Maltese bread -Ħobż

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Ħobż is the Maltese word for bread. It's also a form of bread in its own right. The word came into Maltese through the early Semitic-Arabic connections with the island. It's a staple food that is steeped in thousands of years of history. 

Most of all, The Maltese will tell you that it is a unique bread that is unlike any other bread you will have tasted. 

The centre for bread making on the Island of Malta is Qormi. From the days of the Knights Hospitaller (1530 - 1798), the town was known as Casel Fornaro, meaning the 'bakers' town'. 

Ħobż is a two-stage process which has to be started the day before you want to bake. It requires the creation of a 'mother dough' (tinsila) which has to be prepared and then stored in the fridge overnight. The following day, the tinsila is used as part of the main baking process. 

So, let's start. 


for the 'mother dough' or 'tinsila'.

200 gms of strong white bread flour

100 mls of filtered water at room temperature

2 gms (½ teaspoon) sea salt

2 gms (½ teaspoon) of instant dried yeast

for the main dough (the following day)

200 gms of strong white bread flour

100 mls of tepid (27⁰C) filtered water

2 gms (½ teaspoon) of sea salt

2 gms (½ teaspoon) of instant dried yeast


Stage 1 - the day before....

Place the salt in a bowl and add the flour.

Then add the yeast.

Slowly add the water while mixing the dough, bringing it together so that all the ingredients are combined. 

Knead the dough on a work surface until it is silky and pliable. 

You can achieve the same effect by using a stand mixer (low to start with and then on medium) or by using a bread machine short programme setting (e.g. Pizza) and stopping the programme as soon as the dough looks right. 

Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for between 18 - 24 hours. 

The 'mother dough - or tinsila

What we are in effect doing is creating a 'starter' in the same way as we would with sourdough. The yeast will slowly ferment overnight and work its magic on the flour, water and salt mixture. 

In addition, the use of a 'mother dough' has the effect of making the final loaf very light - it's a similar technique to that used in Shokupan, Tangzhong or Yudane baking 

Stage 2 - the following day...

Remove yesterday's mother dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. 

The 'mother dough' after 24 hours

Then repeat the process from the day before only THIS TIME, make sure your water is tepid (around 27⁰C) and not cold. 

Add the salt to the flour and mix. Add the yeast and add the water. 

Once it's mixed, combine it with yesterday's dough and knead both together until thoroughly soft, silky and pliable. 

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the boule  of combined dough into it. Cover with cling film or a tea-towel and leave to rest for 2 hours at room temperature. 

Prepare a baking tray by lining it with silicone or lightly oiling it. 

After two hours, the dough should have doubled in size. Lightly flour a board and tip the dough out.  

Trying to avoid knocking it back too much, either mould it into a large boule or split it into two smaller boules. 

Drawing the boule(s) down the worktop will help increase the surface tension in the loaf. 

Place the boule(s) on the baking tray and leave them, uncovered, for 2 hours by which time they should have doubled in size. 

Resting - uncovered and at room temperature for a further 2 hours. 

Preheat your oven to 220⁰C and place a shelf in the lower section of the oven. 

Score a cross in the top of the loaf and dust with flour. 

Ready for the oven

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes at 220⁰C. 

Cool on a wire rack. 

One of our BreadClub20 subscribers told me that Ħobż should be 'crusty on the outside and squidgy in the middle' Well, I'm pleased to report is! 

Mind you, it's a 'today' should be eaten fresh. Unlike other breads where you add a 'mother dough' or some pre-prepared dough, it doesn't keep terribly well. So, make small batches and enjoy!

Happy baking.....


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