This tasty Syrian bread is easy to make and tastes delicious if eaten straight out of the belly of your oven. The onion topping is optional, of course, but it adds a slight extra flavour and it looks really, really pretty. This recipe makes 8 round breads, and takes around two hours total to make.
These breads are great on their own (my husband and I are fresh bread fiends), or to accompany almost any meal (think soups and stews).
Syrian Onion Bread
- It's important to follow the instructions for the type of yeast you're using, but in the case of using either the dried active yeast or fresh yeast, mix it with a little bit of the lukewarm water (the temperature is relatively important; you don't want it too hot or it can kill the yeast, but equally it has to be warm enough to activate it. The recommendation is to mix 2 ½ cups of cold water with 1 ¼ cups boiling water, and measuring out the amount needed for your recipe from that). If using dried active yeast, leave it in the water for 10 or 15 minutes, or until a little bit frothy on top.
- Sift the flour and salt together into a large-ish bowl and make a well in the centre (in other words, dig a hole with your spoon). Add the yeast mixture to the centre well and mix together to make a firm dough. Knead for around 8-10 minutes (never underestimate the need to knead!) until the dough has become elastic and smooth. It's probably worth kneading on a lightly floured surface, to avoid sticky messes.
- After you've finished kneeding the dough, stick it into a lightly oiled bowl (keeps the dough from sticking to the sides), and cover the bowl with some lightly oiled cling film (or seran wrap for the North Americans). Leave for about an hour to rise, in a warm place (any old counter not located in my fridge seems to do nicely). It could take less time, it could take more time. Essentially you want to see that the dough has doubled in size.
- After the rising process, punch the dough down and on a slightly floured surface divide into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll these pieces into a ball and with a rolling pin, roll into 5-6 inch rounds (even if it's not a perfect circle, it will still taste yummy!).
- With a fork, make prick marks all over the tops of the breads (go crazy), and then place on lightly floured baking sheets (make sure they are spaced a few inches apart). Cover them up again with some oiled cling film and leave them to rise for a further 15 or 20 minutes.
- While you're waiting, preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas mark 6. Mix the chopped onion (this should be relatively fine), cumin, coriander, and chopped mint. Brush the tops of the breads with a bit of olive oil (I bet it would be really yummy to use flavoured oils) and sprinkle the onion mixture evenly across the breads.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes (if you have a convection/fan oven, watch the time), and voila, a perfect fresh bread snack!