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North African Semolina Flatbread

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In countries without hardwood forests, cooking methods develop to take advantage of the existing fuel supply; North African nomadic cultures used camel dung as fuel. Breads were generally leavened, but also generally flat; a flatbread cooks much more quickly than a thicker loaf. The practicalities of the nomadic society dictated that people travel light; flatbreads substituted for both plate and cutlery, as they became an edible vessel as well as a method of transport from pot to mouth.

These days, many formerly nomadic people have become permanent residents of the oases. And, though their cooking methods have changed, their breads haven't. Flatbreads are still the bread of choice, though now they're cooked on clay skillets, or in clay ovens. Hard durum wheat is also the basis for golden semolina, which is used in many breads. The following flatbread, a soft, spongy round topped with sesame seeds, is perfect for soaking up the juices from a savory stew or a warming curry.

At a glance

Prep
Bake
Total
Yield
2 loaves, 6 wedges each

Ingredients

Choose your measure:

Dough

Glaze

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, for topping

Instructions

  1. Combine all the dough ingredients and mix and knead them together — by hand, mixer, food processor or bread machine — until you've made a soft, pliable dough.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to coat, then cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it's puffy and almost doubled in bulk.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough in half, round each piece into a ball, and cover the balls lightly. Allow them to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Flatten each ball and roll each out to a circle about 10" in diameter, and 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Place the circles on a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Mix the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  6. Let them rise for 30 minutes, until they look puffy and have almost doubled in height.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  8. Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes, until it's golden. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.
  9. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for 3 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.