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Saj/Mountain Bread


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This particular one in Damascus collapsed into a gossamer thin paper like bread. It was just better than the usual due to the method of stretching the dough.

The chef flipped a thin sheet of bread dough back and forth between his arms, making it gossamer thin before placing it on a domed cushioned paddle. then He flipped it over a 30 inch saj to cook in an instant. In that instant it bloomed up and was rushed table side.

Others I have had were not as memorable.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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The sajj bread you write about is known as rumali roti [rumal = handkerchief] in northern India, and is made with chapati flour.

Traditional varieties of chapati flour wheat matured as temperatures were rising in late spring. A small percentage [6-8] of the starch grains in the wheat is damaged by the high temperatures. Such damage is conducive to a type of hydration that makes particularly toothsome rumali rotis, as wll as soft, puffy chapatis.

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My relatives in Setif have a similar contraption. They make semolina breads Robz ter dal and kessra on it. The first has yeast, the latter does not.

Are there semolina flat breads in the Middle East as well?

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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I can understand the confusion between the two, Saj Vs. Markouk. In Lebanon, both usually mean the same thing. Saj bread is "Khobz Markouk" literally meaning "hand handled bread". So it basically is hand handled bread and made very thin, then cooked on a saj. Hope this clears it up some :smile:.

BTW, that setup looks awsome Vue!! I wish I had it. I would just reommend you make them thinner next time around and they should NOT puff up. Maybe some air bubbles here and there, but that's it.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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gallery_8703_623_21095.jpg

Are there semolina flat breads in the Middle East as well?

In central Turkey, I have tasted bread made from whole ground durum wheat . Semolina, I believe, is part of durum wheat . Am I correct?

In the window of an appliance store in the town of Konya in central Anatolia, I saw gas-fired domes (saj) on sale foruse in apartment living, along with washing machines, refrigerators, and electric stoves. I was told that villagers from the countryside were willing to move into city apartments for better jobs, better schooling for their children, etc, but they didn't want to give up their breads ma]de on the saj.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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  • 3 years later...

Big bump.

A couple of days ago, a huge box arrived here in Connecticut from my wonderful Lebanese friends. When I opened it, I discovered a gas-fired sajj! (I had asked Nayla, "What's a sajj?" several years ago. My husband says that next time I should ask, What's a BMW?) I need to get the connector for the gas line modified, I think, and then figure out where to put the thing. I don't think I'll be using it indoors, whatever they do in Konya. But I am very excited. Anyone having adventures using one these days? I have the Alford & Daguid flatbread book, but any recipes would be great. I'm particularly interested in figuring out a semolina formula. Of course, Paula Wolfert's description of the "gossamer-thin" bread in Damascus sounds fantastic.

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Big bump.

A couple of days ago, a huge box arrived here in Connecticut from my wonderful Lebanese friends. When I opened it, I discovered a gas-fired sajj! (I had asked Nayla, "What's a sajj?" several years ago. My husband says that next time I should ask, What's a BMW?) I need to get the connector for the gas line modified, I think, and then figure out where to put the thing. I don't think I'll be using it indoors, whatever they do in Konya. But I am very excited. Anyone having adventures using one these days? I have the Alford & Daguid flatbread book, but any recipes would be great. I'm particularly interested in figuring out a semolina formula. Of course, Paula Wolfert's description of the "gossamer-thin" bread in Damascus sounds fantastic.

I bought a saj about a year ago from an Arab merchant and I am still perfecting my technique. The kurds make it with only flour, water and salt, nothing else and make dome shaped brittle bread which they stack up in the corner of the room and use throughout the week, usually wetting it before eating. Traditionally they sit on the floor and roll out the dough into a circle on a little table, and use the rolling pin to place it on the saj. This looks very easy to do, but when I tried it the saj was either too hot and burnt the bread or was too cold and got stuck to it. Making them

into huge circles is also very tricky. Last weekend I tried digging a bigger hole under the saj which I want to stack with bricks for better heat retention and I hope this trick helps.

There are other ways of making it such as this you tube video (and is how the local druze women do it as well)

flipping the dough with your hands looks like alot of fun, but after my first try working with saj bread, I know that I will be practicing alot! Perhaps I should have gotten a gas saj like above!

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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Sarah--

Thank you so much for the lead on the Youtube video; I should have thought of that. I'd never heard of using a pillow in forming the dough--that's really interesting.

Are you using your saj over a wood fire? That does sound challenging. I suspect, though, that it will take a lot of finagling to get it right even over a gas flame.

Your website looks lovely, by the way (I wish I could read Hebrew). And the article on your blog about eating poison greens is fascinating.

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Sarah--

Thank you so much for the lead on the Youtube video; I should have thought of that. I'd never heard of using a pillow in forming the dough--that's really interesting.

Are you using your saj over a wood fire? That does sound challenging. I suspect, though, that it will take a lot of finagling to get it right even over a gas flame.

Your website looks lovely, by the way (I wish I could read Hebrew). And the article on your blog about eating poison greens is fascinating.

Thanks! Yes I am trying to do it the old fashioned way, over a wood fire. Last time I did that I made tons of smoke which blew in the direction of my neighbor's freshly laundered clothes, yikes! I didn't make any of the complicated large breads

but I did make a few smaller ones my kids helped shaped. Not many know how to make the Kurdish bread anymore (they don't use the pillow), but I do have a relative who lives a few hours away who makes it for the village, I have been meaning to make a visit and learn from a pro and when I do I will post some pictures.

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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Here's a picture of my friend's mother making saj bread in Silopi, Turkey (about 10 km from the Iraqi border town of Zaho).

gallery_38081_3012_36874.jpg

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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A wood-fired saj--of course! Makes me realize how easy it would be to rig up an upside-down wok in my fireplace, or on the Weber kettle.

Bob, the bread on the saj in your photo is folded in half. Is it filled? If so, is the filling put on after the bread is put on the saj?

Actually, I've been thinking about you, because I've been wondering whether saj and saz have the same root--possibly something to do with the dome shape? Do you know?

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gallery_63527_6553_122934.jpg

In the backyard, as far away from the neighbor's clothesline as I could get, I have a great little setup with an improvised saj table, a hammock and of course saj heated with a woodfire. I am still perfecting my skills, but the deeper hole lined with stone helps with the temperature control.

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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Here's a picture of my friend's mother making saj bread in Silopi, Turkey (about 10 km from the Iraqi border town of Zaho).

gallery_38081_3012_36874.jpg

Does she flip the dough in her hands or use a rolling pin to create the bread. I have a kurdish cookbook by a women from zakho and she does it the rollling pin way using the exact same little table.

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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Here's a picture of my friend's mother making saj bread in Silopi, Turkey (about 10 km from the Iraqi border town of Zaho).

gallery_38081_3012_36874.jpg

Does she flip the dough in her hands or use a rolling pin to create the bread. I have a kurdish cookbook by a women from zakho and she does it the rollling pin way using the exact same little table.

A rolling pin is more useful as fuel in the fire. :biggrin:

Here's a short clip of how it's done.

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gallery_63527_6553_122934.jpg

In the backyard, as far away from the neighbor's clothesline as I could get, I have  a great little setup with an improvised saj table, a hammock and of course saj heated with a woodfire. I am still perfecting my skills, but the deeper hole lined with stone helps with the temperature control.

Great photo of the kids helping.

By grouping the blocks so that there is a single opening would help keep the heat in.

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  • 2 years later...

I just got This book from the Beirut Airport Duty Free, in French. I later realized there's an English version, and my French cooking vocab is definitely not up to par. Oops. However, it looks extremely interesting, with several types of dough described as well as preparation guidelines. I'm less interested in the multitude of recipes, which seem to only vary in the toppings. I already know what toppings I like! That being said, there is a good recipe for 'Awarma (Lebanese lamb confit).

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