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Kubaneh is a traditional Yemenite Jewish pull-apart bread: it looks like a maze of beautiful swirls and it tastes like a salty, bready, irresistibly buttery croissant. Kubaneh was traditionally cooked low and slow overnight on Fridays, tucked in a metal tin covered with a lid, and would be eaten on Shabbat morning, with a side of eggs, grated tomatoes, and spicy sauces.
A Jewish community lived in Yemen for very many years until the 20th century, when persecution and discrimination pushed the Jews out of Yemen, into a massive collective move to Israel. Today in Tel Aviv, in the so-called Yemenite Quarter, Kerem Hatemanim, there are over 80,000 people of Yemenite descent.
Thanks to the attachment that Yemenite Jews have maintained to their history and culture, in Kerem Hatemanim we can enjoy delicious Yemenite soul food: jachnun, malawach, marak temani… and kubaneh, the bread I present to you today.
This brilliant recipe comes from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft (from Artisan Books, the publisher of my upcoming book!).
Breaking Breads is currently my favorite cookbook: all the recipes I tried from it are absolutely fabulous. I am also a great fan of Uri’s bakeries in Tel Aviv: if you are ever in town you should check them out, as they make the yummiest bread year-around, as well as amazing holiday treats like sufganiyot on Channukkah and hamantash for Purim.
- 290 grams (1¼ cups) water
- 8 grams (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 500 grams (4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for the work surface
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) white sugar
- 20 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) salt
- 150 grams (1¼ sticks) butter
- Pour the water into the bowl of KitchenAid fitted with the hook, and whisk the yeast into the water. Add the flour, sugar, and, lastly, the salt.
- Mix on the dough on low speed to combine the ingredients; once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-high and continue to knead until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl anymore and clings nicely to the hook, about 3 minutes.
- Lightly dust a work surface with a little flour and proceed to stretch and fold the dough with your hands.
- When the dough is smooth, lightly flour a bowl, set the dough in it and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside at room temperature and let it rise until it doubles in volume, about 30 minutes.
- Microwave the butter until it is very soft but not fully melted and lightly grease a large plate with a little bit of the butter.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal balls and transfer them to the buttered plate, then cover the plate with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
- Use about 2 tablespoons of the butter to generously butter a 9-inch pan. In Israel, I bought a kubaneh pan at the shuk, but you can make do with any pan you have, even disposable aluminum ones work great. I like to use disposable pans for this recipe because cleaning away all the butter from the pan can be a headache. Muffin tins work particularly well for single-serve rolls.
- Take another tablespoon of butter and use it to grease a clean work surface. Take a ball of dough from the plate, smear another tablespoon of butter on top of it, and gently press and spread it out into a paper-thin 12- or 13-inch square. Use more butter as needed—the butter helps spread the dough thin without tearing it, but a couple of torn spots are still ok.
- Your work surface will look like a complete mess, and that's ok.
- Fold the left side of the dough over the center, then the right side of the dough over the left to form a simple three-fold. Starting at the bottom of the strip (closest to you), roll the dough into a tight cylinder.
- Slice the cylinder in half crosswise, to expose the inside, then place the halves, cut side up, in the pan.
- Reserve 1 tablespoon of butter to use later on and work your way through all the balls.
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise again, about 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over the top of the dough, and place the pan in the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325° and bake until bread is golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and set it aside to cool for at least 20 minutes before turning the bread out of the pan.