Syrian brioche bread
Makes approx. 3 braids or 10 date rings
Preparation time: 30 mins
Resting time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 15 mins
There are many things that I love about Ramadan and maarouk is definitely one of them. Maarouk is a sweet and fragrant brioche-like bread that is only made during Ramadan in Aleppo and a staple during evening meals. It is also great for a snack with cheese and jam later on in the night.
Maa’rouk comes in many shapes and fillings. Below I’ve made some braided unfilled ones and also some round ones filled with dates.
Mahlab is a spice that is traditionally added to flavour maarouk dough. It is made from the pits of a specific kind of cherry tree that grows in the Mediterranean area. The kernels are ground to an aromatic powder that is usually used to flavour breads. You can often find it in Middle Eastern stores but if you have any trouble finding it, simply replace it with a different spice of your choice such as cardamom or turmeric. It will not taste exactly the same but will still be delicious.
385g plain white flour
50g granulated sugar
½ tablespoon dried instant yeast
½ tablespoon mahlab
Pinch of salt
185ml warm milk
60ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
50g granulated sugar
¼ tsp lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted butter
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon instant coffee
A drop of vegetable oil
Sesame seeds and nigella seeds to decorate
To make the date filling
Mix all the ingredients together in a food processor until you have a smooth paste.
For the dough
Place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a kneading hook. Add the vegetable oil, yogurt and vinegar and mix until well combined. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated.
And the warm milk and knead the dough for a further five minutes. The dough should be smooth – if it feels sticky add another 30g flour and knead for another five minutes.
Remove the dough from the stand mixer and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave it to rest in a warm place for two hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Deflate the dough gently by softly pressing it down on it and allow to rest for another 15 minutes.
To shape the dough
To make the braids, take three tennis ball sized pieces of dough and roll each one into equal-sized ropes. Join the three ropes together and begin to braid them by bringing the outermost rope into the centre, alternating sides as you go down. Pinch the ends together and transfer the braid to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Alternatively, you can shape the dough into a disk by rolling out a tennis-ball sized piece of dough into a circle around 2 cm thick using a rolling pin. Sprinkle the disc with sesame seeds and lightly press them down so they stay in place.
To make the date rings
Roll out a piece of dough so you have a rectangular that is around 20x10cm and 1cm think. Roll out some of the date filling so you have a rope that is 20cm long. Place the rolled out date filling onto the long side of the dough and gently roll the dough around date filling so that it wraps around the filling twice. Cut off any excess dough. Bring the two ends of the dough together to form a ring, pinching the sides to seal them. Using a knife, make cuts around the ring about 1 cm apart from each other. Gently place the ring onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Mix the egg wash ingredients together and brush onto the shaped dough. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and nigella seeds as desired.
Bake the dough at 200C for 15 mins or until the maarouk are golden brown.
While the maarouk are baking, make the sugar syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture boils, add the lemon juice and allow it to simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Brush the maarouk with the sugar syrup immediately when you take them out of the oven.
Allow the maarouk to cool and then enjoy, either on their own or with some butter, cheese or jam.