BatboutPosted: February 11, 2017
This week I’ve got for you a wonderfully soft and pillowy – literally! – flatbread from Morocco called Batbout (also mkhamer or toghrift or matlou’). Unlike the Middle Eastern, oven-baked pita, batbout is baked on a griddle or in a heavy-bottomed pan on the top of the stove.
It is made from a mixture of strong wheat flour and semolina which makes the outsides wonderfully chewy and the inside soft and fluffy. And, stored in an airtight container, they stay soft for days, with a pocket that opens up beautifully even when cold.
If, like me, you’ve ever wrestled to open the pocket of a pita, where no amount of toasting and cajoling will work, you’ll find these little puff breads a real delight. Not only do they puff up gloriously during the cooking, they frequently stay puffed, even when cold. The two on the left of the picture were baked 2 days before I took the photo.
Cooking them is a real pleasure, just to see the way they inflate. It’s a “real moment of creation” thing, as the dough appears to be doing not very much at all in the pan, then all of a sudden it is as if they take a deep breath and fill up before your eyes. Here is a video showing this magic.
The secret is in the cooking, and after a few trials I am pretty sure I’ve managed to work out how to achieve maximum puff every time.
200g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
20g fresh yeast or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
warm water to mix
- Mix the flours and the salt in a bowl.
- Crumble in the yeast, or if you prefer, mix it with a little water and add to the flours.
- Add enough water to mae a soft dough (around 300ml), although the actual quantity will depend on how the semolina absorbs the liquid.
- Knead for 10 minutes until smooth, then cover and set aside for 1 hour to rise.
- Tip out the dough and pat gently to deflate.
- Divide the dough into portions according to the side of flatbread you want – around 75-100g for sandwich size is good, larger for tearing and sharing.
- Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball. You can use semolina to roll them out, but I prefer them without.
- Use a rolling pin to roll them into a flat circle of around 10cm diameter, then set them onto a floured cloth. Cover lightly and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.
- Cook your batbout one at a time until you’re confident with the timings.
- Place one of the discs of dough into the pan for about a minute, then turn carefully. You want to dry out the surface of the dough, but not colour it. You should start to see bubbles forming on the surface of the uncooked side to show when it is ready.
- Cook the other side for a similar amount of time, so that the dough is dried but not coloured.
- Flip the bread back onto the first side, and cook until it starts to colour, then turn it over.
- This is where the magic happens. As the underside cooks, there is no ‘stretch’ left in the lightly cooked outsides of the bread, so the only way it can expand is by inflating. Usually this will start at one side and then move across to the other side, inflating as it cooks. I just love this part. Here is another video.
- If it doesn’t puff up, continue to cook each side lightly to dry out the surfaces a little more.
- Once the bread is puffed and lightly browned on both sides, set it on a wire rack to cool.
In case you missed it:
This week on DejaFood.uk: The earliest recipe for Sally Lun buns!