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Batbout is a flavorful, chewy Moroccan bread that cooks with a pocket just like pita bread. Rather than being baked in the oven like Middle Eastern pita, batbout is cooked on the stove in a pan or on a griddle, where it takes just a minute or two to brown and puff up with its trademark pocket.
While that pocket makes it perfect for sandwich fillers of all kinds, batbout also works well as an accompaniment to grilled meats such as kefta or boulfaf. It’s also terrific as a breakfast bread with butter, honey, jam, cream cheese or even chocolate spread.
Other Names for Batbout
Batbout is also known by other names such as mkhamer, toghrift and matlou‘. The term mkhamer is worth giving special attention to as it’s used differently by region or family. For some, mkhamer is simply batbout as shown in the photo above; for others, mkhamer is batbout which has been cooked on an oiled pan as opposed to a dry one; for still another, mkhamer is a similar yet laminated stovetop bread; and for yet another, mkhamer is a thick batbout (with no pocket) that is served with butter and honey.
As batbout can be made ahead of time and freezes well, you may want to get in the habit of making extra large batches. You can vary the ratio of flours a bit—I like a mix of white, semolina and whole wheat— but try to keep white flour to no more than half of the total quantity used. Durum flour or fine semolina is essential to batbout’s classic texture and flavor. My recipe calls for a little oil in the dough; many Moroccans make it without, but I find it helps avoid a dry bread that won’t hold up to stuffing.
Batbout can be shaped as small or as large as you like, and to some degree, with varying degrees of thickness. In Ramadan, for example, it’s common to find the bread as tiny as two inches (five centimeters) in diameter; they get stuffed and presented on the table as bite-sized sandwiches. If you don’t own a double griddle, consider investing in one as it makes short work of batbout or other pan-fried breads such as msemen or harcha.
Moroccan Batbout Recipe - Mkhamer or Toghrift or Matlou'
- 1 tbsp dry yeast
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 cups white flour, preferably bread flour or high-gluten
- 2 cups durum flour or fine semolina
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 cups warm water, approx.
- Mix the yeast with a teaspoon of the sugar in a little warm water; set aside until foamy.
- Combine the flours, remaining sugar and salt. Add the oil, water and the yeast mixture.
- Stir to bring the dough together, then knead by hand on a floured surface, or with a mixer and dough hook, until smooth and supple, but not sticky. Add flour or water in small increments as needed to make a soft, manageable dough.
- Shape portions of the dough into smooth balls about the size of plums. Arrange the balls on a lightly floured surface with at least an inch between balls. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
- When the dough has rested, dust your work surface with flour or fine semolina and roll each ball out into a thin round about 1/8" (0.3 cm) thick. Place on a cotton sheet or towel and cover. Leave to rise for an hour or a little longer, until light and puffy.
- Heat a large pan or griddle over medium heat for several minutes until very hot. Carefully transfer the batbout in batches to the pan. Gently turn the batbout as soon as set (after about 10 to 15 seconds) before air bubble being to appear on the surface.
- Continue cooking the batbout, turning gently several more times, until they have puffed with air and are browned on both sides.
- Transfer the cooked batbout to a rack or towel-lined basket to cool. Store completely cooled batbout in the freezer.
- Make sure to fully preheat your griddle or frying pan. I leave my double griddle to heat up for a full five minutes before cooking the batbout. You can slightly lower the heat after you start cooking if you feel the batbout are browning too quickly.
- It's important to handle the batbout gently while transferring to the pan and while cooking. Rough handling can cause cracks which won't allow the batbout to fill with air.
- When turning puffed batbout in the pan, or when transferring cooked batbout to a rack, be careful of burns which can occur when hot steam escapes from a crack.
- On very cold days, you may need to allow more time for the batbout to rise. Conversely, on very hot days or in hot, dry climates, the batbout can not only rise quickly, but develop a dry exterior on the dough that's prone to cracking.
- If you roll batbout on the thick side, they may not puff up when cooked. In that case, you can gently pry or slice them open to create a pocket for fillings.
- Instead of shaping balls, some cooks like to roll out the dough and cut out rounds with a glass or other biscuit cutter. The scraps can get gathered and kneaded together, then covered and left to rest for 10 to 15 minutes to roll out again.
- I reserve a heavy cotton sheet for making batbout; it fully covers my kitchen table and easily folds over the batbout to cover them while they rise.