I saw this bread in one of my favourite cookbooks Honey & Co and became obsessed with it purely because you get to cut at it with scissors. It’s very important to be upfront about this because it’s possible that this alone is a good reason for other people to make it even though I don’t know that the bread itself was worth writing home about. Scissors though. It’s fun.
Firstly, some adulation of Honey & Co (because I do have some notes when it comes to this recipe and I want to get my fan-girling on record before I give them.) I bought this cookbook after having lunch at their London restaurant and eating the best slice of cake I ever had in my life. I then insisted that my friend and I scour both of their cookbooks to find the recipe and proceeded to buy their main one (not their baking title) in order to steal the secrets of the Cherry Pistachio Coconut Heaven Deliciousness Queen of Cakes I Adore Thee. For a while I made that recipe repeatedly, but eventually I discovered that the book had other pages and that these also had delicious things described in a very appealing and conversational way. The bukhari bread was one such thing.
The bread description is absolutely representative of the tone of the book. In setting the scene for the recipe Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich paint a picture of Bukhara, an ancient Jewish community in modern day Central Asia. The image is a cuisine of fragrance, stone fruits, nuts and scissored breads. It was heady stuff and I get easily intoxicated by descriptive language. My heart was on board, but how would my technical skills fare?
In making this bread my failure to understand different types of yeast really came to a head. In the pantry at my parent’s place are:
- Bread maker’s yeast – fast acting
- Instant dried yeast
- Active yeast – all purpose
I then went out to hunt for fresh yeast (which this recipe casually advises is preferred and which I therefore assumed was NON NEGOTIABLE) and added:
- Instant yeast (presumably also dried)
Before finally finding
- Frozen fresh yeast
It came in a large grey lump and looked most unappealing.
Did I learn anything on this yeast adventure? No I did not. I feel more confused than ever about the different types of yeast and their relative weights and how recipes should or shouldn’t be adjusted to accommodate them. I suspect that one well phrased google search will resolve the issue, but I continue to hope I’ll figure it out by osmosis. Pray for me.
Here are my concerns…this recipe did not include any suggested timings for rising*. There are two proves and neither of them was specified beyond “until the dough doubles in size”. At one point measurement of the bread thickness was supposed to be done using a thumb joint and I couldn’t manage that for the life of me (what about my nail? are my thumbs regulation size? they seem long…).
Also, I used some “bread flour” that I bought at a fancy shop (not a shop fancy enough to sell me fresh yeast, frozen or otherwise, but fancy-ish), which wasn’t definitely high in protein.
So that might have been a mistake? Lastly, this bread was adorned in nigella seeds which I absolutely purchased for the occasion and which I absolutely shouldn’t have because they couldn’t fall off the baked bread quick enough and I suspect that if I’d wiped the bench down I could have refilled the nigella seed jar.
I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I liked the bread. I ate many slices, some smeared with chicken pate, some not smeared with chicken pate, trying to figure out if it was good by virtue of being warm and bready or genuinely good. My mother ate a slice with honey which I can confirm is ‘not good’. Eventually I ended up extremely full and still uncertain. As this recipe recommends the bread be eaten on the day it is made I have no regrets, but also no firm conclusions.
Still, I do want to reiterate how fun the cutting was. It’s kind of worth it for that. You should definitely use high protein flour, you should probably use fresh yeast (who can say) and you should almost certainly take more care in judging your proving time. But even if all those things sound pesky then you should ignore them and make this anyway so you too can experience the joy of snip-snipping away at dough.
*after happily blaming the recipe for the lack of proving information I read the book itself more closely. It turns out that, at the start of the bread section, there are notes on proving. Here the suggestion is to allow 1.5 – 3 hours per prove. I went with more like 45 minutes so…safe to say I cocked up.
From Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s incredible Honey & Co cookbook.
Makes 1 large loaf, best eaten on the day. Can be frozen.
30g fresh yeast or 3tsp dried yeast (fresh is better…)
150ml warm water
2 tbsp sugar
500g strong white flour (I took this to mean high protein bread flour?)
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sunflower oil, plus 1 tbsp or oiling the dough
1 tbsp nigella seeds or sesame seeds, to garnish
Mix the yeast with the water and sugar and set aside until it starts to froth.
In a large bowl combine the flour, egg, salt and sunflower oil. Chuck the yeast mix in there too once it’s frothed. Work the whole lot together into a smooth dough (by hand, no dough hooks necessary) – you may need to add a little more water as a you go. Eventually the dough will come together into a ball.
Oil the dough ball all over (using your bonus tbsp of sunflower oil) and then cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to double in size – check it at an hour but allow up to 2. Preheat your oven to 240°C/220°C fan.
Once proved, knock the dough back so all the air is pushed out. The texture should be smooth and subtle, whatever that means. Place the dough on a lightly floured baking tray and shape into a large flat oblong. Here is where you could use your thumb to measure – apparently the loaf height should be roughly the same as the first joint. Aka 3-4cm thick.
Cover the tray loosely with a damp cloth (or cling film) and leave to prove until doubled in size. Again, probably around the 1.5 hour mark. Fully proved height should be (apparently) approximately your full thumb.
Now the fun part! Take a pair of scissors and get snipping…holding them perpendicular to the dough you can landscape to your heart’s content – creating little peaks every couple of centimetres. Brush the loaf with a little more oil and sprinkle the seeds on top.
Place the tray in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, then open the door carefully, turn the tray, reduce the heat to 200°C/180°C fan. Bake for another 6-8 minutes until nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack. Eat or freeze it on the day.