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Many people break the fast with a piece of bread, be it a bagel, a ka’aka or boulou. North African Jews traditionally eat boulou during the Hebrew calendar month of Tishrei, and especially to break the Yom Kippur fast. Every bite of boulou fills the palate with a burst of licorice from the anise seed, a hint of orange and the sweetness of golden raisins. Aromatic and lightly sweet, it is perfect bread to restore body and spirit after a long fast. This recipe offers the Libyan yeast boulou with the added orange zest and chopped almonds typical of the Tunisian version. I can see it becoming a staple for an afternoon pick-me-up, with or without tea or coffee.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups, less 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ teaspoons yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup orange juice or water plus additional ¼ cup water (for a softer crumb*)
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash), beaten together
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided
  • 1½ tablespoon anise (fennel) seeds
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • Zest of one orange (optional)
  • ⅓ cup chopped almonds (optional)
  • 1 egg white

Preparation

  • In a large bowl, mix flour, ½ cup sugar and salt and make a well in the middle. Place the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and ¼ cup warm water in the well and let rest for 5 minutes until it foams. Add another ¼ cup water or orange juice, eggs, oil, vanilla and orange peel and mix with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer to incorporate. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead dough until smooth. Dough will be a bit tacky. Add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, anise seeds, raisins, orange zest and almonds, if using, and knead to incorporate. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the middle of the oven. Line 1 large or 2 medium baking sheets with parchment paper. Oil or flour a board, shape dough into a ball and slice into two even parts. Shape each part into an oblong and tuck the ends under. With a knife, make three diagonal cuts on top of each loaf, but do not cut all the way through. Place on the lined baking sheet and brush with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let rise in a warm draft-free area for 45 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes before breaking and eating. You can bake the boulou in advance, cool, wrap tightly and freeze. Before serving, defrost at room temperature and warm in a 300-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • *For a softer, less dense crumb, add the additional ¼ cup water by the tablespoonful to desired consistency. If mixing by hand, wet your hands with the water and work it into the dough.  Dough should be a bit sticky, but will still keep its shape.
 

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