Sunday, February 1, 2009
See, this is what I mean about breads. They can be a little on the brown side, not quite as brown, some thicker than others, some thinner--they don't care. They all taste good, not like some finicky coffee cake.
These filled Tunisian mini-breads are the first thing I've made from Savory Baking from the Mediterranean, by Anissa Helou. As far as I know, they're the first and only Tunisian anything I'ver ever made, but if this is any indication of Tunisian cuisine, I may hunt down some more recipes.
The savory little breads are made with a simple all-semolina flour dough (I used King Arthur's durum flour because it's so much finer than any semolina I've seen at stores). It only has to rest for a while, which can be done while you're making the filling, so you can think of this just a few hours before you want to eat them.
The lovely golden dough is divided in half, and each half is rolled out to a 1/4-inch thickness.
(For someone who fears pastry, I've been doing a lot of rolling out dough lately). I used a biscuit cutter to make 3-inch rounds, then filled half of the rounds with a spicy mix of sauteed onions, red peppers, tomatoes, chili peppers, harissa, cayenne, and salt. With the chili peppers, harissa, and cayenne, it sounds like it would be crazy hot, but each little bread has only about 1 teaspoon of the mixture, and the bread itself modifies the heat of the filling.
The filled circle is topped with a plain one, the edges are pinched to seal and brushed with olive oil. Then they're popped into a 400-degree oven.
There is no picture of these in the book, and I have absolutely no idea what touarits are supposed to look like (they're a "Tunisian spin on r'ghayefs," if that clarifies things for anyone.) But I liked the way mine looked. And I definitely liked the way they tasted. We ate them for dinner, with a salad that wasn't at all Tunisian (greens, pears, goat cheese, and almonds), but it worked out well. They would also make a wonderful appetizer, but you would have to limit people's intake, or they would gobble them up and then not eat your dinner that you worked so hard on.
A word about the cookbook: although I loved the bread, I have a few complaints about the cookbook. First, the ingredients are given by volume, not by weight, and I think they've been translated because there are some weird amounts (1/3 teaspoon?). The water for the dough is not listed in the ingredients; instead, it's listed in the directions, in two different places. The filling instructions tell you to saute the onion over medium-high heat, but if you cooked everything until the red pepper is soft, as you're supposed to, over medium-high heat, it would be a charred mess. Also, there are very few pictures, and the ones that are there are blurry, in black and white, and not particularly helpful. Nevertheless, there are recipes in this book that I've never seen anywhere else--including this one--and if you're interested in expanding your bread horizons, you might want to give this book a try.
TUNISIAN SPICY BREADS
adapted from Savory Baking from the Mediterranean
3 1/3 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/3 cups (473 grams) fine semolina or durum flour
1 1/2 t. fine sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/2 T. olive oil, plus extra for brushing the breads
1 cup water
All-purpose flour for kneading and shaping
3 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely copped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (I use cherry tomatoes in the winter)
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 small serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 t. harissa (available in some supermarkets and in specialty groceries)
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1. In mixer bowl with dough hook attachment, combine flour, yeast, olive oil, egg, and salt. Gradually add water and knead for 2-3 minutes. (The kneading can also be done by hand).
2. Cover bowl and let dough rest about 15 minutes. Knead another 2-3 minutes, until dough is shiny and smooth. Cover dough with damp kitchen towel and let rest while you're making filling.
3. For filling, heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomatoes, bell and serrano peppers, harissa and cayenne. Salt to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until bell pepper is soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Divide dough into two pieces and shape each into a bowl. Let them rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 15 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 400. Roll out one ball of dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out as many circles as possible. (I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter). Place about 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of half of the circles. Top with plain circle, and pinch the edges to seal. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
7. Repeat with second ball of dough. Then gather all scraps together and cut out more circles until dough is gone.
8. Brush with olive oil and bake for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Cool on wire rack. Best if eaten warm (they can be reheated in a 200-degree oven).