Kubaneh Bread | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Kubaneh Bread

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Digg icon
Kubaneh Bread

Kubaneh is a traditional Yemeni bread, traditionally baked overnight in a special lidded aluminium pot. According to Orthodox Jewish law, you’re not permitted to cook from sunset on Friday to sunset the following day, so this lovely bread was born out of necessity, which in turn became a ritual. The end result is beautifully rich in texture.

I first encountered kubaneh bread on my military service in Israel when I went to stay with a friend one weekend (so that I wouldn’t be too far away from the base) whose grandma was an expert in traditional Yemeni cuisine. I’d experimented with bread making once or twice before, but I had never seen anyone dipping their hands in melted butter and thinly spreading it over the dough. This was exciting! Even more exciting was waking up early the next morning to the heavenly smell of buttery fresh bread, running down to the kitchen to lift the lid of the pot and tasting kubaneh for the first time.

When we opened The Palomar, we knew we needed a bread that was perfectly suited to plate-mopping, so I came up with this fluffy version of kubaneh. Luckily for us (and you), it needs only 30 minutes’ baking. You don’t need special baking proficiency to make this bread — just be fearless!

As kubaneh baking pots are not something to be found in every home, you can use 4½-inch baking rings instead to make individual loaves, or 2 lb loaf pans, each measuring 11 x 5 inches for larger ones.

Servings & Times
Yield:
  • Makes 6 small loaves or 3 larger loaves
Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting if making by hand

2 tbsp fresh yeast (or 2¼ tsp active dry yeast)

¾ tbsp salt

⅓ cup granulated sugar

1 small egg

1⅓ cups cold water

½ cup unsalted butter

Steps

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or in a mixing bowl if making by hand, mix the flour and yeast together on a low speed, then add the salt and the sugar. Mix in the egg and the water, making sure there is no flour left unmixed at the base of the bowl. The dough will be very sticky, but do not worry — this is exactly how it should be, so do not be tempted to add any flour.

2. Knead the dough on a low speed for 3 minutes, or by hand in a bowl, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

3. Uncover the dough and knead it for about 1 minute to let some of the air out, then re-cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for another 10 minutes. Repeat this kneading and resting process, then uncover and knead once more to let the air out — three times in total.

4. Leave the dough to rise for about an hour or until tripled in size.

5. Next comes the fun part — it’s time for some hand-in-butter action. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Take 4½-inch baking rings (if going that route) and place on the baking sheet. Melt the butter in a pan on the burner or in the microwave — it should be lukewarm rather than piping-hot, otherwise dipping your hands in it will be no fun at all.

6. Clean your work surface and use your hands to grease it with a little of the melted butter. Make sure you keep your hands and work surface nicely buttered throughout. Now divide the dough into 6 evenly sized balls. Take the first ball and, using your buttered hands, begin to spread the dough into a thin sheet roughly 12 x 16½ inches — it’s OK if you get a hole here and there. Keep buttering your hands and work surface if needed.

7. Use your hands to roll the sheet into a tight tube. Now spiral the tube into a coil and place in a baking ring. Repeat with the rest of the balls of dough. If using loaf tins, you can fit three balls of dough in one tin.

8. Once your baking sheet is loaded with the 6 beautiful kubaneh coils, leave them to proof for 30 minutes or until tripled in size. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400°F.

9. Bake the kubaneh for 20–25 minutes (or 30 minutes if using loaf tins), turning the baking sheet around halfway through cooking to ensure a nice even color on each loaf.

10. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and leave the loaves to cool for 10 minutes (I warn you, that’ll be a tough 10 minutes — the smell will drive you mad). Now remove from the rings and that’s it — you are ready to rip and dip! In the restaurant we serve the kubaneh with our White Tahini Sauce (see p.28) and Velvet Tomatoes (see p.30), but any kind of sauce, mezze or salad is up to task. To keep the loaves fresh, make sure they’re kept tightly wrapped or sealed and they’ll be fine overnight at room temperature, or for up to 3 days in the fridge. Or follow our mothers’ example and freeze a couple so that you’re always at the ready for an unexpected guest. They defrost brilliantly, and are very easy to warm up.


Reprinted from The Palomar Cookbook. Text copyright © ZLC London Ltd 2016. Photography copyright © Helen Cathcart 2016. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.