Tuesday, July 12, 2011

R'ghayef (Moroccan multi-layered breads)

In the spirit of my planned trip to Morocco in November, and with a bow to my friend who suggested that I bake a bread from every country in the world, I tried my hand at r'ghayef, a Moroccan layered bread. Apparently, this bread is a traditional street food in Morocco. If it is, good idea! I hope to look for it when I'm there, although, as Jim pointed out, it might be helpful for me to learn to pronounce it.

Not only is this bread mighty tasty, it's also the quickest yeast bread you'll ever make. So quick that we're missing a few process photos. Jim kept wandering off with his camera in tow because he expected he wouldn't have to take a picture for another hour or two. Little did he knew that this bread happens fast.

It's one of the few breads I've made where I didn't bother to get out my stand mixer, or even my food processor. Instead, I stirred the few ingredients together (AP flour, semolina (or durum) flour, yeast, and water; kneaded it for a few minutes, and topped it with the mixing bowl to give it 15 minutes to rest.

After it rests, you divide it into four pieces. (I halved the recipe so I could make just enough for dinner. They're best when they're just off the griddle). The pieces of dough rest while you're making the filling.

Since I'd already made the filling, I didn't let them rest. This was a mistake, since the dough is much more malleable after it's rested for about 10 minutes. So even if you're itching to get going, take a deep breath and go cut a bouquet of flowers or something. If you don't wait it out, the dough won't stretch nicely and will tear.

After it's patted out into a thin, oiled circle, put a dab of filling in the middle. The filling is made with chopped onion and parsley, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt. I found that the dried spices gave the filling a raw flavor, and I think I'd substitute harissa for the spice mixture next time. But the flavors were great (and hot! I was liberal with the pepper flakes), and the onions (be sure to finely dice them) and parsley tasted fresh.

You fold the sides over so you have a rectangle, and then fold the top and bottom over to form a square.

Then you flatten them quite emphatically. You want them very thin because they're only going to cook a few minutes. They're ready to fry in a frying or griddle pan at this point, but I had to let them rest while I grilled some yogurt chicken with Moroccan spices. No harm seemed to come to them by their 10- to 15-minute rest.

These little breads are amazingly quick to "bake." They're cooked for a minute or two on each side in an oiled frying pan on medium high heat. They rise and bubble just a tad while they're cooking, and should be eaten as soon as possible. They're crisp, chewy, spicy, and absolutely delicious. While I served them with Moroccan-style chicken, they would pair with something less spicy--a quick summer salad with feta and olives or a winter vegetable soup. And they'd make toothsome appetizers too. You could certainly pare down the heat level by lessening or eliminating the red pepper flakes--I didn't measure, but I'm pretty sure I used about twice the recommended amount.

When I'm in Morocco, I'll have to make it my mission to search out various r'ghayefs and see whether mine came close to the authentic thing. I do love to have missions that involve tasting food.

R'ghayef (Moroccan Multilayered Breads)
--from Savory Baking from the Mediterranean, by Anissa Helou

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup unbleached AP flour (120 grams)
1 cup semolina (or durum) flour (120 grams)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 onion, very finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)

Combine the flours, yeast, and salt in a large bowl andmake a well in the center. Add the yeast and mix with the flour until you have a rough, sticky dough.

Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with flour and knead for about 3 minutes. Invert the bowl over the dough and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead 2 to 3 minutes more, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest about 10 minutes.

Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Oil a work surface and your hands. Flatten a ball by hand on the work surface into a very thin circle. Spread about one-eighth of the filling over the center of the circle. Fold the left third of the circle over the filling, then fld the right third over to omake a rectangle. Fold the top third over the bread and the bottom third under the bread to make a square about 5 inches on each side (mine turned out smaller than 5 inches at this point). Let rest while you make 3 more squares in the same manner. Flatten the squares of filled dough until they are quite thin.

Oil a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Place the squares in the hot pan, drizzling a little additional oil over the bread. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove to parchment paper or a wire rack. When all breads from the first batch are cooked,kk shape, fill, and cook the remaining 4 breads. (I was able to cook 4 at one time, but I think the author envisions them as bigger and flatter than mine). Serve immediately.


faithy said...

These look delish! Like Naan!..my fave thing! :D

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, they're a lot like spicy naan. I love all flatbreads.

Stephanie said...

Those look amazing!

I also have to add that the yogurt chicken epicurious recipe is my all time favorite way to make chicken thighs. I'm grilling them tonight!

breadbasketcase said...

Great chicken recipe, isn't it?

tasteofbeirut said...

I have been very tempted by North African breads lately; it is funny how in Lebanon we use semolina mainly for pastries; so far I have tried matlouh (gone in minutes) and now this looks mighty good and will be next!

Goody said...

Fantastic! We're in a heatwave at the moment (with no end in sight) and I cannot think of lighting the oven. I made Saj breads tonight-I'm going to make these tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration.

breadbasketcase said...

Taste of Beirut,
How nice to hear from you! Matlouh sounds wonderful, too, and I look forward to trying that. (It sounds like you could devote a whole blog just to different country's flat breads).

Thank you for the inspiration! It looks like saj is also on my to-do list. Now I'm really intrigued by the apparently endless variations on flatbreads.

HanaĆ¢ said...

Your Rghayef turned out great, Marie. Btw, I can help you with the pronunciation :o) They're also called M'semmen which is easier to pronounce. I grew up on these flatbreads. My mom would get up a little earlier on Sunday, and make them :o) These flatbreads are so versatile, I don't even know where to start. They can be made plain (no filling), drizzled with honey and enjoyed with tea. They can be baked (they get even crispier on the outside while remaining chewy inside). I've had them filled with feta cheese. Spicy (cooked) ground beef or chicken. The sky is the limit, really.

Btw, you should really check out Paula Wolfert's Facebook group called Moroccan Cooking and join in. Lots of "Moroccan Food" discussion there. Let me know if you can't find it.

breadbasketcase said...

You're right--m'semmen is easier to pronounce (I'd probably still get it wrong, but I don't even know where to begin with "r'ghayef." All your variations sound terrific.
I signed up for Paula Wolfert's group--thanks!