This is one of the most extraordinary baking videos posted on You Tube. The baker, a Moroccan woman, is sitting in front of small oven fired with brush. The bread is baked on a griddle within the oven. She crisps the puffed up bread by building up flames to radiate heat down on to the bread. I think she also, at one point, pricks the bread to let out steam. What I find most extraordinary is that this seems to be an oven similar to the ones one sees in ancient Greek terracotta figurines. Until seeing this video I had never quite grasped how the ancient Greek ovens were operated but I think this video makes clear that they were fired with straw or brushwood and that the seated baker (the terraccotta oven figurines often shows a woman seated on a stool) has a pile of straw or brush that she can easily reach.
The sound track is awful — a solo piano piece that grates on my nerves — and the baker is a professional from an odd kind of restaurant where he wears latex gloves while baking. This said, there is a recipe (modern, it includes sugar and is made with the whitest of white flour), and a reasonably careful demonstration of stretching the dough over a pillow which is also used to turn the bread onto the convex griddle, the saj. Towards the end one of the breads is baked with a filling.
What I find remarkable about this Bedouin bread is the rolling out — or pushing out — by hand and then the stretching by tossing. The tossing is the basic pizza dough technique but this bread is incredibly thin. Note that the griddle is not evenly hot, it is cooler at the top, and so the bread is cooking unevenly which the baker seems to correct for towards the end of the video by folding the bread in half and putting it back on the griddle, called a saj.
This video offers an introduction to baking bread in sand heated by a fire of brushwood. This particular version is made by a Berber but it is a technique that is widespread in desert regions. The YouTube videos documenting the method tend not to offer much information on the dough and how one version might differ from another. It seems to be a process that limits baking to one bread at a time. If any of you know whether a second bread can be baked in the same hot sand and embers, please leave a comment. I haven’t tested this method.
These two videos offer a good look at what the bread looks like while other videos offer more detail on how to handle the fire and heat the sand.
This video starts towards the end of the process of creating an oven of hot embers and sand. We first see the bread after it is is within the oven and clearly partly baked. Based on other videos I’d guess that they are uncovering it to check it after about 10 minutes. I start with this video because it lets us see that the finished bread — at least this baker’s version – is crunchy.
This the second video produced by this filmaker. We get a really good look at the finished bread.
This video is in two parts.
The first video offers a particularly clear look at exactly how the fire is scraped away from the flatbread and clarifies that the bread is baked in hot sand, not on embers or even in this case a mixture of embers and sand. The tourist who is filming asks the guide who bakes the bread a question that elicits the answer that this little bread is just for show. If he were in the desert for several days he’d make a large fire over a wide area and bake a very large bread, one that would last for days. This points up the risks of assuming from videos and demonstrations that what one is seeing is, in every detail, the true local practice.
In this second video the bread is taken out of the sand. One sees the extreme care with with the bread is scraped with a knife to be sure there is no sand sticking to it.
This video offers a very clear look at the effort that at least this baker goes to in order to insure that there is no sand or ash sticking to the final bread. The baker also reminds us that this bread is smaller than the Bedouin make when out in the desert on their own.