The Culinary Traveler: Moroccan Bread with Sesame and Aniseed and Morrocan Mint Tea

Sunday April 19, 2015

photo of three rissani women with bread by irving penn/1971/I am told they look exactly the same today

There are an entire world of rustic ethnic breads that are easily reproduced in your modern home kitchen. These are breads that were once only available regionally, tasted by the adventurous traveler. But no more. The invisible family boundries are down and the light is rushing in. What is old is now new. What was hidden by geography and religion, is now open to interpretation. Bakers are pushing the envelope. They want to master the techniques.

For your Moroccan-flavored meals, make a loaf of kisra with the flavors of sesame and anise, adapted from Paula Wolfert, an expert on the foods of Morocco. While this recipe can be fully baked in the bread machine (and come out in the bread machine loaf shape), traditionally it is shaped and baked in thick, flattened discs like pita, but ends up without the pocket, for which I give directions here. If the dough is baked on an earthenware griddle over an open fire, it is called khboz.

Be sure to use a coarse grind whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground, to obtain the proper texture, and use fresh aniseed and sesame seeds (store in the freezer please-you want fresh fresh fresh).

Serve with a salad of grated carrots with dates, a tagine stew of chicken or lamb or vegetables, and couscous with olives.  The bread is meant to be dense in texture, to use for scooping up the tagine cooking juices, or with an appetizer of hummus chickpea dip (look for some great recipes soon this summer) and hot mint tea (recipe follows), conveniently made in the slow cooker for a crowd.

Makes 2 round flat loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 3 1/3 cups bread flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour (a nice coarse grind)
  • 4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon aniseeds
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 2 teaspoons light olive oil, for rubbing on the dough
  • 2 tablespoons medium-grind yellow cornmeal, for sprinkling

Instructions

1.  Place all the ingredients in the pan according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Program for the Dough cycle; press Start.

2.  Turn the dough out of the pan onto a work surface and divide into 2 equal portions.  Knead each into a ball and let rest for 10 minutes covered with a clean tea towel.  With your fingers, moisten the surface of each ball of dough with some oil; press with your palm to flatten each into a disc 1 inch thick and 6 inches in diameter.  Dust the work surface with a bit of flour  to keep the breads from sticking to it and cover the discs with the towel to rest 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until puffy. When you poke your finger into the dough, the depression will remain.

3.  Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal. Prick the surface of each loaf 6 to 7 times with the tines of a fork to gently release the gas.  The loaf will flatten and immediately transfer the loaves onto the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400º.

4.    Immediately place in the hot oven (the pan won’t be hot yet) and bake for exactly 12 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300º and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes, or until the breads are browned and hollow when tapped on the bottom with your finger.  Remove to a rack to cool before cutting into wedges to serve.

Excerpted from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.


Moroccan Mint Tea

When I used to cater, there was invariably a hostess that requested fresh mint tea, Moroccan style, for after dinner. Posed with the problem of serving 2 to 4 dozen guests and given two small teapots, here is the perfect answer–the slow cooker.

Atay bi nahan uses common backyard mint; I use fresh spearmint that is easily available in the produce department.  The essential oils of the Mentha plant are concentrated in glands in the leaves, so the hot water releases them.  Green tea is very popular now and this is a great variation for entertaining. The tea is traditionally drunk very sweet, but you can make it less so and add the sugar to taste.  You can use granulated sugar cubes if you like, but since the sugar is usually shaved off a cone, so I prefer a raw sugar cube with a tad of molasses still left in. Moroccan mint tea is legendary for being killer sweet; I let you control that since you might like it only mildly sweet.

While in Morocco the tea is made in silver or brass teapots of variable sizes and served with great ceremony in glass mugs, this adapted version also makes a satisfying and indistinguishable mint infusion.

Overview

Cooker: Large Round or Oval

Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 3 to 6 hours

Makes about 2 dozen 6-ounce drinks

Ingredients

  • 20 cups water
  • 5 bunches fresh mint, long stems trimmed, but leaves attached to the stem
  • 20 to 35 raw sugar cubes, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons loose Chinese Gunpowder green tea (or 10 to 15 green tea bags, such as Lipton decaffinated (which is what I use)

Instructions

Place the water and mint in the cooker, pushing the mint down into the water.  Add the sugar cubes.  Cover and bring to a boil on HIGH.  Reduce the heat and simmer on LOW 3 to 4 hours.

Wrap the green tea in two cheesecloth bags and tie with kitchen twine, or use a metal spice ball.  Add the tea bags to the mint infusion and simmer, covered, another 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending when you want to serve the tea.

Discard the tea bags and the mint.  Taste for sugar, adding more if you like a sweeter tea.  Serve hot, ladled into mugs, or rinse a large teapot with hot water, stuff the neck with fresh mint, and fill with the hot tea out of the cooker to serve, refilling as needed.

Morphy Richards Flavour Savour 48784 Slow Cooker, 4.5 Litre - Stainless Steel

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Entertaining, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2007, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

tea in Morocco/photo by irving penn for vogue magazine/I just love this photo


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