Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Middle Eastern Saj Bread (Lebanese Markouk)

Yeast and I are not good friends. I'll put it right out there. No mollycoddling the issue. Or trying to hide it. We have a duel thing going. So far, yeast has won. By not working.

I own a lot of bread baking bibles. I try to bake bread. I fail.
I drool and cry over other peoples spectacular successes in the oven.
For me, I think my oven is in cohorts with the yeast, and they are secretly planning a massive coup against me.
Speaking of which, my washing machine has been acting up too.

But I may have thwarted my kitchen extremists rise with this simple, homely bread. Saj is a leavened bread that is made throughout the Middle East (Lebanon's version is called Markouk). It is a simple mix of white flour and yeast, and after rising, it is rolled out paper thin and is cooked on a special heated domed surface, called....*you got it* ...a "saj".

It seems to be Pita Bread's thinner and more modest cousin, the one who decided to stay home and help with the farm work and do all the chores, whilst Pita, with her thicker frame and come-hither pouches, crossed paths with that good-for-nothing ruffian Mayonnaise and started living it up and partying like a rock star in Europe and the USA.
Stop me people! Before this becomes the Mills & Boons of Breads.

This bread is simple to put together, give or take the 60-75 minute rise time. It reminded me of a lot of Indian flat breads, but the yeast and the "doughiness" does stand out as different from what I am used to. I love the pillowy softness of the bread, and it is great for sopping up a saucy curry or used as a wrap.

Saj Bread (Completely and unabashedly sourced from

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for coating the dough

1. Put yeast in 1/4 cup of the water; add sugar and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Sift 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt into a warm bowl. Form a well in the center; pour in yeast mixture and remaining warm water.
3. Begin to mix with hand, wooden spoon, or dough hook, adding remaining flour or more warm water as needed. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky.
4. Oil a large bowl; place dough in bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place free of drafts for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Dough should be doubled.
5. Knead for a few minutes then divide into balls about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
6. Roll balls into circles on a lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, or flatten into circles with hand.
7. Cook the flattened dough on a hot surface (I used a flat non-stick griddle pan). Cook for less than a minute on one side and then flip to cook the other side.
8. Pile the bread sheets as they are made and cover to keep soft and warm or serve immediately.

Saj Bread and Curry - Middle East meets Further East

I am sending this in to Joanne who Eats Well With Others' Regional Recipes Event - Middle Eastern Food and to Yeastspotting as well!


Joanne said...

Thanks so much for the submission! This bread looks delicious.

This post had me in stitches! It was SO funny.

I used to have such issues with yeast as's taken practice but I am finally starting to feel comfortable with it.

Asha said...

Haha! Funny post, made me smile this morning. Yeah, nothing worse than a flat bread which doesn't rise properly and smells like yeast! :D

Your's is a success, looks soft and easy enough. We do get Middle eastern bread like this here, looks like softer round Naans and of course, Pita bread sliced too. My kids love stuffing Butter chicken inside and eat! :)

Easy recipe, should try.

Rachel said...

Oh i have those days with my oven and more so with yeast. Great read your post made.

Bombay Foodie said...

Yeast used to hate me too, but we've made peace now.

I love your mills & boons stories. Keep them coming :)

Ann said...

I am taking Yeast DOWN - be warned ;-)
Thanks for stopping by folks!

Chef Aimee said...

You will win the yeast battle...I know it! ;) This looks great.

Mimi Cooks said...

Thanks for referring to my post and site on your blog, i really appreciate the links back that come and visit my blog from yours :)
have a great weekend!

Mimi said...

Toss out the yeast and go get a sourdough pet. Through love and regular feeding, it will be your loyal companion.

Nice looking food, you're making me hungry!!