Honeycomb (Arabic fatayer)

"Special Dish" honeycomb (Arabic Fatayer)

As I was looking at my food images, I came across the Arabic Fatayer images, I had learned from my old Arab friends and neighbors in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I lived with them for nearly 7 years and with such fond memories. 

The best part was that I knew very little Arabic and they struggled with English. We had one common friend who could manage to converse with me and then translated it to our friends. Sometimes we coped with actions or body language.

I must say, I picked up on their language pretty well. “naam, laa, Mumtaz, ladhid, takul, jadeed, khadeem, min fadlik, kif haalak, and some sentences (jumla) as well.

I remember being invited to their homes many a time for high tea. Goodness gracious😱 I used to be flabbergasted 😃to see the number of dishes 🥟🥙🌯🥗served to all of us and everything was homemade especially the bakery items like fatayer, cheese bread, kunafa, Zaatar rolls you name it. That taste was unique and still lingers in my mouth.

 I couldn’t believe they could make all of it at home. Wow! 

I requested them to reach me and they were more than happy to do so. We often exchanged our dishes, recipes and I must say it was a lovely time though I was the only Indian amongst them.

I’ve learned two versions and I’ll be sharing both of them.
(Version 1 – I follow this)

1. 2 ½ cups refined flour (use good quality)
2. ¼ cup refined oil
3. ½ tbsp baking powder
4. 3 tbsp sugar 
5. ¾ tbsp salt
6. 1 tbsp dry yeast (good quality and new pack)
7. ½ cup yogurt 
8. Water as required
9. Cream cheese (Philadelphia or any other brand, make sure it’s soft) 
10. Plain sesame seeds 
11. Onions seeds (kalonji)
Here We Go
Step 1

1. Sift the flour and divide it into half. In one half, add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Then, add yogurt, oil and start kneading.
2. In small batches, add the remaining flour, little water and continue kneading till you get a soft dough-like consistency. This is done to make sure you attain the right texture, elasticity and to avoid excess water.
3. Transfer in an ovenproof or steel bowl. Cover the dough with a damp muslin or cheesecloth.
4. Heat the oven at 180 deg Cel for 5-7 min (only to warm up) switch off and keep the bowl inside for 1-1 ½ hour to speed up the proofing process.

Step 2

1. Once doubled in size remove on a clean kitchen counter. Cut into 2 portions and roll out one into a big circle (like roti or chapatti but not very thin).
2. Use a medium-size round cookie cutter to cut the dough from the outer area into circles moving in one direction to get maximum pieces.

Step 3

1. Place one dough disc in between your palms, put a small portion of the cheese. Holding the corners, gently seal the edges making a round shape ball. 
2. Make the rest and arrange them all in a circular fashion on a round baking dish as shown in the image with gaps in between the balls so there’s enough space to fluff up during proofing and baking.
3. Keep them aside for ½ - 1 hour for proofing. Now brush with egg white, sprinkle sesame and onion seeds.

Step 4

1. Bake in the oven at 180 deg Cel for 15 min and for 5 min on the top grill for color. 
2. Remove and add honey at room temperature.
3. Serve warm for breakfast or high tea.

With different fillings

For sausages 
Cut each sausage into 3 pieces. Place one in between the dough disc. Pull one end of the dough and wrap one side. Hold the other end and overlap on the other to get a shape as shown in the image. Proof, brush with egg white and bake.

For spinach 
Choose filling of your choice, roll a round-shaped disc, place the filling in between. Seal the edges in a triangle shape. Proof, brush with egg white and bake.

For Zaatar
Take medium size dough. Roll out into square shape. Pour olive oil and spread. Sprinkle fresh zaatar (good quality). From one end roll like a cinnamon roll. Slide a twine or a thick thread in between the roll. Cross over and cut the dough into rolls. Place them on a baking tray, gently press to slightly flatten. Proof, brush with egg white and bake.

For Version 2 

1. ½ cup refined oil
2. 1 tbsp baking soda
3. 180g yogurt

The rest of the ingredients remain the same.
Mix or sieve all the dry ingredients with the flour. Add the wet ingredients and water in small quantities. 
Cover with a wet or muslin cloth and keep it for proofing at the room temperature for 3 hours. Knead the dough well in between and allow it to proof (double in size).

Click here for Arabic Fatayer image

Chef's Whisper
Akkawi cheese can also be used. Soak it in water and refrigerate for 1-2 days to remove the high salt content. Change the water several times. 

Crumble before stuffing and add sesame and onion seeds if you like.

Ricotta cheese can also be used.

Improvise – add 1 egg and 5 tbsp milk powder to the flour before making the dough

In baking, proofing is a step in the preparation of yeast bread and other baked goods where the dough is allowed to rest and rise a final time before baking. During this rest period, yeast ferments the dough and produces gasses, allowing the gluten to work. 

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