We have just returned from two amazing weeks traveling through the Moroccan countryside, and I have SO MANY exciting food things to share with you (and other adventures, like driving through river beds in a crappy rental Peugeot)! But before I can get all my thoughts and pictures organized, we have to talk about this tahini bread that I made before we left.
As you can imagine, and I hope many of you readers share this obsession with me, the phrase "tahini bread" is music to my little ears. I still love this flaky tahini bread I made many years ago. Naturally, when I wanted to make one of the breads from Classical Turkish Cooking, of course I settled on the tahinli recipe. I read over the recipe, where I learned this was not the traditional flaky rolls (tahinli ekmek or tahinli corek) but a tahini flatbread (tahinli katmer).
I am a really strong believer that, when making a recipe you've never made before, you should always read the recipe through thoroughly, preferably twice. But, we don't all always follow our own rules now, do we?? (I certainly hope not, life would be so boring if we did.) So in this case, reading the recipe through meant sort of skimming the one page of dense text. "Yeah, yeah, roll, layer dough with tahini filling, roll, fold, roll. That's it," I thought.
Fast forward to me in my kitchen, staring at the recipe in disbelief, thinking, "wait I have to fold AGAIN?" ... "the dough has to rest AGAIN??" ... and the sudden realization that I had endeavored upon making an item that was akin to making PUFF PASTRY. Now making puff pastry is all fine and good when you actually plan to be making puff pastry. Realizing you're unintentionally half way through making puff pastry on a weekday night when you just wanted to get dinner on the table is another matter altogether. (As my friend says, I need to know if we're going to do the hard workouts at least one day in advance, gotta psyche myself up!)
However, the upside to all this is that the idea of making puff pastry with tahini is pretty darn cool right?! It's not a true puff pastry, but I like the idea of a flaky tahini-embedded dough to use as a crust for a savory pie or tart. It's something I'd like to play with in the future, provided I have some time to psyche myself up for it. In the meantime, these breads are delicious, nutty and rich with tahini. If you plan some extra time to make these, they are quite rewarding.
P.S. Culinary nerd note: In making these I couldn't help notice a similarity in the technique between the Turkish katmer bread and the North African msemmen bread. Perhaps an old Ottoman influence? Then again, layered flaky flatbreads are traditional in many ancient cuisines.
Turkish Tahini Flatbread
The original recipe actually had one additional fold before rolling and cooking the breads, but I've eliminated it because I felt the final fold smooshed out the tahini too much. (Yes, smooshed is a technical term). You want to handle the dough both gently and firmly, like good parenting, to preserve the individual tahini layers.
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup tahini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
oil or clarified butter for cooking the breads
1. Combine flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add in the butter pieces and rub with your fingertips until the butter is distributed like small pebbles in the dough. Make a well in the center of the dough and pour in the milk. Mix in the milk to form a dough, knead the dough for five minutes until it is very smooth. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, mix together the tahini and butter, pressing with the back of a spoon until well mixed.
3. Divide the dough into 8 balls and cover with a damp towel, let rest 20 minutes.
4. On a floured work surface, roll out one ball of dough to a 7 or 8 inch circle. Spread some of the tahini-butter mixture over the dough circle and set aside. Roll out another dough circle, place that circle over the first circle, and spread with more tahini mixture. Continue rolling and stacking the dough circles, coating each layer with the tahini mixture, until you have 4 dough lyers stacked (do not coat the fourth dough layer with the tahini mixture). Crimp the edges of the 4-layer dough/tahini stack to seal. Repeat with the next four balls of dough. You will not use up all the tahini mixture. Cover your two stacks with the damp towel and let rest 15-20 minutes.
5. Again working on a floured work surface, take the first dough stack and, working gently at first, roll it out into a wide circle. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with some more tahini mixture and roll up like a jelly roll. Repeat with the second dough round. Cover the two jelly rolls with a damp towel and let rest 15 minutes.
6. Cut each jelly roll into 4 sections, and pinch the edges of each section to seal in the tahini. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each section gently until just flat, you should have a medium sized (about 6 inch) square or rectangle.
7. Heat some oil or clarified butter in a skillet or griddle until hot. Cook the breads, about 1 minute each side, until brown blisters appear on the bread and the dough is cooked. Regulate the heat as you work so that the pan is not too hot or too cool. Serve the breads warm.