This September, Elizabeth picked Lebanese Khubz or Khuboos for the Bread Baking Babes to make. Her pick was inspired by Middle Eastern food she enjoyed on a trip to the UK a few years back. Khubz, Khuboos, Khobz al-Sabah (Morning Bread) is a puffed yeasted flat bread eaten across the Levant and Arabic speaking countries of the Middle East.
A lot of people like to refer to the Lebanese Khubz as a Lebanese Pita bread. I can understand why. Khubz, though a puffed up yeasted bread in general, can be slightly different in different countries where it is eaten. There are versions of Khubz that are much like Pita bread. To me, Lebanese Khubz and Pita bread are two very different things. I have some knowledge of Lebanese Khubz, you see. I spent my high school years in Nigeria. We had a local Lebanese bakery that made Khubz or Khuboos as we knew it. We would visit the bakery, once every week or ten days to buy Khubz, warm and fresh out of their ovens.
This Lebanese Khubz was thin, soft, slightly floury, hollow flatbread about 10 or 11-inches in diameter. Pita bread is typically cut into half and eaten stuffed with filling, “pocket” style. Lebanese Khubz or Khuboos is torn into pieces, and wrapped around food to pick it up and eat. It’s typically eaten with stews and curry like dishes which can also be mopped up with flatbread.
The recipe below is adapted from Anissa Helou’s recipe for Khobz-al-Sabah/ Lebanese Morning Bread from her book Savory Baking from the Mediterranean. According to Helou, she learned to make this bread from Jawad Yussef Daher, whose bakery is in Kfar Rumman in south Lebanon. He made Khubz from two different flours and the cornmeal give the bread more texture and make it.
Making Khubz for me was going back in time to when we ate Khubz from the local Lebanese bakery. My memories are of a pale coloured flatbread that was wheat flour. So I made mine without the corn meal.
Helou’s recipe calls for a leavener made the previous evening with a sourdough starter. The Khubz I know is not a sourdough flatbread. I stayed with the spirit of the recipe and so made a leavener using a small pinch of instant yeast instead.
I was watching a video online of a commercial Khubz baker speaking in some version of Arabic (or maybe Farsi). While I don’t understand the language, there was a point where I thought he said Khubz is like the Chappathi. So Helou’s higher hydration dough didn’t make sense to me. I kneaded my dough to chapathi dough consistency, which is soft and smooth but not too soft. This makes rolling the dough into thin rounds easy. I also chose to bake my Khubz on an iron griddle on the stove top instead of baking it in the oven.
Lebanese Khubz or Khuboos is best eaten fresh and on the same day it is made. You can keep it for the next day. If so store wrapped in cotton towels or foil. Reheat in the oven and serve warm.
What can you serve this flat bread with? Traditionally it is eaten for breakfast with some or all of these – eggs, foul medames, thick, creamy labne and olive oil, cheeses like baladi, halloumi, akkawi, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, or za’atar. You can also serve it for brunch or lunch or dinner with soups, stews or curries.
Lebanese Khubz or Khuboos
For the Poolish:
- A small pinch instant yeast
- 1/4 cup water at room temperature
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
For the Dough:
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour sifted
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1/2 cup water more or less as needed
- All of the Poolish from above
- 1 tsp salt
- The evening previous to the day of baking the Khubz, mix together all the ingredients for the Poolish in a bowl. Cover loosely and let it ferment on the kitchen counter overnight.
Make the Dough:
- Next morning, put the Poolish, flours, salt, yeast in the bowl of your kneading machine. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add enough water and knead until you have a soft and elastic dough that is not too soft. Shape into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl. Cover loosely and let it rise till almost double in volume.
- Once the dough is ready, knead gently a couple of times and divide into six equal portions. Using floured hands, shape each piece into a round. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Work with one ball of dough at a time. Lightly dust a ball of dough with flour and roll it out into a thin circle about 10-inches in diameter. You can also press it out thin by hand.
- On an Iron Griddle : When the griddle is hot, turn down the heat to medium. Put the rolled out dough on the hot griddle and cook as you would a chappathi. Gently cook it on each side for about a minute or till light brown spots start appearing. The dough will turn whitish/ opaque as it cooks. The flatbread should start puffing up gently. When it does turn up the heat so the bread puffs up all the way to the edges. If it doesn’t gently coax it by applying pressure with a flat spatula or a rolled up cotton kitchen towel in your hand. Do not keep it on high heat for too long or t will crisp up losing its softness.
- As they are done, put them into a basket. Serve immediately.
- On the BBQ: Light the barbecue, close the lid, and turn it to high. When the BBQ is very hot, using a dough scraper, place each round directly on the grill and close the lid of the barbecue. After a minute or so, use blunt-nosed tongs to move the rounds from place to place, to account for uneven heat. The flat breads should puff up, though you might have the occasional flat one. The flat ones will taste just as good.
- In the Oven: Place a pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven set at 230C (450F). Place the dough circles on the stone. It takes 5-10 minutes to bake the breads. When they balloon up, gently turn them over using tongs. Also, move them around from time to time to account for uneven heat in the oven. To check to see if the breads are done, gently lift them up. They should be light weight and puffy.
The Bread Baking Babes are –