Most of the Jews in Yemen grew and harvested wheat themselves and dried it in warehouses, taking out wheat for milling as needed. The impossibly thin layers of jachnun are obtained by stretching the dough into a paper thin sheet while it is well oiled. The sheet of dough is smeared with more butter, folded and rolled and arranged in the pot in layers. The completely pot of jachnun is baked in the oven at 212F (100C) degrees for 12 hours – after that, you’ll barely be able to resist the aroma.
Ingredients for Jachnun
For the dough:
- 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoon Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Salt
- 2 tablespoons honey or date honey (silan)
- scant 1/2 quart (450 ml) water
For the clarified butter:
- 7 oz (200 grams) butter good quality
- 1-2 pitas
1. Put all the dough ingredients in a mixer, and mix for 8 minutes at low speed until you get a uniform dough. Increase the speed and put another 2 minutes at high speed, until you get a smooth and flexible dough.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise for an hour and a half.
3. In the meantime, prepare the clarified butter: melt butter on medium-low heat. Skim off any foam that forms on top. Filter the butter from the fat particles to get a clear liquid. Set aside to cool but keep it liquid.
4. Divide the dough into 10 balls weighing about 5.3 oz (150 grams) each. Brush each ball with a little butter, place them on a tray, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for three hours at room temperature.
5. Heat the oven to 212F (100C) degrees.
6. Grease a work surface with butter. Place one of the balls of dough on the greased surface and start stretching it from the edges, until you get a transparent sheet of dough about 1 mm thick.
7. Grease the sheet of dough with melted butter. Fold in thirds- first the right third of the dough to the center. Fold the left third of the dough over it, to create a long dough rectangle made of 3 layers of dough. Roll the rectangle from its short side onwards, to form a plump roll.
8. Cover the bottom of the pot with a pita or two (so that the jachnun does not burn). Arrange the rolled jachnuns side by side in layers on top of the pita bread - each layer perpendicular to the one below it.
9. Bake for 12 hours, until the smell beckons you to the oven.
This recipe is taken from the interactive food display at ANU – Museum of the Jewish People. Chief Museum Curator: Orit Shaham Gober. Performance Content Manager: Liron Tzabri; Director: Amit Farber; Artistic director: Amit Farber; Photography: Daniel Lailah; Interactive: Creative Love.
You can see the full story behind the recipe, as recorded by Shachar and Gil Zubri, in the video shown at the Museum of the Jewish People.