The flatbreads I became devoted to in Saudi Arabia are nothing like this semolina bread that accompanies tagine in Marrakech. In her book, The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert describes this unique flatbread as so popular in the city that you can find it sold almost everywhere by street vendors. It has a texture that can soak up the spicy tagine juices, and a remarkable flavor that had my family begging for me to make more. It’s so good that I have seriously looked into buying semolina flour in bulk.
I have collected several of Wolfert’s books over the years, and this new one is such a treat. Her stories and insights make this more than just a cookbook; it’s a guide, a visually glorious trip through the cities, towns, and villages of Morocco. I found myself pouring over the pages and plotting to search for ingredients such as cardoon or make my own smen (a cultured and aged butter), so if you have an interest in the food of Morocco, beware the power of this book. You just might find yourself making flatbreads, harissa, tagines, preserving lemons, and stashing an earthenware jug full of smen to age for at least a year in your pantry.
The bread is easy, once you get the hang of it. I didn’t hit a homerun the first time due to the vagaries of my oven which didn’t brown the top of the loaves when I tried baking at the very bottom of the oven, or even the second time when the boys distracted me to the point that I accidently skipped the first rise and couldn’t figure out why I was manhandling some seriously sticky dough. (Just because boys grow older doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less underfoot when I’m in the middle of a project.)
The recipe calls for making four loaves, which we find quite large, so I make 6 smaller loaves. I decided to stick with my preferred method of rising on parchment with some semolina sprinkled to keep it from sticking to the peel. That just comes from bad experiences of scraping beautifully risen dough off the peel into misshapen lumps, I know I have to get over it someday. I also prefer melted butter for brushing on the top of the bread before baking as it gives a nice golden color, then I like to dust a little semolina over it before sliding the loaves into the oven.
Marrakech Tagine Bread
- 5-cup food processor
- pizza peel or baking sheet
- parchment (optional, see below)
- baking stone
- 2½ cups semolina flour (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons rapid rise yeast
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1¾ cups lukewarm water (about 105° F/41° C)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted, or milk)
- In the work bowl of the food processor, combine the semolina flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Pulse until it’s all mixed together. While the machine is running, slowly pour in the warm water and olive oil, and process until it’s all mixed and you have a dough that is silky-smooth. It may feel slightly to very sticky, depending on humidity. If it’s too wet, as in runny, add another tablespoon or so of all-purpose flour and process until it’s mixed in.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and lightly turn it over a couple times to make the dough smooth, elastic, and satiny. Cover with a cloth and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Punch the dough down, turn it over, and divide into 4 or 6 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a round about ¼-inch (0.64 cm) tall. Lay a piece of parchment (optional) on a large pizza peel or the back side of a baking sheet and sprinkle it with additional semolina and lay the rounds on it, side by side. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, position the oven rack on the lowest rung in the oven and place the baking stone on it. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C.
- Press the center of each round with the palm of your hand to deflate it, then prick with a fork a couple times. The loaf should hold its shape. Brush each round with the melted butter. Immediately slide Immediately slide the loaves onto the hot stone and bake until the tops are golden and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a towel-lined board to cool.
That bread looks delicious. I so need to start baking again.
Andrea, do you think I could use regular yeast? I don't usually have rapid rise on hand.
Ginny, you could likely modify the recipe for regular yeast, just understand I'm saying this off the top of my head and haven't tested it. If I were going to do it, I would dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Mix the flours and salt in the food processor, add the yeast mixture and olive oil, and go from there. Let me know how it turns out.
Thanks! I will try it tonight and see how it goes. I'll let you know.
I tried it, and it worked! Thanks!
i use this. i wish it was an app!
Great tip, thanks Franko!
Wow!! That is such a gorgeous bread! I would love to try this one 🙂 Such a beautiful blog you have here!
Debs @ The Spanish Wok says
I've been wanting to make this bread ever since trying it in a local morrocan restaurant, thanks for sharing.
Beautiful, Andrea, just beautiful!
Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says
When I saw the name of this recipe, I thought that perhaps you bake the bread in a tagine!
Andrea, did the end of the recipe get cut off, or is that just my iPad playing tricks on me? The last words I see are "Immediately slide". The recipe looks great, and though I almost never make bread, I'm considering making this one.
Thank you for bringing that to my attention! Sometimes my fingers aren't so nimble, and I accidentally deleted those instructions.
I have tried a few of Wolfert's recipes as well and they never disappoint! We really enjoy flatbread of all kinds but haven't had the pleasure of being able to soak up tagine juices since I've never made it before. Another type of food that's been on my list but haven't gotten around to thinking I'd eventually buy one of those cool cookers for it. I need to fix that! Gorgeous bread, Andrea.
Great looking bread!!! I'll try it with a mixture of white and whole wheat flour next time I'm making bread.
Thanks for sharing this recipe.
I just found this recipe and I wanted to ask are you using the blade inside the food processor in these steps when you are mixing the bread?
Frances Allomes says
I made the Paul Wolfert tagine bread recipe found it to have too much water at 420 mls, not sure if this is a misprint but it’s almost a batter with this much water. I’d start with 1/2 and add more cautiously until the right texture is achieved.