My Yemenite heritage is to “blame” for my partiality to home-baked bread. I learned about khafush, a traditional Yemenite bread, from my late mother, Sarah, who was born in Yemen. Adjusted to the modern kitchen, this easy-to-make recipe incorporates Nigella sativa seeds, common in the Middle East and Asia. Also known as black cumin or black caraway, these black seeds, or “seeds of blessing,” have many health benefits. Enjoy khafush with hot soup or spread with tapenade, butter or another spread of your choice.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 4 tablespoons for kneading
- 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1½ cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon Nigella sativa seeds (black caraway)
- ½ small onion, chopped
- Sift flour; measure 4 cups of sifted flour by spooning into a measuring cup and leveling with a knife or spatula. Place flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, create a well in the center, pour sugar and mix a bit with the flour, pour the yeast and ½ cup of the warm water and let stand for 5 minutes to activate.
- Add salt and mix on low with the hook attachment, adding remaining cup of water gradually. Mix for 8 minutes, then add seeds and mix for an additional 2 minutes. You should see strands of dough stretching from the sides of the bowl to the hook attachment while mixing, leaving a smear of dough on the sides of the bowl. If the dough is dry, add water by the teaspoon, as necessary. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky, but should easily separate from your fingers. With wet hands, lift the dough, tuck the edges under and gather it into a smooth ball and place back in the bowl. Wet hands again if necessary, pat and smooth the dough, place in a warm, draft-free area and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
- Wet your hands and deflate the dough by working it into a smooth ball while in the bowl. Pat with water, cover and let it rest until doubled again, about 20 minutes.
- Flour a wooden board with 2 tablespoons of flour, covering an area with roughly a 10-inch diameter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour on the bottom of a cast iron pan. With wet hands lift the dough out of the bowl, tuck edges under, place the ball top-down on the board and flatten with the palms of your hands. Sprinkle half of the chopped onion on top of the dough, and lift and bring the edges to center and over the onion. Sprinkle the rest of the onion on the bottom of the pot and place the dough smooth-side-up in the pan. Put the pan in the cold oven, turn the temperature dial to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a rack for about 10 minutes and release carefully from the pan. Cool on a rack, then serve.