Making Msemmen


You know that moment when you’re about to throw away an ancient food magazine and, just before dropping it into the recycling bin, you give it one last look? Well, we had such a moment this week when we salvaged this too-easy-to-pass-up recipe from an old Gourmet (February 2008) for msemmen or spiced Algerian flat bread.

3 cups flour (the recipe called for whole wheat but all we had lying around was all-purpose… we know, how colon-cloggingly uncouth of us!)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp cumin (again, the recipe called for ground, but being the lazy cooks that we are, we used whole seed, which we thought actually made the end result prettier)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric

Combine flour, salt, and one quarter of the oil in a large bowl. Slowly stir in about 1 1/2 cups water until dough is no longer sticky. On a lightly floured surface, knead for about 15 minutes, then form dough into a ball and coat with one quarter of the oil. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

With the remaining half of oil, stir in cumin, paprika, turmeric.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, rolling them into balls (larger than golf ball but smaller than a baseball). Flatten each piece into a disk, and, on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin, roll out each one until thin. Using your fingers, drizzle a small amount of the spiced oil onto each disk, then roll it up tightly and coil into a tight spiral. Transfer each coil to a large sheet of wax paper and keep covered as you go.

Tape down a new sheet of wax paper and roll out each spiral of dough into a new disk on it. In a large dry cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat, cook each disk, turning once, until puffed and blackened in spots. Serve right away (we did with a sweet apple cranberry chutney we happened to have in the fridge) or reheat the next day in the oven on low heat until lightly toasted. (We did this too, and served with leftover roasted chicken and rice.)


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