Jane Mason, found of Virtuous Bread, author of All You Knead Is Bread and The Book of Buns: Over 50 brilliant bakes from around the world, honoured us with her presence at this week’s session. Deb worked up a brilliant lesson plan focused on developing shaping and working further with pre dough, and Jane ran the session, brimming with insights ranging from working with different flours to proofing and more.
In Myatt’s Field Park Community Kitchen’s humble 90 com domestic oven and in just a little over three hours, our eight trainees measured, mixed, kneaded, proofed, shaped and baked:
20 ciabatta (shaped using two different methods) • 1 focaccia (made possible by a “bonus” predough brought in by a particularly enthusiastic trainee) • 16 soft pretzels • 26 Khubz Malaha • 28 chocolate chip cookies • 24 blondies
How impressive is that?! We are very proud not only of our trainees’ efficiency but also the quality of their baked goods. After the February school holiday, we will have a go at selling our freshly baked breads in the park.
This week’s ethnic bread hails from Iran. Perfect for getting more experience developing shaping skills, these little buns are sweetened by dates and infused with orange flower water. The name, Khubz Mahala is in fact Arabic, not Persian, and to the best of our knowledge the buns are mostly known in the south of Iran and the Persian Gulf area.
Jane says, “This bread is eaten any time of day. Its slight sweetness lends itself to breakfast but then again, it is really nice at lunch or dinner with traditional Middle Eastern treats like hummus, minced lamb, or simply seasoned yoghurt. A glass of hot tea to round it off and you have a meal for a king”. Give them a try!
Makes 12 big buns from The Book of Buns, courtesy Jane Mason (via an Iranian friend)
For the dough
• 700 g plain white flour or whole wheat flour • 200 g water • 3.5 g instant/7 g dry/14 g fresh yeast • 10 g salt • 200 g dates cooked in water • 4 teaspoons of rose water or orange blossom water
For the glaze
• 1 egg • 1 tablespoon water • Pinch each of salt and sugar
Put the dates in a small saucepan and just cover them with water. Cover the pan and simmer the dates until they are very soft – 30 minutes or so. Mush this mixture (put it in the blender or magimix or push it through a sieve) and let it cool completely.
If using dry yeast, measure the flour in a big bowl and make a well in it. Sprinkle in the yeast and add 100 g of water. Cover it and let it sit for 15 minutes. A beige sludge may or may not appear on top of the water and that is fine as long as it is fully dissolved. After 15 minutes add all the other ingredients and bring them together in a ball in the bowl.
If using fresh or instant yeast, measure all the ingredients into a big bowl and bring them together.
Turn the ball out on the counter and knead for 10 minutes. This dough is really sticky but don’t be tempted to add more flour. Pop it back in the bowl and cover it. Let it rest for 1 hour.
Shape the buns
Pull the dough out on to a well floured surface Divide this into 12 pieces, lightly flour the tops, and let them rest under a dry towel for 15 minutes on a floury surface Shape each piece into a tight ball and let them rest again for 5-10 minutes. The dough is soft but you want to resist adding any more flour. If you are sticking to the dough, flour your hands slightly Take a ball of dough and flatten it with a rolling pin until it is a disc about 1/2 cm thick Place this on a baking tray that you have lined with greaseproof paper. Repeat for all the balls – you will need two trays. Cover them again and let them rest for 45 minutes
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
Beat together the ingredients for the glaze and paint the buns. Dimple them vigorously with your finger tips and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. As they come out of the oven wrap them up in a cloth to keep them soft. They are best eaten the moment they are baked but they keep pretty well too.