Recipe for Khoubz Araby (Arab Bread)

Ingredients

2 3/4 cup lukewarm water; 110-115 deg.
2 pkg active dry yeast
1 pinch sugar
8 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup cornmeal; or flour

Instructions

Pour 1/4 cup of lukewarm water into a small bowl and sprinkle it with the yeast and sugar. Let the mixture rest for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast completely. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free place (such as a turned off oven) for 5 minutes, or until the mixture doubles in volume. In a deep bowl, combine the flour and salt, make a well in the center, and pour in the yeast mixture, the olive oil and 2 cups of lukewarm water. Gently stir the center ingredients together, then incorporate the flour and continue to beat until the ingredients are well combined. Add up to 1/2 cup more lukewarm water, beating it in a tablespoon at a time, and using as much as necessary to from a dough that can be gathered into a compact ball. If the dough is difficult to stir, work in the water with your fingers. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by pressing it down, pushing it forward several times with the heel of your hand and folding it back on itself. Repeat for 20 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Drape loosely with a towel and set aside in the warm place for 45 minutes, or until the dough doubles in bulk. Punch it down with a blow of your fist and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cover the balls with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (F). Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with 1/2 cup of the cornmeal or flour. On a lightly floured surface, roll 4 of the balls into round loaves each about 8 inches in diameter and no more than 1/8 inch thick. Arrange them 2 to 3 inches apart on the baking sheets, cover with towels and allow them to rest for 30 minutes. If you have a gas oven, bake the bread on the flour of the oven for 5 minutes, then transfer the loaves to a shelf 3 or 4 inches above the oven floor and continue baking for 5 minutes, or until they puff up in the center and are a delicate brown. If your oven is electric, bake the bread on the lowest shelf for 5 minutes, then raise it 3 or 4 inches and continue baking until the breads are puffed and browned. Remove the bread from the baking sheets, wrap each loaf in foil, and set aside for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the pans with the remaining 1/2 cup of cornmeal or flour and bake the remaining 4 loaves of bread in a similar fashion. When the loaves are unwrapped the tops will have fallen and there will be a shallow pocket of air in their centers. Serve warm or at room temperature.





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