Hot Bread Kitchen is a non-profit social enterprise based in New York City which aims to bring about social change by empowering low-income, minority and immigrant individuals (largely women). The organisation has grown to include business training and incubation, but it began with and continues to be based around a bakery – one which enables its employees to create, sell and preserve the bread recipes of their homelands. This is their first cookbook and it’s glorious, full of traditional techniques as well as recipes for the dishes that usually accompanied the breads.
I made their Moroccan M’smen recipe just hours after I’d downloaded my Kindle copy of the book. It’s surprisingly similar to Malaysian Roti Chanai, so much so that we ate it that night with a chicken curry.
With permission from HBK, here’s the recipe:
- 500g plain (AP) flour
- 100g fine semolina
- 1½ teaspoons (6g) kosher salt (I used Malden Salt Flakes instead)
- 400g water
- 95g canola oil, plus more for shaping
- 85g salted butter, melted
Step 1: Put the flour, semolina and salt into a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the water and 10g of the oil, then mix slowly until combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about six minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Step 2: Coat a rimmed baking tray with oil. Coat the benchtop with oil, then transfer the dough to the oiled surface. Divide it into 12 roughly equal balls (the traditional method given in the book is to form your thumb and index finger into a ring and squeeze the pieces off). Roll each ball in the oil and place them on the baking sheet, keeping them separate from one another. Now cover the entire tray with cling film and allow it to rest at room temp for 30 minutes, or up to eight hours (I made mine in the morning and let them rest until lunch time). The longer resting time allows the gluten to relax, making the shaping easier.
Step 3: Put the 85g oil in a small bowl and mix with the melted butter.
Step 4: Re-oil the benchtop. Take one piece of dough and flatten it out with your hands to form a circle about 25cm across. You want to get it as thin as possible. Using your hands, smear over a tablespoon of the butter mixture, then sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of semolina…
Step 5: Using a spatula, lightly mark a line in the middle of the circle as a guide. Fold the top over to about 1.5cm below the line. Then repeat for the remaining three sides to form the dough into a small square…
Step 6: Transfer the folded dough back to the baking sheet, seam side down, and let rest for another 15 minutes. Repeat with the other balls of dough, warming up the butter mixture if it begins to solidify.
Step 7: Starting with the first folded piece, lightly oil a sheet of parchment, then place the square of oily dough on top and spread it out with the palms of your hand to form an 18cm square. Repeat with the remaining dough. It helps to have two sets of hands at this point, so one can cook while the other one shapes. Don’t stack the sheets on top of each other or they’ll stick.
Step 8: Heat a large griddle (I used a stainless steel frypan) over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles almost immediately. Flip the m’smen paper side up onto the hot surface and peel the paper off once the dough starts to cook and firm up…
The dough will turn translucent first…
…then brown up in spots. The total cooking time will be approximately two to three minutes on each side…
These are incredibly delicious eaten warm, either Moroccan style with honey and sweet fresh mint tea, or Malaysian style, torn and dunked into a spicy chicken curry. They’ll keep in the fridge for five days in an airtight container (good luck with that, ours were eaten within hours of cooking) and can be reheated in a dry pan for a minute each side before serving…
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The next recipe I tried was HBK’s signature Nan-e Barbari (as pictured on the cover of their book). If you’re making this, there’s a slight hiccup in the ingredients list – the water quantity should be 350g instead of 450g. They advised me on twitter that it will be corrected in the next edition.
Nan-e Barbari is an intriguing recipe, as the proved dough is coated in roomal (a flour and water paste), which adds moisture to the bread as it bakes. The end result is a crust which reminds me of the one on traditionally kettled bagels.
The finished loaves are wickedly good, with a wonderful aroma from the nigella seeds…
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If you’re after a new (non-sourdough) bread book, this one is well worth a look. Best of all, the proceeds from your purchase will be going to a good cause!