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The Buttery, Flaky Flatbread We're Addicted To

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When's the last time you had a flatbread that resembles a pancake and pulls apart like a croissant? That irresistible, buttery, flaky flatbread is Malawach. Yemenite Jews brought this traditional bread with them to Israel in the ‘50’s, and it was commonly eaten for breakfast where it was served with a drizzle of honey or with hard boiled eggs, grated tomato, and zhug (a Yemeni spicy herb sauce). Malawach has since crossed over into mainstream Israeli culture, you’d easily find someone enjoying this flatbread as an afternoon snack or scarfing them down after a late night of drinking. These days, Israeli restaurants from L.A. to New York offer malawach on their menus, so its increasing popularity isn't surprising.

A malawach breakfast feast
A malawach breakfast feast Photo by Julia Gartland

Several cultures have a flatbread similar to malawach like Chinese scallion pancakes, South Indian paratha, or Moroccan m'smen, but each has its own methodology: scallion pancakes use oil instead of butter, paratha adds egg to the dough, and m'smen uses oil and semolina flour. Malawach is prepared without oil or eggs, just lots of butter, spread liberally, creating a laminated dough as it's folded and rolled. The addition of pastry flour in this recipe yields an unmistakable light, buttery, flaky texture to boot.

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The malawach dough is stretched as thin as possible to maximize the butter-receiving surface
The malawach dough is stretched as thin as possible to maximize the butter-receiving surface Photo by Julia Gartland
Fillings are optional, add them in before rolling up the dough
Fillings are optional, add them in before rolling up the dough Photo by Julia Gartland
Roll up the malawach, slathering more butter along the way
Roll up the malawach, slathering more butter along the way Photo by Julia Gartland
Shape the dough into a pinwheel and refrigerate before rolling them flat
Shape the dough into a pinwheel and refrigerate before rolling them flat Photo by Julia Gartland

Malawach is easy to make but requires a little patience and time, as most bread baking does. The beauty of this recipe though is that once you’ve made the effort of making and rolling the dough, you can store the flatbread dough in the freezer for up to 1 month; take ‘em straight from the freezer to a grill pan and within 3 minutes you’ll have fresh bread to devour as-is, dipped in sauce, or used as a vessel for your filling of choice. (If you're like me, hot dogs!)

When I made them, I wanted the best of all worlds and experimented by adding some of my favorite mixtures into the dough for variety: sliced scallions, sauteed garlic, wilted greens, and everything spice; they were all delicious. For a Sunday morning brunch gathering, I grilled the malawach and served them with grated tomato and zhug, topped with poached eggs. The tomato and zhug balanced the buttery bread with a pop of freshness and the perfect amount of acidity and heat. We delighted in tearing apart flaky pieces of the warm malawach and kept going back for more dollops of sauce to enjoy with each bite.

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Malawach (Yemenite Jewish Pancakes)

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Makes 8 (8-inch) pancakes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
Go to Recipe

What flatbreads are you obsessed with? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Tags: yemenite, jewish, flatbread, pancake, malawach