Monday, January 3, 2011

Jachnun (Yemenite Pan Bread)


Jachnun dough, formed (probably incorrectly) in loaves
This Shabbos, I tried a new vegetarian chulent recipe. Since we were going to be having such a non-traditional meal, I decided to be adventurous and make Jachnun, a traditional Yemenite Jewish bread prepared from rolled dough which is baked on very low heat for about ten hours. The dough is rolled out thinly, brushed with margarine, and rolled up, similar to puff pastry.

Unfortunately, since I have never seen 'real' Jachnun, I am not sure I read the directions quite right. I think I shaped my loaves wrong! Although I don't think this affected the taste, if you do make this recipe (which I recommend every good Jew try at least once in a lifetime!), please DO NOT use my pictures as a guideline. Check out this post on Wikipedia, which has a really good photo. Or, just read my recipe below carefully and pay attention to the details.

When I took the Jachnun out of the oven on Shabbos morning, I must admit that they looked and smelled a little scary. They smelled a lot like burnt sugar and were a much deeper brown than I expected.
Jachnun rolls, shaped wrong, and looking just a little scary.
(Don't worry, I took this picture after Shabbos.
This is a HUGE recipe and we had LOTS left over.)
We were all very brave and tried some anyway, and (most of us) were glad we did! Even Baby Zipora asked for triples. This bread is unlike anything I've had before.The taste is extremely intense: somewhat earthy and unexpectedly sweet.  It's made up of lots of flaky layers, but at the same time is very rich and makes for a perfect counterpart to vegetarian chulent.

Would I make it again? I'm not sure. It was tasty but very heavy. A really dense, potent bread. I'm a stickler for light, sweet Challah. But I highly recommend you try it as a cultural experience. Plus, it makes for great conversation (and blog posts).

Jachnun (Yemenite Jewish Bread)
This recipe makes a lot of bread. You can try cutting it in half but it might get overdone with more surface area exposed. 


9 cups flour, divided
2 sticks margarine, divided, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt

In a stand mixer, combine 8 cups of flour with 1/2 stick margarine, 3 cups warm water, and the sugar and salt. Knead for about five minutes till soft. Let the dough rest for about 1/2 hour.

Put the dough back in the mixer and add up to a cup more of flour, as needed, to make a soft dough that doesn't stick to the bowl. You may not need all the flour.

Grease the bowl with some margarine and let the dough rest in the greased bowl for another hour.

Divide the dough in ten balls. Roll out one ball of dough on a floured surface to a very thin 12-inch circle. Spread with a piece of soft margarine (use about one tablespoon per ball). Fold the dough in half, then in half again to make a long strip. Roll up strip from a short side in a tight cylinder. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. [NOTE: This is where I get confused. My rolls came out round and squat. The pictures I see online are mostly long and thin. If you know the "right" shape, please let me know!]

Put the finished rolls in a greased, shallow baking dish or roasting pan.

Cover the dough with foil and a lid and refrigerate at least 2 or up to 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 200*. Bake pastries 13-14 hours or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Jachnun dough, during one of
several resting periods.

Roll the dough really thin to
achieve the flaky texture

This recipe uses LOTS of margarine.
Definitely not an every-week
indulgence.

5 comments:

  1. Jachnun should be rolled up jelly roll style. You roll out the dough very thin and then roll up. Your recipe looks like a heavy recipe - way too much flour. You can use any malawach recipe for jachnun. When I have made it, I have used closer to 4 cups of flour - getting 8-10 balls from that. You cook it on top of the cholent to get over some of that extra flavor. Jachnun is too bland if not cooked with anything.

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  2. Out of Town Mom: Thanks SO much for visiting and commenting. Do you use 4 cups of flour with 3 cups water? I would love to see your recipe. The 8 cups flour seemed right for this amount of water.
    How do you prepare it in the cholent? I would love to try that.
    Please email me if that's easier. rivkilocker at gmail dot com

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  3. Hey, this looks really cool. Maybe we'll try it! And I love your photos - if you ever get tired of blogging about cooking, you can blog about photography.

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  4. Wow, I'm impressed. Very nice. I hope that Out of Town mom comes back with her recipe! There are some posts on Imamother about using jachnun in cholent.

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  5. Hi Rivki, your jachnun is the right color, which means it probably tasted pretty much how it should! Yes, jachnun is generally long and skinny, and packed more tightly into the pot, but that may not have affected the taste much.

    If you want to make it on top of cholent, I think you just cover the cholent with tinfoil and arrange the jachnun on top. You cover the jachnun with tinfoil, too, so it won't dry out.

    Your flour-water ratio is close to what I use.

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