Fiteer el Malak (Archangel Michael Bread)
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A few years ago, we were in Cairo. We hired a local driver and visited the Coptic Christians in one of the the oldest parts of a vast city. The nearby Zabaleen area is also home to the famous 'Garbage City' where the Coptic Christian community recycles the waste they collect nightly from the houses, apartments and businesses within the city.
|Zabaleen's Garbage City in Old Cairo. Home to a Coptic Christian community.|
|The Cave Church of the Coptic Christians|
The Coptic Christians are amongst the oldest Christian communities in the World. Their Fiteer al Malek is a vegan alternative to the more eggy brioche and is baked as part of the religious Coptic rituals in honour of the Archangel Michael.
Families traditionally bake the 'cakes' during fasting, as well as at times when there are family 'events' or key milestones. It's not really a cake..it's defined as a 'bread' but as you can see, the process is closer to baking cakes than it is to baking breads.
Of course, you can bake them anytime of the year, as well....they are sweet and tasty served with jam, cheese or even zaatar.
(for twelve or fifteen buns - if that's too many, you can halve the quantities and make 6 - 8 buns)
500 gms of all purpose (plain) flour (you made need more to create a proper dough)
150 gms of white sugar
355 mls of warm water
2 teaspoons of instant yeast
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar
120 gms of olive oil
|Ready to go....|
1. Add the yeast to a cup of warm water. Add the sugar and stir. Leave in a warm, dark place until it is frothy and foamy.
2. Sift the flour, the salt, the rest of the sugar and the baking powder into a large bowl.
3. Add the oil and mix so that everything is coated.
4. Gradually add the yeast mixture, the vinegar and the rest of the water. Mix until the dough is sticky and well combined into a soft dough. Add a little more flour if necessary.
5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave it in a dark place to double in volume.
6. Place the double volume dough into the fridge and allow to rest overnight. Leaving it overnight allows the dough to develop taste.
7. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C.
8. Divide the dough into 115 gms discs.
9. Take small amounts of surplus dough and twist them into thin strands to form crosses. (✝). Dust the crosses with cinnamon so that are distinctive when baked.
10. Glaze the buns with oil and apply the crosses to the tops of the buns. The oil will help fix them into place.
|Can you spot why I've never gone in for cake decoration?|
11. Leave the buns for 20 minutes to rise again.
12. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until they are puffy and have a golden crust.
|Yes, I was probably at the dentist on the day we did sugarwork! Each to his own, I fear!|
13. Serve them hot or cool them on a rack. They can be served with jam, cheese or zaatar.
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