Middle Eastern

Uri Scheft's Yemeni Kubaneh

December 27, 2016
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 16 rolls
Author Notes

Traditionally, kubaneh is baked overnight in a lidded tin, then taken from the oven on Saturday and served with grated tomato and z'hug (Yemeni hot sauce). "Some people go for the crusts and edges, while others want the soft and spongy interior."

Excerpted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 290 grams (1 1/4 cups) cool room-temperature water
  • 20 grams (2 1/2 tablespoons) fresh yeast or 8 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 500 grams (4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for shaping
  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 20 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) fine salt
  • 150 grams (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  1. Make the dough: Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Crumble the yeast into the water and use your fingers to rub and dissolve it. If using active dry yeast, whisk the yeast into the water. Add the flour, sugar, and, lastly, the salt.
  2. Mix on the dough on low speed to combine the ingredients, stopping to scrape in any dry ingredients that have settled on the bottom or sides of the bowl. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-high and continue to knead until the dough cleans the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stretch and fold the dough: Lightly dust a work surface with a little flour and use a plastic dough scraper or sturdy spatula to transfer the dough onto the surface. Use your palms to stretch a corner of the dough away from you in one movement, then fold the front portion over and on top of itself. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this about 10 times, until the dough is a nice smooth round.
  4. Let the dough rise: Lightly flour a bowl, set the dough in the bowl, flour the top of the dough, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature until the dough has just about doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
  5. Divide and shape the dough: Place the butter in a microwave-safe dish and heat until it is very soft and about 25% melted (start with 10-second intervals). Lightly grease a large plate with a little bit of the butter. Lightly flour the work surface and set the risen dough on top. Divide it into 8 equal pieces. Cup your hand around a piece of dough, then push and pull it, rolling it against the work surface, to gently shape it into a ball. Set it on the buttered plate and repeat with the 7 remaining pieces of dough. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
  6. Stretch the dough: Use about 2 tablespoons of the butter to generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. (You can also use a smaller springform pan or a kubaneh pan.) Take another tablespoon of butter and use it to grease a clean, non-floured work surface. Take a ball of dough from the plate, smear another tablespoon of butter on top of it, and gently press and spread it out into a paper-thin 12- or 13-inch square. Use more butter as needed—the butter helps spread the dough thin without tearing (but if you have a few tears, do not worry).
  7. Shape each swirl: Fold the left side of the dough over the center, then the right side of the dough over the left to form a simple three-fold. Starting at the bottom of the strip (closest to you), roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Slice the cylinder in half crosswise, to expose the curlicue insides, then place the halves, cut side up, in the springform (start by placing them in the center, working your way towards the perimeter as you add new rolls).
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the remaining balls of dough. Reserve 1 tablespoon of butter to use later on. If you're using a kubaneh pan or a smaller springform, you can stack the rolls on top of each other. If you're using a springform pan, wrap the bottom in a large sheet of aluminum foil to protect against any butter leakage.
  9. Let the kubaneh proof: Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until a finger gently pressed into the dough leaves a depression that quickly fills in by three-quarters, about 40 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, brush it over the top of the dough, and place the pan in the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325° and bake until top is deeply golden, 30 to 40 more minutes. Remove pan from the oven and set it aside to cool for at least 20 minutes before turning the bread out of the pan.
  11. To serve, you can invert the bread so that, as Uri says, "the pretty side faces up." (But you can choose which side you find prettiest!) Let people rip it apart into small rolls.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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24 Reviews

debi November 20, 2017
do you think this would work well to make ahead and either shape and freeze or overnight slow rise in the fridge?
Laura April 19, 2017
Why do you publish recipes with gram weight when all of us are cooking with standard American measurements?
Fresh T. April 19, 2017
Because it's more accurate.
Alix April 19, 2017
Hey Laura - Food52 travels beyond US borders and those of us who don't live there use gram measurements. 1 stick of butter means nothing to me. Happy cooking!
Nancy July 5, 2017
Yes to both Alice and Fresh Tomatoes...accuracy and cooking beyond USA.
David April 9, 2019
All of us!?
creamtea January 4, 2017
It's important to note that this is "taken out of the oven on Saturday morning" because Kubaneh is a traditional Yemenite-Jewish Sabbath bread. Cooking and baking are prohibited during the Sabbath; many dishes were developed in the varied areas of the Dispersion that allowed for a festive Sabbath meal (the Sabbath should be a time of joy) by virtue of initiating the process prior to the onset of the Sabbath at sunset Friday night, and allowing the heat of a low oven to continue the cooking or baking until it could be enjoyed after morning prayers the following day.
Juliebell March 19, 2017
Lovely. Thank you for the additional info!
Seth W. September 17, 2019
Creamtea: you are 100% correct. As both a Sabbath-Observant Jew and a foodie, however, I have to say that with many foods, the ideas of Sabbath being a "time of joy" and no cooking on the Sabbath are incompatible, as it means no finishing touches just before serving, and it eliminates many techniques and types of dishes at Sabbath meals. This downgrades my joy somewhat, although my kids (not foodies) much appreciate me not making my usual mess in the kitchen! :)
Alix January 3, 2017
Made these the other day - perfect for a dinner party and so cute! Looking forward to a garlic butter version.
Fresh T. January 2, 2017
I love Yemeni cuisine - I first tried in Dubai. And each time I've had it thereafter its been fantastic. I can't get over it and its my favorite Middle Eastern cuisine. This recipe is definitely on my list of "to make" (even if it's officially 2017 and I should be eating healthy)! Thanks so much!
Rose S. January 1, 2017
Made this for New Year's eve dinner - super fun, and looked beautiful! The slices weren't quite as perfect as the picture, but close. Thanks for the great new idea for festive rolls! (I did think they were a little salty - might reduce it a bit next time.)
Joy H. January 1, 2017
I agree that they were a little salty, so I made them again but added some scallions and sesame oil and they came out amazing! https://food52.com/recipes/66354-pull-apart-scallion-swirly-bread
Sarah J. January 1, 2017
Wow, so beautiful, Joy!
Joy H. January 1, 2017
Thanks, Sarah!
Sven J. December 30, 2016
How much butter goes into this recipe? The ingredients list shows 1 1/4 stick = 10 tablespoons but the instructions say to use one tablespoon under and one tablespoon over each piece of dough = 16 tablespoons and then more to butter the pan and brush on top so I am getting about twice the butter in the instructions compared to the ingredient list.

My assumption is that the total should add up to the 10 tablespoons and to just use it proportionally but the instructions are pretty specific.
Sarah J. December 30, 2016
Yes, that's how the recipe is written in the book but it doesn't quite add up. I melted all the butter (10 tablespoons) at once, then used it in spoonfuls as I saw fit. You won't have to butter the surface every time you smoosh out a ball of dough, and you probably won't need a full tablespoon for the top of each ball, either (though you won't want to skimp).
Mrs S. December 30, 2016
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
arcane54 January 2, 2017
e.e. cummings?
Susan December 30, 2016
20 handfuls of fresh yeast?
Sarah J. December 30, 2016
20 grams! Sorry about that.
Nicole B. December 30, 2016
Would this be adaptable so one could use a 50% hydration yeast culture? Any idea what the proportions of flour to starter would be?
Penny K. January 3, 2017
I was also thinking I would love to try this with my wild yeast starter! I usually start with 25% of the flour in the recipe when I'm experimenting. So in this recipe, I would remove 125 g flour and 62 g water, and add 187 g of the 50% hydration starter (fed and active). Please check my math before moving forward - I keep my starter at 100% hydration, which makes it much simpler! :)
Nicole B. January 4, 2017
Thank you so much! I will let you know how this works out!!