Making Jachnun was the challenge for the Bread Baking Babes this month. This bread totally got me out of my comfort zone, and although I grumbled a bit, it was a fun adventure and I’m glad I tried it – twice.
Jachnun is a bread from Yemenite Jewish origin, and consists of a thinly rolled dough that is baked at a low heat overnight for about 12 hours.
The purpose of this method is to be able to serve fresh warm bread on the morning of the Sabbath without having to prepare it or turn the oven on (since work and lighting fires is not allowed). When served with the traditional condiments – hard boiled eggs, grated tomato and Zhug (a spicy hot sauce) – it is quite a rich dish, so a little keeps you going a long time.
The history and method behind this bread intrigued me so I set out to conquer this bread, or so I thought.
Just spread the dough out really thin, slather it with butter or oil, roll it up and bake it at a low temperature for 12 hours. How hard could that be, right? Well, when you forget to take into account that your oven runs hot and you don’t turn it down accordingly during the overnight bake, it turns out to be really hard and chewy.
The first time I made the jachnun, I used all-purpose einkorn flour and substituted oil for the butter because all of the videos I watched just slathered on the butter, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. So I slathered it with oil instead.
The day I made the Jachnun (the first time), I had an event to attend in the evening so I prepared the dough in the afternoon. I rolled out the pieces, shaped them and placed them in a pot. Then I placed the pot in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake the jachnun. I took the pot out when I got home and placed it in the oven. I let the rolls bake at 200 degrees F. overnight. I checked them at about the 10-hour mark. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for so I thought it needed to bake longer. I let it bake for several hours more and the rolls ended up being so chewy I could hardly bite into them and the hard boiled eggs were not edible at all.
After a couple of days of reflection, I decided the Jachnun deserved another chance.
The second time I made them, I used butter instead of oil and 80% white all-purpose flour and 20% whole grain spelt. I started the dough in the evening after work, then let it rest for 3 hours until it was stretchable. It was a very workable dough so I didn’t end up using much butter at all. However, I probably should have rolled the dough out thinner.
I started baking the rolls at the same temperature (200 degrees F.) as before and checked them at about the 4-hour mark. They looked really good at that point, and I think they may have been almost done. I was concerned that they would burn so I turned the oven down to the lowest setting (170 degrees F.) and let them bake for another 5 hours or so. They baked for a total of 9 1/2 hours.
Although the outcome of the second batch was much better than the first, I think they would’ve been even better had I baked them at the lowest setting the whole time. I should’ve taken into consideration my oven when I saw the temperature listed in the recipe. I know my oven runs hot. I even have a thermometer in it to remind me, but I kept looking at the instructions that said 225 degrees. The moral of this story is “know thy oven” and “pay attention!”
Next time, and I do think these warrant a another try, I will turn the oven to the lowest setting and probably only bake them for 8-10 hours.
I served my Jachnun with my favorite condiments, salt and pepper, but feel free to serve them with the traditional fare. The recipe for Zhug is included with the instructions below.
Refer to this video to learn how to roll out the Jachnun dough : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oygxy4i3u30
- 500 g bread flour (I used 400 grams all-purpose/100 grams whole grain spelt)
- 25 g date syrup/or sugar/honey (I used brown rice syrup)
- 20 g honey
- pinch of baking powder
- 12 g fine salt
- ± 300 g water (or more to make a springy dough)
- 60 ml oil/or 100 g margarine or butter (I only used about 30 grams of butter)
- To add later:
- 6 eggs
- 1 large tomato (or 2 smaller ones)
- red dried chili peppers, or 1 red fresh chili pepper (or 1 tsp chili flakes)
- tsp black pepper, ground
- tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp coriander, ground
- medium garlic cloves
- Pinch of cardamom, ground
- Pinch of cloves, ground
- ½ tsp salt
- g coriander leaves (or parsley if you dislike coriander)
- Olive oil, enough to make a sauce-like consistency
- Mix the flour, honey, date syrup, baking powder, salt and water together to form a sticky wet dough and knead for a few minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes to let the gluten relax.
- To develop gluten you now start to knead the dough for 5 minutes. Place it in a lightly greased bowl and give it a stretch and fold like this: Lift up the side of the dough and fold it over, turn the bowl and repeat this for about 7 or 8 times.
- Cover with plastic and leave to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. (you can also leave your dough overnight, it might give more elasticity)
- You can use a (ovenproof) cooking pan or spring form (about 20 cm in diameter). Fold a long piece of parchment paper lengthwise and place it in the pan, so the ends hang over the rim of the pot.
- Preheat the oven to 105ºC/225ºF and place a rack in the lowest position in your oven.
- Divide the dough in 6 more or less equal pieces, shape them into a ball and leave to rest 10 minutes before the stretchering begins.
- To shape these rolls you have to stretch them using butter, oil or margarine.
- Grease your work surface, place one piece of dough on it, grease the top and start working to make it the thinnest possible, while greasing it constantly. It is best to do this by hand, other methods (rolling pin) do not give the thinness.
- When the dough is very thin (preferably like filo or strudel dough) fold ⅓ of one side over onto the dough, repeat with the other side (like a business letter). You now have a long strip, keep buttering/greasing the top, while you roll – starting at the narrow edge- the dough in a tight cylinder.
- Place three rolled logs next to each other, crosswise over the strip on the bottom of the pan. Place the other three crosswise on top of the first layer.
- Grease/butter a double layer of parchment paper on one side and place on top, greased side down.
- Now you can place the (raw, uncooked & unpeeled) eggs on top of the parchment paper. (you can also cook the eggs the next morning, to avoid green rims along the yolk, which I really detest)
- Take a double layer of aluminum foil, cover the pot, securing the edges of the pan. Use a lid or a sheet pan to place on top of the foil. (or use a lid if available to keep it tight).
- Place it on the rack in the oven and bake for 12 hours.
- So you now understand you have to plan this… or get up in the middle of the night.
- The next morning you take out the pan, place the Jachnuns on a plate and serve it with the peeled eggs around them. Serve with grated tomato and Zhug (a spicy and hot dipping sauce) for breakfast.
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and crush it to a sauce in a blender or with a stick blender.
- Place the Zhug in a clean jar, tighten the lid and keep in the fridge until use.
- (Fridge shelf life about 2 weeks, with a small layer of oil on top)
Lien is the host kitchen for the Bread Baking Babes this month. If you’d like to bake along as a Bread Baking Buddy, check out Lien’s blog for instructions.
Please visit all of the Bread Baking Babes and check out their versions of this month’s recipe:
- Blog from OUR Kitchen – Elizabeth
- A Messy Kitchen – Kelly
- Bake My Day – Karen
- Bread Experience – Cathy
- Feeding My Enthusiasms – Elle
- Judy’s Gross Eats – Judy
- Karen’s Kitchen Stories – Karen
- My Kitchen in Half Cups – Tanna
- Notitie Van Lien – Lien
- Thyme for Cooking – Katie