Anissa Helou, breads with fillings, layered flatbread, Moroccan bread recipes, North African recipes, picnic recipes, quick bread recipes, R'ghayef
If a recipe describes something one has never tasted or even, perhaps, seen, the essential difficulty of it may not lie in performing the steps, but in visualizing the end result. Making Moroccan flatbread might fall into this category for some cooks. It is not a difficult bread; it is even a quick one once you become familiar with its ways. But if it is a flatbread that has never crossed your path, a visual guide helps give you an idea of what you are aiming for…which is, an excellent little layered bread with a savoury filling.
Moroccan Flatbread (R’ghayef) ~ Pain marocain (for 4 4-inch square flatbreads)
Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.
A Question of Timing: The dough for Moroccan Flatbread may be made and used after a 30 minute rest. Another method is to mix the dough the night before using it, cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it at room temperature until the next day. Either timing makes a good flatbread. There are small differences in the results. The overnight version (the dough below the sifter in the photo) is slightly lighter and more pliable and tears less easily than the quicker one which is somewhat less elastic and resembles tortilla dough in its texture:
…And the bread made from the dough that rests overnight (the bottom flatbread in the photo) is slightly puffier than the other:
The question is rather which bread you prefer and which timing, than which is better. Both types appear in the photos.
- 1/4 teaspoon Dry Yeast
- 6 Tablespoons of Warm Water, plus an additional 1 Tablespoon of Water to add if necessary to bring the dough to the right consistency. Flour varies from place to place. The dk version of this flatbread consistently requires 7 Tablespoons of water, but yours may not. The signs that the dough is done are the same no matter what flour is used to make it and are described in the recipe below.)
- 1 cup unbleached White Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
- 1 small Yellow Onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Parsley (flat leaf or curly), finely chopped
- 3 Tablespoons of Butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon of Sweet Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground Cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon of Salt
- Sunflower or Olive Oil
- 2 small Bowls, a large Mixing Bowl… and, for the overnight method, a medium-sized Bowl for resting the dough
- a Sifter
- a Mixer, preferably one with a Paddle Attachment, is optional and convenient for mixing the dough, but it may be done by hand instead
- a Pastry Board and Rolling Pin
- Parchment Paper: 2 sheets, each about 24-inches long
- a Stove-top Griddle or Grill with a Flat Side or a wide, heavy-bottomed pan
I. Making the Dough
1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with 6 Tablespoons of warm water and set it aside until it is creamy and smooth.
2. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of the mixer (or any mixing bowl if mixing by hand). Using the paddle attachment, turn on the mixer and pour in the yeast and water.
3. After a few minutes of mixing, if there remain scraps and flakes of dryish dough at the bottom of the bowl that will not combine easily with the dough ball, add the reserved 7th Tablespoon of water. (Flours are not the same everywhere. The dk version of this dough consistently requires 7 Tablespoons of water, using a Belgian brand of all-purpose flour.) Continue mixing. If you have added an additional Tablespoon of water, the dough may now appear sticky, and leave a liquid-ey flour paste on the sides of the bowl. But further mixing (not more flour) will change the dough’s texture. It is ready when the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough forms a compact, not very sticky ball. Leave it to rest, covered, for 30 minutes or place it in a dry bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature overnight.
II. Making the Filling and Forming the Bread
1. Finely chop the parsley and onion and combine them. There should be about 1/3 cup, measured in a liquid measuring cup– more is fine, as well.
2. Stir the softened butter, paprika and cumin together. Then mix in the chopped parsley and onion and the salt and set the bowl of filling aside:
3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll them into balls. Place them on a small plate next to the pastry board. Spread out the two long sheets of parchment paper next to the pastry board. (The flattened circles of dough are placed on the paper.) Pour a teaspoon of oil on the pastry board and spread it all over the board with your hands. (1 teaspoon will probably be enough for rolling out 4 rounds of dough. If you double the recipe, you may need to dribble an additional half-teaspoon of oil on the board to keep its surface lightly slick.)
4. Place a ball of dough on the board and roll it out into a circle of about 10-inches (26cm) in diameter. Flip the circle once, as you roll it out, so that both sides of it are pressed against the oiled surface. The circle won’t be regular. Transfer the circles, as you make them, to the sheets of parchment paper (2 circles per sheet):
5. When all 4 dough balls are flattened into thin circles, divide the filling among them and spread it out over their surfaces with your fingers. (Forming these flatbreads may lead you on the backroads of your memories to preschool days of fingerpainting and modeling clay.):
6. The final step is to fold the flatbread several times so that the baked bread is multi-layered. Each circle is folded into thirds. Imagine the circle divided horizontally into three parts. Pick up the third nearest you and fold it up over the second third:
…Then, pick up these two-thirds together and fold them over the last third:
7. Folding has transformed the circles into long strips. Turn the strips of dough so that a short end is nearest you. Again, imagine the strips divided horizontally into thirds. Flip the third nearest you up over the middle third:
…And flip the last third (the one furthest away from you) under the first two thirds that are folded one on top of the other:
8. The squares are between 2 and 3-inches in size and made up of 3 layers of filled dough:
9. Pull the top fold of dough across to cover the filling that shows in the V-shaped space on the top of each square. Then make the squares slightly larger by placing each one in the palm of one hand and pressing and pushing out on it gently with the rounded part of the palm of your other hand. Ideally you do this without making any tears in the pastry. But…sometimes tears happen. Small ones may be pressed back together. If a little filling presses through the cracks, the finished bread will be colored by the paprika and more buttery on the surface than squares without tears. Either way, the bread will be good. The enlarged squares will be between 3 and 4-inches in size:
…And if there are air bubbles beneath the surface of some of them, leave them there. They are all to the good and help form the layers inside the bread:
III. Griddle-Baking or Skillet-Baking the Bread
1. Preheat the griddle (flat side up if it is two-sided) or skillet over medium heat. Brush it very lightly with oil. Place a couple of flatbreads on the griddle (or in the skillet). Cook them for 2 minutes or until they are golden on one side. Flip them and cook them 2 minutes more or until golden on the second side. Cook the other flatbreads in the same way.
2. As they are done, transfer them to a cutting board, cut each flatbread into 4 triangles and serve them hot:
Compare: The surface of the dough for the flatbread on the left had some small tears in it; the other didn’t. Both are eminently edible:
A Suggestion: Besides being a good hors d’oeuvre all on its own, R’ghayef is a nice bread to accompany soup. The small triangles are good, as well, placed around a Greek salad…And, the bread travels well for taking on picnics.
A Note: Moroccan Flatbread is one of the hors d’oeuvres in the Dinner Menu: Mixing Dinner and Business.
An Acknowledgement: Moroccan Flatbread is adapted from a recipe for R’ghayef in Mediterranean Street Food (2002) by Anissa Helou.
What an amazing recipe! I just cleaned out my RSS feed reader and was browsing through what was left and noticed that someone on another blog had mentioned this blog when making some wraps and suddenly I feel another blog heading to my rss feed reader. A wonderful blog with fantastic instructions and recipes. Thank you for putting in all of this effort. I am sure that there will be so much more for me to find over my morning cup of tea in the future 🙂
A happy beginning to the day..reading your impression of the blog. Re: Moroccan Flatbread…we make it frequently because, in addition to being very good, it is both very quick and easy with a 100% success rate (so far) of coming out well.