Each Jewish festival is typified by its own special cuisine, and Israel Independence Day is no exception.
During the month of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israelis will rake 15,000 kg. of beef over the coals, compared to a modest 9,000 kg. monthly consumption the rest of the year.
Through the enveloping smoke, one may discern a huge array of steaks, kebabs, sausages and other meat delicacies on the grill.
If you look really hard, between the intermittent coughing, spluttering and salivating, you might also identify some of the bread items that accompany the grilling, namely pita, lafa, hamburger buns and hot dog rolls. While certainly not the centerpiece of the ceremony, these baked goods act as a complementary foil for the star performer, the meat. So instead of divulging my wife’s secret BBQ sauce recipe, I will share with you some easy recipes for the breads that make Independence Day special.
Hamburger Buns / Hot Dog Rolls
Makes 12 buns/rolls
✔ 6 cups white flour
✔ 2⁄3 cup whole-grain flour
✔ 2½ cups water
✔ 2⁄3 cup oil
✔ 5 tsp .salt
✔ 5 tsp. instant dried yeast
✔ 1⁄3 cup sugar
✔ Eggs (for egg wash)
✔ Sesame seeds
Mix all ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to rise covered for 45 minutes. Shape into round balls (hamburger buns) or cylinders (hot-dog rolls) and place on parchment paper-lined baking trays for 1½ hours to rise. Baste hamburger buns with egg wash (equal quantities of egg and water) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes at 200°.
If you prefer not to spend your holiday time indoors baking, you may rather bake your bread on site, directly on the grill. For this purpose, both pita and lafa, the most common Israeli flatbreads, are more suited. All you need is a flat skillet (for pita) or a round-bottomed skillet (for lafa).
Makes 12 pitot/lafa
✔ 9 cups white flour
✔ 1 cup whole-grain flour
✔ 4 cups water
✔ 5 tsp. salt
✔ 5 tsp. sugar
✔ 2 tsp. instant powdered yeast
Mix and knead for 10 minutes.
Place well-floured dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Transport in cooler to picnic spot. Roll out into 12-cm. diameter disks, 1 cm. thick (for pita) or 20-cm. diameter disks, ½ cm. thick (for lafa). Place on wellfloured surface to rise while skillet heats. Place flat skillet regular side up (for pita) or rounded skillet bottom side up (for lafa) over the grill when it is still very hot (high flames). Place pita disks in skillet or drape lafa over round skillet bottom.
Flip when hollow pita starts to inflate (2-5 minutes). Do not flip lafa, but remove after bubbles form and solidify on surface (2 to 3 minutes).
Before baking lafa, you may baste with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar or fenugreek seeds (katzah in Hebrew). Wrap the pita/ lafa (while warm) in a towel to keep moist and flexible until eaten.
Master baker Les Saidel is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute (www.saidels.com), that specializes in training and education in the field of organic, healthy, artisan baking and the inventor of Rambam Bread.