cookbooks that were covered in dust and seemed like a good idea at the time they were ordered on Amazon.
With a craving for something carby I brought out "The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook" by Salma Hage and turned to the bread section. There it was, a bread I remember getting from the Lebanese bakery next to my apartment in Melbourne when I couldn't afford very much as an apprentice. Khubz - Arabic flatbread.
A quick trip up to the supermarket to get the necessities...
- 2 cups of strong white bread flour (it turns out we already had some at home so we've now get enough for the next few years)
- 2/3 cup of strong whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry (fast-action) yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/2 tablespoons of butter, melted.
I forgot to get the butter and couldn't be bothered going back out so substituted with olive oil. It seemed to work ok but probably better to follow the ingredients properly next time!
I managed to make a huge mess when I was sifting the flours, yeast and salt into a bowl and it's amazing how flour just manages to get everywhere!! Sifting done, make a well and pour in the, ahem, melted butter.
The next instruction had me a bit confused. "Gradually mix in a scant 1 cup of lukewarm water". What the heck is a "scant 1 cup"? A simple cup of warm water seemed to do the trick. I mixed, and while mixing had a quick look on Amazon to see how much an electric mixer is - too expensive is the answer and it was fun getting my hands dirty anyway. When the mixture was all mixed it was to be placed onto a floured surface and kneaded. I'd seen this done before so I kind of knew what I was doing, managed to make more mess with more flour and eventually left it to stand.
A quick "nap" of an hour was the perfect time to recharge my batteries after all that mixing. The next stage was really important. Boil the kettle, 2 tablespoons of lovely italian pressed coffee into the cafetiere and let brew for a couple of minutes. Pour into your favourite coffee mug with 1 cube of brown sugar. OK, so Salma doesn't have that in the recipe but it certainly worked for me and was well needed after my nap.
Oven on at 220 degrees celcius (sorry, I don't do non-metric so you'll have to work that bit out yourself). I followed the instructions, I thought, and divded the dough evenly and rolled into (what I thought anyway) were fairly flat thin circles. Not happy with following instructions I thought I'd add something extra so got out the za'atar and sumac and sprinkled on top (the creative in me coming out). Into the oven they went. The instructions said 8-10 minutes but after 10 minutes I could tell something wasn't going quite right and they would need longer so I gave them another 10 minutes.
So as you can see, my khubz (arabic flat bread) is not quite flat and not quite round. But the smell is gorgeous and they taste great, if I do say so myself. I wouldn't call myself a master baker - heck this is the first time I've ever made bread - but I did enjoy it and there is a certain pleasure in tasting your own bread and it's quite good if I do say so myself.
There's an Arabic saying "handle the bread with respect" and that's exactly what we'll be doing with this bread.