Did you know that today was World Bread Day? No? Well, not to worry because I didn’t either, until a week ago when I stumbled across Kochtopf’s post about the event. An initiative of the International Union of Bakers & Baker-Confectioners, the organization selected October 16 to commemorate the joys of bread to coincide with World Food Day, which also marks the founding of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945.
This year’s theme is “Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis”, pretty pertinent if you think about the setbacks that the global food system has faced in recent years. While putting food on the table can hardly be considered an issue of life and death for most of us, global downturn or no, it remains a very real problem for over a billion people globally, increasing by 100 million compared with 2008.
That’s one in six people worldwide that suffers from hunger everyday, as a result of skyrocketing prices of food staples in the past two years. Throw in the economic downturn and you’ve got a hordes of poor people in Asia, Africa and South America faced with a significantly reduced access to food.
Suddenly, the parental cajoling of my childhood to finish the food on my plate by evoking the proverbial image of “poor children in Africa who have to go without food” seems too real for comfort.
Faced with these sobering facts, the Moroccan bread and Baba Ganoush recipe I’m sharing today seems almost luxurious in comparison despite their simple formulas. After the variety of bread recipes in the BBA Challenge, I opted for this Moroccan flatbread recipe from Sam & Sam Clark’s excellent work, Moro: The Cookbook. Not quite like the Khobz, the typical Moroccan bread that’s eaten with tagines, the Clarks’ version is more like a dressed up flatbread with the addition of fennel seeds, honey and milk.
While flatbreads are the perfect introduction to bread-making, I must add that practice makes perfect as you come to understand the temperament of the dough and how much it needs to be kneaded before left to rest. Speaking from today’s experience, I could have kneaded the dough a little bit longer to activate the gluten which would have helped with the rising. I also made the mistake of rolling the breads out too thin, such that they were too flat and crisp, instead of the soft flatbreads more commonly found and employed to soak up a variety of mezze sauces.
I paired this batch of (very crisp) Moroccan bread with my favorite dip: Baba Ganoush, an appetizer that I always turn to for our BBQ parties because it’s such a breeze to pull together and offers more textures and flavor than a plate of Hummus. It tastes especially good if you get a chance to nestle the eggplant among hot coals to smoke the flesh in addition to cooking it. It’s this smokiness that imparts an added depth to the final dish that is so addictive. Don’t be deceived by its unattractive, grey appearance (which can easily be addressed with a squeeze of lemon) the combination of fresh garlic, yogurt, pine nuts, cilantro with smoked eggplant flesh is really seductive, compelling you to soak up all its juices, leaving nothing to waste.
Moroccan Flatbread (adapted from Moro: The Cookbook)
Makes 4 flatbreads
11 ounces/ 300 grams unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon dried yeast, dissolved in a tablespoon of lukewarm water
¾ teaspoon honey
¾ to 1 cup/ 225 to 250 ml whole or low-fat milk at room temperature
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing
In a large bowl, combine the flour, fennel seeds and salt. Add the dissolved yeast and honey, then drizzle in the milk, using either your hands or a fork to gather the flour together into a ball. Add the milk a little at a time as you mix, to allow the flour sufficient time to fully absorb the liquid.
Once all the milk is added, transfer the dough to a floured counter and knead well. Pay attention to the texture of the dough. If it crumbles, add a bit more milk. If it’s too wet, add more flour. Knead and knead again until the dough is slightly tacky, but soft, smooth and elastic. Leave the dough to rest on the counter, covered with a cloth, for at least an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450F/ 230C.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces, rolling each piece into a ball on a floured counter. With a well-floured rolling pin, roll each ball into circles approximately ¾-inch (1.5 cm) thick and 5 to 6 inches (12 to 15 cm) in diameter.
Transfer the rolled dough to a baking sheet that’s either oiled with a few drops of olive oil or lined with baking parchment. With your index finger and thumb, pinch a series of ridges on the dough around the center of the bread, to decorate it and to slightly inhibit the rising. Brush the top with the glaze, then bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the dough has risen slightly, turns golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Leave each bread to cool on a wire rack, then keep covered with a towel before serving.
Makes 4 servings as part of a bigger meal
1 medium sized eggplant (about 1 pound/ 450 grams), pierced all over with a fork
45 grams/ 1 to 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves, mashed
4 tablespoons plain or Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
A good handful of cilantro leaves (about 5 stalks), roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
If using a barbecue, wrap the eggplant in foil and place it in the coals for about 45 minutes until it softens into a mushy mess. If you’re using the oven, preheat the oven to 425F/ 220C, place the eggplant on a lined baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until the flesh softens.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove its skin and place the flesh in a colander to drain the rest of its juices, for about 20 minutes. You could also press the flesh against the holes of the colander to squeeze out any liquid.
Assemble the Baba Ganoush: In a medium bowl, add the mashed garlic, eggplant, yogurt and olive oil then, with a fork, vigorously mix all the ingredients until you get a smooth paste. Add the pine nuts and cilantro and mix.
Season to taste: if the garlic is too strong, add a few more spoonfuls of yogurt.
Serve immediately and scoop up at the table with freshly prepared flatbread.