Too hot to bake? Try Yemenite flatbreads

When it gets too hot to bake challah, try these Yemenite breads for Shabbat: lachuch and saluf. Avoid turning on the oven and also skip the braiding.

Rooted in the ancient technique of baking breads on stones or over embers, these recipes are updated to use yeast, non-stick pans, and a stovetop. Flavored with ground fenugreek or other spices, these breads appear on Yemenite tables every day, including Shabbat, according to Gil Marks in his “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.” Each of these breads made aliyah with Yemenite Jews in the 1880s and then the larger immigration of Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50.

Lachuch and saluf may be eaten with honey and butter, crepe-style, or as an accompaniment to soups, stews, or spicy sauces. I enjoy eating them with gazpacho, fried eggs, marmalade, or melted cheese. Use them as wraps, and if you want a very contemporary spin, try this green lachuch.

In the ancient world, and for Jews living in Yemen, constraints such as limited fuel sources, hot climates, and low-gluten wheat contributed to the preference for these pancake-like breads. Sorghum or millet were commonly used.

Welcome these delicious and hot weather-friendly breads to your summer Shabbat meals. Stay cool!

Recipes:

Lachuch (or lahoh or lahuh) recipe: Only cooked on one side, this develops a bubbly top similar to a crumpet, English muffin, or Ethiopian injera. It is also known in nearby Somalia as djibouti.

Though several food writers have claimed it took them a long time to master this bread, follow these steps and it will work. Based on recipes from Liz Steinberg and Gil Marks’ “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.”

Ingredients:
3 cups unbleached white flour; I used 1 ½ cup all purpose and 1 ½ cup bread flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
½-1 teaspoon ground fenugreek, depending on taste; if desired, ½ tablespoon zaatar, dash of coriander
3 ¾ cups warm (about 110º) water
margarine, butter, or vegetable oil if using a non-stick pan

Prep time: 10 minutes

Rising time: 2 hours (Maggie Glezer suggests, in “A Blessing of Bread,” prepping the dough, letting it rise for two hours at room temperature, and then refrigerating it for up to 24 hours before cooking. She also flips the breads for a few seconds to make sure both sides are cooked.)

Cook time: 30 minutes

Instructions:

Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water (110º) in a small bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and let it foam for about 5-10 minutes. Some recipes skip this step and just combine all of the ingredients. Then combine this mixture with the remaining water and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the flour and fenugreek, removing any lumps so that the consistency is thin.

Cover with plastic wrap or place inside a plastic bag to rise in a warm, draft-free location for about an hour. The dough will be frothy, stir it, rewrap and let it rise another hour. The batter will be bubbly; it can be stirred lightly at the end of the second rise.

Heat a non-stick, ungreased pan on a high flame. Remove the pan from the flame and cool the bottom underwater from the tap. This keeps the pan from getting too hot. Pour batter to cover the bottom of the pan (about ½ cup for small pan, 1 cup or more for large pan). Shake the pan a bit to distribute the batter and replace the pan on the stove. Adjust the flame to medium as the batter bubbles for about 2 minutes and then lower the flame to low and cook until the bottom is golden and the top is dry and cooked, about a total of 4-5 minutes. No need to flip it since it only cooks on one side. Cool the bottom of the pan in tap water again, dry it (though not necessary), and repeat the process for each bread.

Cool each lachuch on a paper towel or cotton towel to absorb the moisture.

Stack with bubbly sides facing each other. They will keep in plastic bag in the fridge. Or use waxed paper or parchment paper between each one. Can also be frozen.

Watch the process here.

Saluf, (or salouf, or saloof) recipe: This is a puffier flatbread and both sides get cooked. Based on a recipe from Liz Steinberg

Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached flour
1 ¼ cups water
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Prep time: 10 minutes

Rising time: 2 hours

Cook time: 30 minutes

Mix the ingredients together to form a wet dough. Mix with a fork or a whisk. Cover the bowl with plastic or place in a plastic bag to rise for about an hour in a draft free, warm location. Stir lightly again. Cover and set aside for another hour.

Heat a non-stick pan on a medium high flame and then turn the flame to medium low. Lightly flour the pan to keep the dough from sticking. Wet your hands with a water/fenugreek mix, take a generous handful of dough, and mush the dough around towards the edges of the pan. Or, use the back of a tablespoon to distribute the dough. Cover the pan with a lid and bake on a low heat about 5 minutes as it thickens and bubbles. Flour the pan between breads, if needed. If you have a lid or pan with a heating element that can be used to cover and brown the top, that works well. Just be mindful of keeping the heating element a bit removed from the bread. If you would like the top toasted without a top heating element, place the finished flatbread on top of a toaster, top down, or in a toaster oven to quickly brown the top. I topped mine with olive oil and zaatar. Cool each one on a paper towel or cotton towel to absorb any moisture. If stacking to store, place parchment or wax paper between.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Judaism around the world based on her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” (second edition, Jewish Lights). She co-curated the exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” for Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, New York City, now available to travel to your community. Most recently she has launched the chocolatebabkaproject, an exploration of celebratory breads.

Too hot to bake? Try Yemenite flatbreads

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