Sunday, March 27, 2011

From the Sahara to Your Table - Tunisian Flatbread

I came across this recipe in an old collection I have and was instantly intrigued. I mean, I have made flatbreads before and some of them have even appeared here in this blog. Just do a quick search for pita, or laffa from the Middle East, or Naan from India or tortillas from Mexico.

Flat breads are conceivably the oldest kinds of bread of all. It is likely they are among the oldest of all cooked or baked goods we have anywhere. I can definitely see how nomadic tribes, by a campfire somewhere, took some grains that had been accidentally fermented in rainwater and formed into a pasty-like something, and slapped them on to the side of a stone in the fire. Or maybe they fell into the fire and they were so hungry they ate the 'burned' grains anyway  finding them to be delicious. However it happened, the first breads were not brioche, that's for sure. It is not a coincidence that everywhere in the world the first breads were all flat.

This bread, from Tunisia is no exception. Tunisia is in North Africa and probably 90% of its territory is desert. The natives, outside the cities, are to this day, mostly Beduin nomads. Sheep and camel herders and traders in the desert just like it has always been. This bread, using a combination of regular AP flour and the coarser semolina flour, is typical of breads where ingredients are simple and often scarce. The bread doubles as a scoop, also typical for Middle Eastern bread. Use it to sop up gravy or hummus, the justly famous chickpea dip found everywhere in the Middle East.

Here's What You'll Need:
50g (1/4 cup) semolina flour
250g (1 7/8 cup) AP flour
1 tsp. salt
250ml (1 cup) warm water
125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
1 egg mixed in water for glaze
sesame seeds for decoration

Here's What You'll Need to Do:

Mix flour, water, salt, olive oil, yeast until dough adheres in a rough ball.  

Let rise for around an hour until double.   Preheat oven to 400 deg F.  (Around 200 deg C)
Divide and shape into two disks on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Brush with egg yolk.   Sprinkle with sesame seeds and za'atar (hyssop).  

Bake for 40 minutes.   (I turned down oven to 300 after 25 minutes.)  

*Another version of this type of bread uses all white flour, milk instead of water, and an egg thrown in, but I wanted to try to preserve as much of the original taste.


  1. נהדרות הלאפות האלה
    באמת מעורר חשק לחומוס או יותר נכון למשהו הקשור לבשר כבש ולאכילה בידיים כמובן.
    תודה על עוד פוסט נחמד ומפתיע.

  2. Thanks for all your great posts...I would love to print your recipes, but the photos are mished in between. Can you please put the recipes as a whole so they can be printed easier. Thanks:)

  3. את צודקת. המתכון מעורר תיאבון למשהו מאוד בשרי

  4. To make a lighter cake, separate the eggs first. Add the yolks to the butter mixture, beat the egg whites then fold into the batter...Bakery Equipment

  5. Thanks, I'll be sure to try that next time.

  6. Dry ingredients should be sifted together and added at the lowest speed. Dry should be added alternatively with wet with dry being the first and last to be added. Bakery Equipment

  7. Thanks again.I will work on it! Practice makes perfect. I think one of the difficulties I had with it is in the flour - the semolina flour we have here is quite coarse - maybe too coarse.