Libyan Herb Bread – Khubzah bil A3shab

You may wonder what an Irish woman would know about Libyan bread. And the answer would be nothing but she’s learning. I’m on a vibe for new flavors and styles of cooking at the minute. And as we have a friend that is Libyan and Malta has a huge Libyan community. It seemed like a good place to start. While researching, I came across a site for modern Libyan food. However after some cautious checking with our Libyan friend Anna who is a wonderful cook and has the guidance of her mum on these recipes. I managed to create a wonderful Libyan herb bread. I think what I love most about this bread apart from the fact there is no kneading. Is that it is eaten when people gather for a chat or gossip and is served with mint tea. Every culture has its own bread, but not all are as easy to make as this one. There are also variations on the herbs used depending on personal taste. I am going to give you what I used for mine.

Ingredients:

  • 250ml/1cup lukewarm milk
  • half cup tepid water
  • 8gram / level table spoon instant dried yeast. (25g fresh yeast if using fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I used light demerara sugar)
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 50ml Olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 level teaspoons Himalayian pink salt (any salt will do)
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 spring onions thinly sliced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 heaped teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 heaped teaspoon oregano
  • half teaspoon paprika
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of sliced kalamantra black olives
  • 15 -20 ml of olive oil for brushing the surface prior to going in the oven
  • small piece of butter for greasing the tin.
  • Parchment paper cut to size for the square 20cm x 20cm tin

Method:

  • To make the dough, I would advise using a big bowl. Then mix the teaspoon of sugar, yeast, warm milk and tepid water together until the yeast has dissolved.
  • Add in the baking powder, remaining sugar and salt along with the flour and mix to form a loose soft dough. Do not knead! (You might need a little extra splash of water if you think your dough is too dry. But remember you will be adding oil so be cautious). The dough is loose not overly wet. We are gently mixing not kneading.
  • Add in your flavourings, herbs, spring onions, spice and give a gentle mix to combine into the dough.
  • Pour in your oil. Yes I know it might seem like a lot. But I promise it’s not. Here olive oil is our friend. Mix into the dough using your hands, gently combining it. You will have this oily dough and lovely soft hands. Just cover the dough in the bowl with some oiled cling film or a lid and leave it in a warm place for an hour. It will really rise a lot. But unlike pizza dough or other flatbreads, it has this awesome shiny flimsy kind of texture about it and YOU DO NOT KNOCK IT BACK! You can actually see the air in it, which is what you want. check out the picture below.
Risen dough. So light and fluffy and huge.
  • While the dough is rising. Grease a 20cm x 20cm cake tin. A springform tin is great. But I use a nonspring tin and just give it a really good greasing with butter and line with parchment. Give double the height on the sides with the parchment.
  • After the hour, pour your risen dough into the cake tin. Do not knock it back. Gently coax it into the tin. It will spread itself out. But you can gently smooth it out into the edges and along the top.
  • Taking about 1 -2 tablespoons of oil. Pour it over the top and brush the whole surface with the oil. This gives you a slight crust as well as acting as a seal.
  • Pop it into a preheated oven at 180C Fan for 30 – 40 minutes. The time can vary depending on the oven. So the best way is to check the bread at 30 minutes. If it is golden on the top then it’s ready. Unlike a cake, it won’t sink on checking!!
  • Remove from the oven and tin and let cool. Serve with mint tea.
  • I actually served this as part of a buffet table along with salads instead of garlic bread and it was a huge hit.

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