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Saturday, September 23, 2023

A Guide to Moroccan Bread with Recipes

I have always had an obsession with bread and over the years exploring the numerous types of breads that exist in Morocco has been a fascinating thing.

While most people think of couscous or tajine as defining the Moroccan diet, I’d argue bread is what defines it. Unlike in much of the Middle Eastern world, rice barely plays a role in traditional Moroccan cooking. Flour was the carbohydrate of choice and there are dozens of ways it is used.

What kind of bread is eaten in Morocco?

What kind of bread isn’t eaten in Morocco may be a better question. There are at least a dozen different types of breads that are made in Morocco and as I’m learning daily there are probably a dozen more yet to hear of.

Breads made with wheat flour are most common – and it’s almost always semi-leavened. You won’t find large puffy boules like in France. Nor would Moroccans eat with sandwich bread. Bread is solid and has a crust. Many Moroccans don’t eat the inside of the bread, and prefer the outside only.

Types of Moroccan Bread

The most widely eaten is the round semi-flat loaves of bread often called just khobz. This can be made with white, wheat or a mixture of flours. Traditionally large rounds were made and brought to the community bakery however today many people bake their bread at home.

While round khobz loaves are most common on a day to day basis there are also other Moroccan bread types that are eaten for different times of day or occasions. Flat, laminated breads like msemmen for breakfast or snacks. Stuffed breads for a more filling dish.

Regionally there are variations in how breads are baked. In the High Atlas you might find it cooked on the side of a clay oven like tandoori bread. While in the Dades Valley it’s baked on a small elevated tray inside a clay over with a small wood fire to cook the dough.

Moroccan Round Khobz Bread Vertical

 Why is Bread Important in Morocco?

Bread was the main food that sustained people in times of struggle. Even today you may not be able to afford much but most people can always afford a loaf of bread (a small round loaf costs $0.10-$0.20). It also was a way to make food go further.

Bread and mrqa (sauce) are the major components of tajine, the primary dish for many Moroccans. While visitors are often presented with more decadent dishes, the average Moroccan fills themselves with bread and the sauce of the tajine and then the vegetables and meat will be as an extra. What we might consider to be a serving for 2 people could likely feed many more.

Bread is so important in Morocco that you never throw it away. A separate bag is kept for bread and garbage, the bread is put in the bag and then it’s fed to animals. It’s considered sinful to mix it with garbage.

Bread also isn’t eaten as a side to the meal – it’s integral to the meal itself. Moroccans use bread as a utensil to scoop up the food. It’s always interesting to see non-Moroccans eat tajines with a fork and knife, it just doesn’t seem right somehow!

There’s multiple Moroccan proverbs about bread but one of the most telling is “Manage with bread and salted butter until God brings something to eat with it.”

How to Make Moroccan Bread

Moroccan bread is made of very simple ingredients; flour, salt, yeast, and water. Sometimes sugar is added. Sometimes there are other spices mixed in or stuffed inside the bread.

The variety of bread comes from different cooking techniques as well as different folding techniques. Certain breads are more common in various regions across the country.

What Bread to Serve with Tagine?

Depending on the region there are different types of bread that are served with tagine. However, the most common breads are khobz and batbout. These are also the fastest and easiest to make when you have access to regular kitchen equipment.

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