September 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #9 : Khaliat Nahal (Honeycomb Buns or Bee’s Hive Buns)

his moth we’re baking a bread that can be made sweet or savoury. Kahliat Nahal (also known as Khaliat al Nahal) translates as Bees’ Hive in Arabic taking its name from its appearance. The buns are baked close to each other in a round pan where they form a honeycomb like pattern. These buns are easy enough to make and traditionally they’re made sweet using slightly sweetened dough filled with cream cheese. After the buns are baked, they’re covered with sugar syrup/ glaze which is typical of many Middle Eastern confectionery.

I understand that in many Muslim communities, this bread is made during the fasting period of Ramadan. It is served as sweet dish during “Iftar”, the evening meal that follows breaking the day long fast that is observed during Ramadan. This bread is perfect to serve then because Iftars are community events, and the shape of the bread lends itself to being torn/ pulled apart easily to serve oneself.
Though one finds Honeycomb Buns are usually sweet, they’re also made with a variety of savoury fillings and without the syrup/ glaze naturally.
This recipe makes 18 smallish buns, and if you want fewer you can halve the recipe to make about 9 or 10 buns and bake them in a 6” or 7” round cake tin. You can also bake them individually in muffin tins if you prefer, except they would not have their characteristic “honeycomb” pattern.

Savoury version with spiced paneer and spring onion filling and sesame seeds on top

Traditionally, the filling used in this bread is a small piece of plain cream cheese but here choice of filling is entirely up to you. You can make it sweet or savoury. I used a mixture of sliced spring onions and paneer spiced with mixed dried herbs and red chilli flakes.

I also made a half recipe of the sweet ones filled with semi-sweet chocolate. I was expecting the buns to be very sweet so I only brushed the buns with two coats of the sugar syrup/ glaze but I can see how they would be really good if you poured the syrup over the baked buns.
Sweet version with semi-sweet chocolate filling and sugar syrup/ glaze
Remember that the buns should be hot out of the oven and the syrup at room temperature for the best results. Here’s a good video to watch in case you think you need it, to make these buns.  
Khaliat Nahal (Honeycomb Buns or Bee’s Hive Buns)


For the dough:

1 cup lukewarm milk
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar (for sweet bread)
3/4 to 1 tsp salt (for savoury bread) OR 1/4 tsp salt (for sweet bread)
40gm butter, melted
2 tbsp milk for brushing the dough
2 tbsp white sesame seeds for sprinkling on top (optional; only for savoury bread) 

For the filling:

1 cup of filling (approximately) of your choice, either sweet or savoury
Savoury - cream cheese OR crumbled feta cheese OR crumbled paneer/ cottage cheese, flavoured according to your choice. You can also use any other savoury filling that you want. I used a combination of crumbled paneer, herbs, chilli flakes, a little garlic and chopped spring onion.
Sweet - cream cheese (traditional filling), or any other filing of your choice like chocolate,   dried fruit like dates, apricots or raisins, chopped nuts, chopped fruit , sweetened coconut filling, etc. 

Sugar Syrup/ Glaze:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
A pinch of saffron
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp lime/ lemon juice


Make sure your melted butter has cooled down a bit before using it. Put 2 cups of the flour, salt, sugar (if making the sweet bread only) and melted butter in the bowl of your processor. Run a couple of times to mix well.
Combine the milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and keep for 5 minutes. Add this to the processor bowl and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough which is not sticky. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as you need to get this consistency of bread dough. I used all of 2 1/2 cups of flour for mine.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning it to coat completely with the oil. Cover and let it rise till double in volume, for about an hour.
Turn the dough out onto your work surface. You won’t really need to flour it as the dough is quite manageable as it is. Cut it into 2 halves. With your palms, roll out each half a “rope” about 9” long. Cut each rope into 1” pieces so you have a total of 18 pieces.

Take each piece and flatten it out a little and place half a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Pull up the sides and wrap the dough around the filling, pinching it closed at the top. Smoothen it into a round ball. Place this in a well-greased round 9” cake tin. Repeat with the remaining 17 pieces and the filling. Arrange the filled balls of dough in concentric circles, filling the base of the cake tin.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 30 to 40 minutes. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle the sesame seeds over this. Don’t use the sesame seeds for sweet bread, only for the savoury one. Bake the buns at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, until they’re done and a nice golden brown on top.

 Let them cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then on a wire rack.
If you’re making the sweet version, make the sugar syrup/ glaze during the first rise of the dough. For this put the sugar, water and saffron in a small pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes until it starts thickening a bit. Take it off the heat and add the honey and the lime/ lemon juice. Mix well and let it cool. Keep aside till needed.

When the sweet buns come out of the oven, pour the syrup all over the top of the “Honeycomb”.  The bread should be hot and the syrup/ glaze should be cool. If you want your Honeycomb Buns to be less sweet, just brush the syrup/ glaze over the top.
Let it sit for a while for the syrup/ glaze to set a bit. Serve them warm with tea/ coffee.
These Honeycomb Buns are being YeastSpotted!