About two weeks ago I read that Jaime from Life’s a Feast was hosting a Bread Baking Day and although I have never participated in any virtual cooking or baking parties (daring bakers vol au vents scared me off), this was something I felt comfortable with. No ordinary bread can be made but something festive enough to bring to a birthday party, the theme of the event.
I shuffled this information to the back of my mind, hoping it wouldn’t fall off the other side and went on with the everyday commotion of my life. Because “life is a journey not a destination” as Aerosmith’s lyrics so eloquently states (actually, this is a quote they rifled off Ralf Waldo Emerson) the bread baking inspiration came in the most unexpected way, while lost in Jaffa.
I was trudging around searching for a hummus joint when I stumbled upon a little Arab bakery which made the most delicious onion and sumac topped bread (although they also sold the strangest curried flavored ma’amouls I have ever tasted) and decided to try to recreate it at home. The bread was delicious but it looked exactly like it was supposed to be- street food, to be eaten with one hand while walking up Yefet Street in Jaffa, looking for my parked car and not something to bring to a birthday party.
There is nothing like caramelized onions and bread however and at the end I settled on pisaladiere, a more formal and French version of the Arabic dish with aromatic herbs replacing the tangy sumac.
Of course, I can’t bring bread to a birthday party without flowers and during this season in Israel the rare burgundy Iris (Iris atropurpurea Dinsmore) is in bloom with its deep velvet petals. Although it is a protected flower the municipality seems to have no control over the jeeps ravaging the hills near Ness Ziona, one of the few places these flowers still grow in the wild
This is based on a recipe by Israeli cookbook author Benny Saida
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons fresh yeast (I used 1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/3 cups water
50 grams butter (I think I will omit this next time)
1/2 cup olive oil
1-1 1/2 kg onions (I used 1 kg), cut into rings
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon rosemary (the munipality grows rosemary all over the place), minced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
1 tablespoon basil, minced
2 jars or cans of anchovy (36 grams each)
Black pitted olives, about 12-15
Tray 33-27 cm (I just used a baking try from the oven)
Prepare the dough
Add everything except the water into the mixer bowl and mix until uniform. Add the water and knead for about 10 minutes. When the water is first added the dough should be slightly sticky but becomes less so after kneading. Transfer dough into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until it doubles in volume. It can also be placed in the refrigerator to rise overnight for a more flavorful dough.
Punch the dough down and let rise again. Roll out the dough on the tray. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Fry the onions in the butter, if using and olive oil until golden brown. Add the spices and herbs. Remove from heat and let cool.
Cover the dough with the onion mixture. Lay the anchovies on the onions to make a diagonal, checkered pattern with an olive decoration at every cross.
Put in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the dough is golden. Serve warm with a nice fresh lettuce salad to liven up the flavors.