The best part about kubaneh, the soft, buttery Yemeni bread, is that when you pull it out of a low oven in the morning it barely needs to cool before you can tear into a scroll.
Kubaneh is cooked for some 8-12 hours in a low oven, overnight. This method came from the tradition of leaving the yeasted bread to cook in the residual heat of a hearth (central wood-burning fireplace/oven). It’s typically enjoyed by Yemeni Jews for breakfast or brunch on Sabbath – observed in Judaism from Friday evening to Saturday evening.
The slightly sweet dough is rolled up with thick layers of butter and makes the taste reminiscent of a soft croissant. A long, slow cooking time allows the sugars to caramelise, giving it a beige tinge and exaggerating its rich flavour. Older recipes for this bread are baked even longer, giving the entire loaf a dark brown colour and caramelised finish.
It’s typically enjoyed either sprinkled in sugar, served with zhug (a hot herby, garlic sauce) or with grated tomato dip.
Can it be slow-cooked?
I’ve been wanting to bake this bread for years, and with extra time at home and the creation of our ‘while you sleep’ series, there seemed like no better time.
I made two lots of dough in the evening and, to experiment, decided to put one in the slow cooker to see what happened. In a rush, I skimmed the recipe and accidentally made 8 scrolls per batch instead of the required 16. Luckily this didn’t seem to impact deliciousness.
After letting them rise, I put one in a low oven and the other in the slow cooker with a tea towel wrapped around the lid to catch any drips.
After a good night’s sleep, it was time to check in and see how our dough baby was going.
Sadly, the slow-cooker version came out dry and rock-solid on the bottom (though with a beautiful brown crust) and undercooked on top.
The baked version was a perfect, cylindrical buttery bread cake that disappeared before midday. Each scroll tore away gracefully like a well-made cinnamon bun. When it first comes out of the oven, let it cool just slightly so the crumb can set, or it’ll have a stodgy texture. We’re talking 10-15mins, not the painful 1 hour for a sourdough loaf.
Highly recommended is the serving of zhug, which helped to cut through the bread’s richness.
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