Boulou: North African Orange Bread
Almost cake-like, though not a cake, this orange tinged bread enhances any holiday table. Read my story about diasporic Rosh Hashanah celebratory breads at the Jewish Week, “Beyond Challah and Honey.”
Prep time: 2-2.5 hours
Rising time: 40-45 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 small loaves
adapted from Jewish Food Experience, Leah Hadad
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
½ cup warm water (about 110º F), plus ¼ cup warm water (about 110º F)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup orange juice
1 large egg, plus one egg yolk (save the white for the wash), beaten
½ cup vegetable oil, plus some to grease the bowl and pans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided
1 ½ teaspoon anise seeds
¼ cup golden raisins or chopped apricots
⅓ cup chopped almonds (optional)
zest of 1 orange (optional)
1. In a large bowl, mix ½ cup sugar, ½ cup warm water, and yeast. Let it foam for 10 minutes.
2. Add in ¼ cup orange juice, 1/4 cup warm water, eggs, oil, vanilla, orange zest, and mix.
3. Slowly add in flour 2 cups at a time, mixing all together.
4. Let it rest for five minutes and then knead for 10 minutes.
5. Add in anise seeds, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, raisins or dried fruit, orange zest, and almonds. Knead to incorporate it all into dough, about 10 minutes.
6. Place dough into greased bowl, roll it around to cover with oil, and cover the bowl with plastic bag. Place in draft free, warm space to rise for 45 minutes.
7. Line cookie pans with parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough and divide it evenly into two. Shape each into an oblong shape and tuck the ends under. With a knife or a kitchen scissor, make three diagonal slashes in the top of the dough, not all the way through. Set each on the cookie sheet/s and place inside plastic bag.
8. Let rise for 45 minutes. 30 minutes into the rise, pre-heat the oven to 350º with rack in the middle of the oven.
9. When dough is risen, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place into oven for a total bake of 30 minutes.
10. After about 15 minutes, re-brush with egg wash and switch the direction of the pan. If the top browns too quickly, cover it with a sheet of foil.
11. When the bread sounds hollow when tapped and /or reaches internal temperature of 190º F, it should be done. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
12. Hadad says that boulou may be baked in advance, cooled, wrapped tightly, and frozen. When ready to serve, defrost at room temperature and warm in a 300º degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
1. Though less traditional, I would try chopped dried mangoes to maintain the color of the bread and to add a dried fruit other than apricot or raisins.
2. I highly recommend using the orange zest though it does take time to prep. I also like the texture of the almonds.
3. Next time I will try add some orange blossom water to the regular water.
4. I may also use ground anise for the seed averse children in the family.
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