This is the first in a series of articles by our daughter, Sukhailah. She learned to cook in rather dramatic and haphazard fashion when I came down with typhoid in Damaaj and was unable to do any cooking for weeks. At the age of eleven, she found herself trying to prepare meals for all of her little brothers and sister, mash’Allaah. I learned from that mistake, and now make sure that the younger children can at least cook something when I am unable to do so!
And so, on to Sukhailah’s lesson:
This is the first kind of bread I learned to make. Yes, my first attempts were rather awful, more like yeast-fallen breads than risen breads, but I got better as time went on. This is the standard bread in our family, because it is so easy to make a big batch, and also, there is nothing like hot fluffy bread for any meal. When you smell the bread, you are almost past caring what you eat with it! In Yemen where I grew up, bread like this was not made at home by Yemenis at all, but was sometimes bought from the bakery, shaped into sticks called roti, or loaves. Usually bread baked at home was rolled into a thin flat circle and then baked in a tandoor oven, or shaped into balls and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or filled with meat and hot pepper before baking.
This recipe uses the sponge method, which I prefer because it seems to raise the bread much better, and adds extra elasticity to the dough.
2 cups water, warm but not hot (Khadijah’s note: I check with my wrist!)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
The butter mixture:
4 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached white flour
What to do:
1) Place the water in a large bowl and sprinkle in the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey. Let it stand for a few minutes.
2) Beat in 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour with a whisk. Beat 100 strokes, cover with a clean tea towel, and set in a warm place for 40 minutes.
3) Add the butter mixture
4) Add the additional flour one cup at a time, folding it in using a spoon, then using your hand when the mixture thickens.
5) Knead the dough for about ten to fifteen minutes, adding extra flour as necessary.
6) Oil the bowl, and place the dough in it, flipping the dough in the bowl so that the surface of the dough is all coated. Cover with a clean towel, and set to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
7) Punch down the dough, and shape into two loaves. Place in oiled pans, and cover. Let them rise until doubled again. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
8) Brush eggs with a little beaten egg, you like, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove the breads from the pans, and cool on a rack. (Khadijah’s note: This isn’t always possible. People like to attack it when it is still hot.)