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Uri Scheft’s Yemeni Kubaneh

Author Notes: Traditionally, kubaneh is baked overnight in a lidded tin, then taken from the oven on Saturday and served with grated tomato and z’hug (Yemeni hot sauce). “Some people go for the crusts and edges, while others want the soft and spongy interior.”

Excerpted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. —Sarah Jampel

Makes 16 rolls

  • 290grams (1 1/4 cups) cool room-temperature water
  • 20grams (2 1/2 tablespoons) fresh yeast or 8 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 500grams (4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for shaping
  • 60grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 20grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) fine salt
  • 150grams (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  1. Make the dough: Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Crumble the yeast into the water and use your fingers to rub and dissolve it. If using active dry yeast, whisk the yeast into the water. Add the flour, sugar, and, lastly, the salt.
  2. Mix on the dough on low speed to combine the ingredients, stopping to scrape in any dry ingredients that have settled on the bottom or sides of the bowl. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-high and continue to knead until the dough cleans the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stretch and fold the dough: Lightly dust a work surface with a little flour and use a plastic dough scraper or sturdy spatula to transfer the dough onto the surface. Use your palms to stretch a corner of the dough away from you in one movement, then fold the front portion over and on top of itself. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this about 10 times, until the dough is a nice smooth round.
  4. Let the dough rise: Lightly flour a bowl, set the dough in the bowl, flour the top of the dough, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature until the dough has just about doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
  5. Divide and shape the dough: Place the butter in a microwave-safe dish and heat until it is very soft and about 25% melted (start with 10-second intervals). Lightly grease a large plate with a little bit of the butter. Lightly flour the work surface and set the risen dough on top. Divide it into 8 equal pieces. Cup your hand around a piece of dough, then push and pull it, rolling it against the work surface, to gently shape it into a ball. Set it on the buttered plate and repeat with the 7 remaining pieces of dough. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
  6. Stretch the dough: Use about 2 tablespoons of the butter to generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. (You can also use a smaller springform pan or a kubaneh pan.) Take another tablespoon of butter and use it to grease a clean, non-floured work surface. Take a ball of dough from the plate, smear another tablespoon of butter on top of it, and gently press and spread it out into a paper-thin 12- or 13-inch square. Use more butter as needed—the butter helps spread the dough thin without tearing (but if you have a few tears, do not worry).
  7. Shape each swirl: Fold the left side of the dough over the center, then the right side of the dough over the left to form a simple three-fold. Starting at the bottom of the strip (closest to you), roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Slice the cylinder in half crosswise, to expose the curlicue insides, then place the halves, cut side up, in the springform (start by placing them in the center, working your way towards the perimeter as you add new rolls).
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the remaining balls of dough. Reserve 1 tablespoon of butter to use later on. If you’re using a kubaneh pan or a smaller springform, you can stack the rolls on top of each other. If you’re using a springform pan, wrap the bottom in a large sheet of aluminum foil to protect against any butter leakage.
  9. Let the kubaneh proof: Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until a finger gently pressed into the dough leaves a depression that quickly fills in by three-quarters, about 40 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, brush it over the top of the dough, and place the pan in the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325° and bake until top is deeply golden, 30 to 40 more minutes. Remove pan from the oven and set it aside to cool for at least 20 minutes before turning the bread out of the pan.
  11. To serve, you can invert the bread so that, as Uri says, “the pretty side faces up.” (But you can choose which side you find prettiest!) Let people rip it apart into small rolls.

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