There is a beautiful bun from Iraq called shubbak el habayeb. This translates into the Lovers’ Window which I think is the nicest name of any bread in the whole world. We need more love and we need more windows into other cultures so let’s bake these and take them to protests and refugee centres, to airports and mosques. These buns are easy to bake and will make people very very happy. Shubbak el habayeb – the lovers’ window. The final in the Banned Bun series. Click here to see the others.
600 plain/all-purpose white wheat flour
3 g instant yeast or 6 g dry yeast, or 12 g fresh yeast
100 g sugar
225 g milk, heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon each of rose water, orange blossom water, ground cardamom, ground mahleb (this is the ground up stone of the St Lucie cherry – you can get it in a Middle Eastern shop)
12 g salt
50 g butter, melted and allowed to cool
Glaze: 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch each of salt and sugar
Decoration: sesame seeds
Put the flour into a bowl and make a well. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the well and pour over the milk. Close the well by flicking some flour on top of the milk. Cover the bowl and allow it to rest for 1 hour.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except the butter, into the bowl and gather them into a ball. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes. Add the butter and knead for another 10 minutes. Pop the dough back into the bowl and cover with clingfilm/plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 2 hours.
Pull the dough out gently onto an unfloured surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into a tight ball (click here to watch a video of that if you would like to). Allow to rest under a dry tea towel for 15 minutes. Take each ball and roll it with a rolling pin into a little square about 2 cms thick. Imagine the square is divided into four small squares and make a short vertical slit in each of those small squares.
Make sure there is dough between each slit and open the slit with your fingers so it does not close up while the dough is rising. Transfer each flat portion of dough with your scraper onto a prepared baking sheet. Flour the tops lightly and cover with a dry tea towel. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) Gas 7.
Using a short, sharp knife, re-open the cuts if they have sealed themselves shut while the dough has been resting. Beat together the ingredients for the glaze and brush the buns with it. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the top and pop the buns in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before taking them out to spread love and light.
This recipe first appeared in The Book of Buns, available on Amazon.
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