• Kubaneh (Camellia Aebischer)Source: Camellia Aebischer
Prepare a batch of dough the night before and bake this Yemeni bread while you sleep.
Camellia Ling Aebischer

24 Apr 2020 - 12:20 PM  UPDATED 24 Apr 2020 - 12:20 PM

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.

Gloriously golden and caramelised.

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.

Jewish Yemeni bread (kubaneh) with zhug

The long slow baking causes the butter between the layers of dough to caramelise, giving the bread an even deep golden colour and distinct, but mellow, flavour right to the core.

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.

The bottom was crisp and the top too doughy. Unfortuately this is a job for the oven.

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.

Zhug is the Yemeni hot sauce that gives a kick to your cook
There are many different recipes for zhug, but they all have two things in common: a good kick and well-balanced flavours.

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