Folks who follow this blog might have noticed that I have been doing a cooking marathon this month with some of my fellow blogger friends, with a set theme for each week. This week has been 'Bloggers' Choice' week meaning a no preset theme and the participants were free to post whatever they chose. I am ending this run on a sweet note, literally in the form of khaliat nahal. I am going to post a recap of my marathon tomorrow and anyone interested can catchup this month's highlights there.
These images were taken last year, literally on a gloomy day in the middle of winter, indoors and so the quality of the images is not great. Now that thing is off my chest, let's move on to khaliat nahal. Khaliat nahal aka the honey comb bread is from the Arab world and is a part of Ramadan iftar, the meal after fasting. The word 'khaliat nahal' translates into bees' hive in Arabic, an allusion to the appearance of the bread. The buns are baked closer to each other in a round pan like the monkey bread or the cinnamon rolls resulting in a honeycomb like pattern. Usually a slightly sweetened dough is stuffed with cream cheese, baked and glazed with sugar syrup. However this Arabic bread can be made in both sweet and savory versions. Though cream cheese is the most common stuffing, one can come up with their own choice of fillings. I have used sweetened coconut flakes, raisins and nuts for my filling and I think one can use more filling than the original recipe mentions. If doing savory versions, the sugar glaze part is left out. The recipe is quite a simple and straight forward one and it's hard to mess up.
Ingredients for the buns:
1 cup warm milk
1&1/2 tsp. instant yeast / rapid rise yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2&1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar (Omit it if using a savory filling.)
Scant 3 tbsp melted and cooled butter
Ingredients for the sugar glaze:
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Few saffron strands
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp lime / lemon juice
Ingredients for the filling:
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. almond flakes
* Combine milk, yeast and 1 tsp. sugar in a small bowl and leave it aside for about five minutes or until it turns frothy.
* Add flour, salt, sugar and butter to the bowl of a food processor and run a couple of times to mix well. Add the yeast mixture next and knead into a smooth, elastic dough that is not sticky to touch. If it is sticky then add a little extra flour. (I did not have to add any.)
* Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well greased bowl, turning it to coat well with oil. Cover and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it doubles in volume.
* Prepare the sugar glaze in the mean while. Add water, sugar and saffron to a pan and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Turn off the heat. Add honey and lemon juice to it and mix well to combine. Allow it to cool before using.
* Grease a round 9 inch cake tin.
* Prepare the stuffing that you are going to use. I just combined everything under the stuffing list.
* Transfer the dough onto the work surface and divide the dough into 18 portions. Roughly shape them into rounds.
* Take a round and gently flatten it out a little and place a tbsp. of filling at the center. (I think we can go with 3 to 4 tbsp. of stuffing that would be substantial when the buns are baked.) Pull up the sides and wrap the dough around the filling, pinching it closed at the top. Gently smoothen it out into a round ball between your palms.
* Place this stuffed ball in the prepared cake tin. Repeat the process with the remaining 17 dough pieces and arrange them in the cake tin, in concentric circles.
* Cover the cake tin with a towel and again leave it aside for about 30 - 40 minutes, for a second rise.
* Preheat the oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C at the final stages of second rising. Bake the buns for about 25 minutes, until they are done and turned golden brown.
* Remove the cake pan from the oven and pour the prepared sugar syrup over the top of the buns. The bread should be hot and the syrup should be cold.
* Let it sit for a while to allow the syrup to set. Serve warm with coffee / tea.
* We enjoyed the soft, chewy buns with the coconut-nut stuffing and the sweet glaze. The only regret was that I should have added more stuffing into the buns.