Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dabo: Ethiopian Honey Bread for the Feast of St. Monica

Dabo is the name of the staple breakfast bread in Ethiopia. It is a European-style yeast loaf made with rosemary and honey. St. Monica was not Ethiopian but Algerian. This is sort of like saying, "Well, he wasn't Spanish, but he was German"--the countries are on opposite sides of the African continent! But, St. Monica was well-travelled in her journey to locate her wayward son, St. Augustine, and the recipe is still North African, and so uses similar ingredients. I also think that, being a Roman citizen, St. Monica would have appreciated this European-style yeast loaf, rather unique in African cooking, which tends to feature flatbreads.

The recipe is my own creation, though it is based off of a traditional one. Fresh rosemary is wonderful, if you have it, but I decided to use what I had on hand, which was dried.

Dabo for St. Monica

3 c. white flour
2 c. fine ground whole wheat flour
1 c. wheat germ
1 T. salt
1/4 c. canola oil
2 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T active-dry yeast
3/4 c. honey
1 T chopped fresh rosemary or 2 t. dried

Combine the flours, wheat germ, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Combie the oil, water, and yeast in a separate bowl and allow five minutes to proof. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Mixture will be dry. Add honey and mix with the dough hook of the machine. Now, your mixture will be quite sticky. Add the rosemary and mix in thoroughly. At this point, you can either turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead in enough flour to make a firm but malleable dough. You will never get the dough to be completely "unsticky" due to the honey, but it should stay together and not get stuck to the counter or your hands. You can also add flour by the 1/4 c. to the stand mixer while the dough hook does the work. Just make sure the dough doesn't creep up above the hook--there's a lot of dough for a standard mixer. In either case, you'll knead for about 5-6 minutes.

Put dough in a lightly greased (I use Pam spray) bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour. Puch dough down, and knead again (I do this one by hand) for 5 minutes. Then, form loaves, grease 2 9''x4'' loaf pans, and place the loaves into the pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow you to enjoy the dabo at breakfast, the traditional time of day to serve it.

In the morning, take the dough out of the oven, and set on the counter while you preheat the oven to 400F. Bake on middle rack for 25-35 minutes. Place pans on wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Turn out and allow to cool for at least 10 more minutes, then either slice and serve warm, or serve it later when fully cooled.

Dabo is traditionally served with shibo, a chickpea spread, but my husband thought that was a little unorthodox for his taste, so we ate ours with some butter and homemade apricot jam. I personally think that apricot and rosemary are a delicious combination.

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