Flavors of Morocco
I fondly remember, as a weary driver in need of sustenance, pulling up to roadside stands all around Morocco and munching on small multi-grained crusty rounds of bread scented with anise and sesame with uninhibited abandon. Kisra, eaten with a local cheese called jben and a glass mint tea, was enough to set me right and ready for another couple of hours on the road traversing narrow mountain roads and verdant plateaus. Morocco is a country of allusive mysteries and exquisite beauty and savoring its foods cracks some of the doors to its rich cultural heritage.
Making kisra is quite straight forward if you have had any experience making breads at home, and this bread you are unlikely to find unless you live in an urban area with Moroccan inhabitants. So…give it a try! Wonderful toasted and doused with honey for breakfast or tea… or a Moroccan feast, dipped into a couscous or spread with jben and zaalouk .
Kisra makes 4 seven inch rounds
Making starter dough is the traditional procedure, but not essential, so if you prefer quicker bread simply dissolve the yeast with the sugar and warm water and let sit for 5 minutes in the mixing bowl and then add the combined flours, including the starter flours with the flours listed for the bread dough recipe below, then proceed with the rest of the recipe as described below.
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 cup warm (not hot) water
- 3/4 cup unbleached flour
Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a stand mixer bowl. Give it a stir and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Once bubbles appear on the surface add the flour and stir in until well combined. Seal the bowl with plastic film and place a kitchen towel over the top. Set aside in a warm place for 1 ½ hours.
- 1 ½ cups unbleached flour
- 2 cups semolina flour
- 1 tablespoon wheat germ
- 2 tablespoons fine corn meal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons anise seeds
- 1 tablespoons sesame seeds + more for sprinkling the bread surface
Combine the unbleached flour, semolina flour, wheat germ, corn meal, and salt together in a mixing bowl and using a whisk stir the ingredients together. Prepare 3/4 cup of warm water to add to the flours once mixing commences. You will most likely use no more than 2/3 of a cup of water to achieve the texture for the dough to be soft and pliable.
Fit the mixer bowl with the starter dough in it onto the mixer base. Fit the mixer with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on to low speed and begin to add the dry ingredients in 1/2 cup additions to the starter dough and alternating with 1/4 cup additions of warm water. Add the olive oil and continue adding dry ingredient and water until all the dry ingredients have been added and the dough is soft and pliable. Add the anise and sesame seeds and continue mixing until mixed into the dough. Continue to mix for about 8 minutes until the dough is beginning to pull away from the sides of the mixer bowl.
You can also do this by hand mixing, placing the the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Wait several minutes until the yeast dissolves and then begin mixing the dry ingredients into the yeast mixture. Once the dough begins to hold together kneed with your hands in the bowl until the dough is easy enough to handle without sticking to your hands and proceed as follows.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until the dough releases from your hands with ease. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and form each into a round.
Lightly oil 2 baking trays with olive oil and scatter some corn meal over the surface. Place 2 dough rounds on each tray, leaving ample space for the dough to expand. Brush the surface of the rounds with olive oil and sprinkle sesame seeds over the tops. Press the tops gently to stick the sesame seeds to the dough and flatten the rounds to about 1/2 inch thick. You can also leave them as they are for thicker rounds. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in the kitchen for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 435F/225C Use an oven thermometer to be sure the oven is the correct temperature before putting the bread in the oven.
Uncover the dough and press lightly on top of the rounds with your finger. If the finger imprint nearly disappears once you remove your finger the rounds are ready for baking. Prick holes into each round using the tongs of a fork in 6 or seven places. This allows moisture to escape during baking and makes the finished bread dense and absorbent.
Place the trays in the oven and bake about 25-30 minutes for flattened rounds, or 30-35 minutes for thicker rounds. Reverse the trays, top tray to bottom rack and vice versa after the first 15 minutes. The rounds should be nicely browned and very crusty. If you knock on the surface and the bread sounds hollow the bread is finished.. Place the rounds on a cooling rack.
Once the rounds are cool enough to handle you can slice the bread and serve warm, or cool completely before storing in plastic self lock bags to refrigerate. For serving later be sure to warm the bread before serving!