Kubbeh – Middle Eastern Dumplings

Kubbeh, aka Kibbeh or Kubbah, is a Middle-Eastern dumpling made from semolina or bulgur and filled with meat or vegetables. In Israel, semolina kubbeh is recognized with Kurdish and Iraqi Jewish cuisines, and bulgur kubbeh with Alepian and Lebanese cuisines. There are many different variations on this amazing dumpling, depending on the ethnic group and even within each ethnic group. For the most part, it is cooked in some kind of soup or sauce, but kubbeh can also be deep fried and eaten “dry”, or cooked in the oven all night on very low heat (in sauce, of course).

The following recipe is the basic semolina kubbeh dough that you would use for most kubbeh recipes. It makes about 25 kubbeh balls. A portion is 3-4 kubbeh balls in soup.

koube ingredients

Ingredients:

2 ½ – 3 cups (500g) coarse semolina* (found in Middle Eastern stores)
1/2 cup (100ml) vegetable oil
3 slices of bread without the crust
1 cup (240ml) water
1 teaspoon salt

* Very important: coarse semolina is not the same as the semolina used for pasta that is found in every supermarket. The Italian (pasta) semolina is very fine and is almost like flour. Coarse semolina has a consistency closer to cornmeal. It is widely used in Greek, Arab, Israeli, Persian, and Indian cuisines, so you are more likely to find it in these ethnic stores. You can also buy it online. Just make sure it says coarse semolina or semolina #2.

Preparation:

Place the water in a small bowl and soak the bread in it.

In a large bowl, combine the semolina (start with 2 1/2 cups), oil, salt, and eventually the bread and water.

Knead well to incorporate the bread completely into the semolina. Keep kneading the dough until it is cohesive. Set aside to rest for a few minutes. This makes the dough easier to work with. If you feel that the dough is oily and breaks when you open it, add 1/2 cup semolina and 1/4 cup water. Knead well and let rest for a few minutes. the dough should be pliable but not sticky.

To make the balls, take a small piece of dough (about 2 inch in diameter), and roll it between your hands to a ball.

Nestle the ball in the palm of your left hand (or your right hand, if you are lefty).

Using your right (or left) hand thumb, make a hole in the ball (don’t go all the way through).

Push the kubbeh wall outwards with your finger, while turning the ball slightly, to widen the hole, and to create enough room for the filling. Make sure that the rim is not too thin.

Place a teaspoon of filling in the hole, and then close the top by slightly pinching the dough rim. Smooth the surface, and roll in your hands to create a perfect ball.

koube full tray

Place on a tray and repeat the process until you are either out of dough or filling.

The kubbeh can be made ahead of time and frozen in a closed container. Just make sure to use plastic wrap between layers to prevent the balls from sticking to each other. Thaw before cooking it in soup.

Every once in a while I will post another kubbeh dish, using these basic dumplings. You can already check out – Kubbeh in Beet Soup, or My Autumn Kubbeh Soup.

Challah Bread

Challah is a Jewish bread eaten every week on the Jewish Sabbath and on Jewish Holidays. In recent years, however, Challah was “discovered” by many Americans, and started showing up in recipes such as French toast. I used to buy our weekly Challah at the local supermarket, until… Doron found this wonderful Challah recipe about two years ago, when he was surfing the net http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/challah-29091.

We’ve tried a few other recipes before, but were never committed to baking Challah at home, until we discovered this recipe. It has since become our ultimate Challah recipe (until we find an even better one).

And yet, the eternal winger, aka me, just couldn’t resist making some small changes even to this wonderful recipe. I didn’t really change the ingredients, but I simplified the process… I don’t think it compromised the end result, though. You are welcome to compare.

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water (about 105°F to 115°F)
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoons sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for coating the bowl
1/4 cup sugar
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 teaspoons fine salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water

Preparation:

Place the yeast in a mixer bowl and add the warm water, and ½ teaspoon of sugar. Give it a stir and let the yeast develop for 5 minutes.

Add to the bowl the flour, eggs, sugar and salt. Using the mixer’s spiral dough attachment, mix the ingredients until the dough just starts to form. Add the oil and continue kneading the dough on low speed for 5 -7 minutes, until the dough detaches from the bowl’s wall, but still sticks to the bottom. If the dough is too sticky, add 2 tablespoons of flour and knead for one more minute.

Grease a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of oil. Transfer the dough into the greased bowl, cover the bowl with a clean towel, and leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume.

challah dough in bowl

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Divide each half into 3 balls. Make a long string of dough (a snake) out of each ball. You can use your hands to roll the dough back and forth, on a lightly floured surface, while also pushing it outwards to both sides.

Challah roll out dough

The other way to create a dough snake is to hold the dough in your hands, squeezing and massaging it vertically. This way you use gravitation to help pull the dough down and thus elongate it. Every once in awhile turn the dough upside down, so that the snake is about the same width on both ends.

challah squeezing snake

Once you have three snakes ready, lay them on the work surface vertically to you and horizontally to each other. Connect the top ends of the snakes, then braid the snakes gently all the way to the bottom.

challah snakes

Do not pull the snakes while braiding them, only fold them into place. Connect the bottom ends of the snakes and fold it underneath.

Challah snakes braided

challah braided

Gently pick up the Challah from the work surface and place it on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Repeat the process with the rest of the dough to make a second Challah. Cover the Challahs with a towel and leave in a warm place for a second rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Right before placing the Challahs in the oven, make an egg wash using one beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a brush, brush the egg wash over the top of the Challah to give it a shine.

Challah brushing egg wash

Place the Challahs in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Challah is ready when it makes a hollow sound when you knock on it. If you are not sure, insert a knife in one of the seams, in the middle of the Challah, and see if it comes out sticky or dry.

Remove from the oven and from the baking sheet, and place on a cooling rack to cool. If you leave the Challah to cool on the baking sheet, the bottom will get soggy.

You may freeze one of the Challahs to save it for another time. In our house it rarely happens. We finish both Challahs in one weekend.

challah close up