Now that you’ve seen this fluffy, savory dill bread recipe, you’ll never be able to go back. Bake this and a jillion other fantastic-looking treats with Breaking Breads, a much-loved collection of recipes from Breads Bakeries’ Uri Sheft. Inspired by all the regions that comprise Israel’s famed baked goods, Breaking Breads is a must-have for the flour artist in your life.
I first saw the shape of this bread on the island of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia, where there is a very small (about a thousand people) yet vibrant Jewish community that has lived there for 2,500 years. Unlike other Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East whose Jewish communities have all but vanished after many people moved to Israel, the bulk of Djerba’s Jewish community has remained on this beautiful island.
Dill, an herb favored in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and even in Iran, is popular in Tunisia, too. This bread, a twist on Pain de Mie, is formed into a coil and then snipped with scissors to create the shape of a flower (kishlaya), which is how challah is traditionally shaped in Djerba, Tunisia. You’ll need a generous amount of work surface to form the coils.
- 3/4 cup cool water
- 1/4 cup fresh yeast, or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 6 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (plus extra)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fine salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh dill fronds, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pinch fine sea salt
For the dough
Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until the yeast has dissolved. Add the flour, sugar, salt, yogurt, and butter pieces.
Attach the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough comes together, 1 to 2 minutes (if, after 2 minutes, the dough has dry spots at the bottom of the bowl or the dough looks very wet, add more water or flour — a little at a time — as needed). Once the dough comes together nicely, continue to mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Then increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough looks shiny and cleans the bowl, about 5 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough, then let it rise: Lightly flour a work surface and set the dough on it. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Take one corner of the dough and stretch the dough until it tears, then fold it on top of the center. Give the dough a quarter turn and continue the stretching/folding/turning for 2 minutes.
Use a bench scraper or chef’s knife to cut the dough into 12 pieces, and return the pieces to the mixer bowl (this helps incorporate the onion and dill easily). Add the onion and dill, and knead on low speed just until they are well incorporated, about 1 minute.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and fold again, giving it about 4 turns. Place the dough in a lightly floured large bowl, dust the top with flour, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it aside at room temperature until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Divide and shape the dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Firmly press down on each piece of dough, and then pull it to make a 9-by-5-inch rectangle with a short side facing you.
Fold the top edge a quarter of the way down and use the heel of your hand to seal the edge to the bottom part of the dough. Repeat 3 more times to make a cylinder. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Use your hands to roll each piece to form a 20-inch-long cylinder. Then cover them with a clean kitchen towel and let them rest for 15 minutes.
Roll and shape the dough again, then let the dough proof: Flatten each cylinder to a rectangle again and repeat the process, folding the top down by a fourth, using the heel of your hand to seal the edge, then repeating 3 times to make a cylinder. Now use your hands to roll each cylinder to make a 40-inch-long rope. Use scissors to snip diagonal slits three-quarters of the way through the dough at 1-inch intervals. Coil the snipped rope into a spiral shape overlapping to create a tall pyramid-like shape and set it on a parchment paper–lined sheet pan.
Repeat with the other 2 ropes, fitting 2 coils onto one of the sheets (you might have to refrigerate 1 coil of dough while the first 2 bake if your sheet pans aren’t large enough to accommodate 2 loaves on one pan). Pull on each of the segments to separate them from one another, cover the sheet pans with a kitchen towel, and set them aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough jiggles slightly when tapped, 1½ to 2 hours (depending on how warm the room is).
Set a rimmed sheet pan on the oven floor (or, if not possible, on the lowest oven rack). Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the dough: Make the egg wash by whisking the egg, water, and salt together in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat each loaf with egg wash.
Place one sheet pan on the upper rack and the other on the lower rack, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan on the bottom of the oven, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 12 minutes. Then rotate the bottom sheet pan to the top and the top to the bottom, and continue to bake until the loaves are browned, 5 to 8 minutes longer.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheet pans before serving.