I can’t help myself. Bread is a wonderful thing, and it is worthy of two posts.
There are a few inspirations for this post. First, I recently discovered a food blog called Nectar, whose photography and artistry I admire. The author’s account of a trip to Morocco caught my eye — not only the photographic retelling of her experience, but the culinary perspective as well.
The author includes a recipe for Moroccan bread, or kesra, in this post. This recipe immediately took me back to a personal excursion of mine. I visited Tunisia a few years ago, and my traveling group had the pleasure of being hosted by bedouin natives in the Sahara Desert for a night.
Bedouins are a desert-dwelling people of Arabic descent. Their family raised and tested them on surviving the desert’s elements. Our welcoming group prepared a dinner of curried couscous and lamb. We dined under canvas tents around a bonfire. The evening’s entertainment consisted of pottery balancing acts and dancing under the Saharan stars.
Shortly after my group’s arrival by dromedary caravan, one of our hosts gave bread making demonstration. A simple combination of flour and water, the baker furiously mixed up a firm dough. A bed of heated coals stood by, and which served as the oven.
When the bread was ready, the baker uncovered his creation. A desert bush served as a primitive counter space. Beating off the ash and sand grains, our group stood amazed at the baked delicacy taken from the ground. Wedges of the dense, chewy loaf were passed around in baskets during dinner, where we reclined at lowly tables in a banquet fashion. Fresh loaves were baked for breakfast the next morning. We lathered generous slices with fig jam and washed it down with coffee.
Desert bread was one of the culinary delights of my stay in Tunisia. Needless to say, I was delighted to come across a similar variety.
Of course, the bread I had in Tunisia had fewer ingredients. Rosemary and sesame were not in the bedouins’ recipe.
These additions left a favorable perfume in my house, however. As the round loaves baked, the scent of rosemary crept up the stairs to the second floor. Roasted cornmeal’s earthy bright flavor married pleasantly with the herb accents.
Two issues concerned me throughout this process: 1. I substituted half of the bread flour for all purpose (the idea of exhausting my roommate’s supply of bread flour made me feel bad), and 2. I was worried that the recipe didn’t allow for enough baking time.
The loaves favorably increase in size during the suggested hour of rising time. This slightly alleviated my bread flour concern. When I took the sheet pan from the oven, the loaves were still pale on the top, but accrued a golden crust on the bottom. I tapped the underside slightly; the hollow sound reassured me that the suggested baking time was accurate.
After cooling, slicing into one of the loaves was nothing short of a delightful experience. The interior was pillowy, with a tender crumb. Notes of rosemary made a pleasant palate-to-nose tasting experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have fig jam to relive my Saharan night. Pear butter will certainly do for now.