Taboon bread, also known as Lafah bread (and probably a few other names too), is found all around the Middle East in various manifestations.
It is, as I’ve posted before, the bread used for Musakhan, it is the bread used to wrap Shawarma and is also quite, often stuffed with falafel and humus. You can split it to fill it, or you can use it as is.
It is soft, with a slight crunch and just full of the aroma of fresh yeasty bread!
While I had eaten taboon bread many times before, it wasn’t until a trip to Egypt many years ago, that I came to fully appreciate it.
What is Taboon?
The word taboon refers to the oven used to bake the bread, and is a tradition that goes back to biblical times.
It can be either an underground oven or an above ground, dome shaped clay oven. I was travelling with a Palestinian friend and was visiting her family when I first came across the taboon (or tabun).
I was completely captivated by the whole process – the floor of the oven was covered in large pebbles (I think she said they were made of marble) which were above smouldering hot coals. The flatbreads were placed directly over the pebbles to cook, resulting in indentations on the underside of the bread.
And it is these indentations, or bumps that is the hallmark of a taboon bread.
On that particular trip, besides the bread, there were also a couple of other types of food in metal containers cooking along in the taboon. Brilliant, really.
Baking Taboon Bread without a Taboon
Now, unless you’re cool enough to have a pizza oven, we are just going to have to do our best with an ordinary one! There are so many ways to try and recreate that charred, smoky flavour that comes from using an oven like that.
- you could place a couple of pieces of burning charcoal on the bottom of your oven (in a heatproof container), seriously, just like making Chicken Mandi.
- hold the cooked bread over an open flame after baking.
When I first started making taboon bread, I would line a baking tin with some ceramic baking beans and place the bread over it before baking. See image below.
But over the years, I got lazy and dispensed with the beans, and just bake it on a pizza stone.
But what I do these days though, is just before I place the taboon bread in the oven, I create indentations on the bread with my knuckle. Use the end of your fingers like when making focaccia, if you don’t have long nails.
This is such an easy flatbread recipe, you only need a small amount of hands on time.
While taboon bread is delicious eaten freshly baked, it will keep for 2 days, if stored in an airtight container. As it’s meant to be a fairly soft bread, I just heat it up in the microwave oven. Because I’m soooo lazy!
Shall we get our aprons on?
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Palestinian Taboon Bread
- 450 g bread flour
- 10 g dry active yeast (or 30g/1 oz fresh yeast)
- 250 ml water (you may need a little more)
- ½ Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil plus extra for greasing
- Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl.
- Gradually, add the olive oil and water and knead until the dough is smooth and shiny and fairly sticky. Don’t add all the water immediately, only as needed. It should be a fairly soft dough.If you are kneading by hand, you'll need about 5 minutes of kneading time.If using a food processor, use a dough hook, and knead for 2 minutes.
- Transfer the dough into a large greased bowl. Grease the top of the dough very lightly with olive oil. Cover with cling film and let it rest for an hour in a warm place, until double its size.
- Divide the dough into 6 parts, cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest again, this time for just 10 minutes, the dough will still spread. You can also make 8 breads if you like. They'll just be slightly smaller, like the size of pita.
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F) and place your pizza stone or baking sheet in to heat up.
- Roll out each dough with a little flour, into a fairly thick circle, don’t worry about the shape. It's not a sticky dough, so, you shouldn't need much flour.
- Bake at 200˚C (400˚F) for about 10-12 minutes.
- OPTIONAL: To achieve a smoky and slightly charred effect, using tongs, hold the baked bread over an open flame for just a few seconds each side.