Syrian Onion Bread

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We've guests for lunch. I'm serving them Yotam Ottolenghi's chicken thighs, spiced with sumac and za'atar, tossed with lemons, garlic and onions...and then roasted. It's a great one-pot meal, served with couscous and / or baby potatoes and a green salad. (Ottolenghi 'The Cookbook' ISBN 9780091922344). It's a Palestinian dish, a variation of M'sakhan (roast chicken with onions and sumac) 

The question is.....what bread to serve alongside it? Although Ottolenghi is Jerusalem-born, the cuisine of Israel is influenced greatly by that of the Levant. And the roasted chicken and lemon dish hails from Palestine. So, I'm going to bake Syrian Onion Breads. 

Strictly speaking, Syrian onion bread is popular as part of the appetizer cuisine in Damascus. It's similar to manaqish, dough topped with thyme, cheese or ground meat. However, the onion breads are topped instead with finely-diced red onion, coriander, cumin and chopped mint. 

Syrian Onion breads used to be made with finely-ground wholemeal flour, similar to chapati flour, but tastes and habits do change and now, they're mainly made throughout the region with white flour. In this recipe a little all-purpose or plain flour is used to replace some of the bread flour. It helps to lighten the dough and make the rolls less chewy. 

INGREDIENTS

280 gms of Type 00 or all-purpose / plain flour

320 gms strong white bread flour

8 grams instant yeast

5 gms sea salt (or Kosher salt or smoked salt)

295 gms tepid filtered water

2 tablespoon olive oil

for the topping

26 gms finely-chopped red onion

2 tablespoon chopped mint

1¼ teaspoon cumin

1¼ teaspoon coriander

Olive oil for glazing

METHOD

1. Mix the flour and the salt. 

2. Add the yeast to the water and stir well. 

3. Gradually add the water / yeast mixture to the flour / salt mixture and mix until it is fully incorporated

4. Gently knead the dough for about 8 minutes until a soft, smooth dough is formed.

The mixing and kneading can be done by hand. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer, mixing from low to medium speed. Or, if you have a bread machine, use a short programme (e.g. Pizza - where the paddle starts immediately) and stop the programme once the dough has been formed. 

5. Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and place somewhere warm until it has doubled in volume (approximately 60 - 75 minutes)

6. Tip the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and knock back. Divide the dough into roughly 80 gms balls. You should manage to obtain between 10 - 12 balls from the dough.

7. Roll each ball into a 5 - 6 inch round. Make them slightly concave.

8. Prick them all over to prevent them puffing up in the oven. 

9. Space the rolls out onto a baking sheet with 1 - 2 inches between each. Cover and set aside for about 20 minutes. 

10. Preheat the oven to 200⁰C

11. In a small bowl, add the finely chopped onion, the mint, cumin, coriander and mix thoroughly. 

12. When ready to bake, brush the circles with olive oil and sprinkle the topping from a height to ensure an even coating. 

13. Bake for 30 minutes or until they are golden.

Cool on a rack

Happy baking... خبز سعيد


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