The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The ‘Yafawi Sfeeha’ or also known as ‘Milwayeh’ which means ‘twisted’, is crispy yet tender and full of flavour.
This was a fun challenge to do – it wasn’t too difficult and the results were very gratifying. While it’s common to make savoury meat-filled pastries, I chose to make the sweet walnut filled option (surprise, surprise!). These Yafawi Sfeeha are very different to anything I’ve made before – the buns are kind of crisp and flaky on the outside (like they’ve been deep-fried) and soft and chewy on the inside. The walnut filling is truly delicious with subtle notes of rose and orange blossom and the overall result isn’t overly sweet at all.
As I’m avoiding gluten more and more these days, I halved the recipe to make 7 small buns and it worked a treat. If you’d like to see the process photos for this recipe, along with the savoury bun options, click through to The Daring Kitchen here.
YAFAWI SFEEHA (with sweet walnut filling)
Servings: 15-18 pieces
For the dough:
- 3 cups (750 ml) (15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, scoop flour using cup measure then level
- 1 teaspoon (6g) salt
- 1 tablespoon (15g) (½ oz) sugar
- 3 tablespoons powdered milk (you can substitute this with warm milk, you will need less water if using milk)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
- About 1 cup (250 ml) warm water for kneading
- Melted ghee (or olive oil) to stretch the dough (ghee gives a great texture and flavour)
For the walnut filling:
- 2 cups (230g) (8 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped, (or you can use any sort of nut you wish)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ tablespoon orange blossom water
- ½ tablespoon rose water
For the sugar syrup:
- 2 cups (400g) (14 oz) sugar
- 1½ cup (375 ml) water
- Juice of half a lemon
- ½ tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
For the dough:
- Mix flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and vegetable oil then start adding the warm water until you get a tender and slightly sticky dough. Knead for about 8 mins in a electric mixer or 12 mins by hand. The dough should be smooth and pliable.
- Form the dough into small golf-ball-sized balls. Place on a baking sheet (with sides) that is very well greased with ghee or olive oil and pour some more (oil or ghee) over dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for few hours at least (or overnight).
- Prepare filling and the sugar syrup in the meantime.
For the filling:
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and put aside.
For the sugar syrup:
- Add sugar and water over high heat in a stainless steel pot – don’t stir. Once it comes to a boil stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all sugar is dissolved.
- Add lemon juice and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
- Remove off heat and add orange blossom water if using. Let it cool.
Assembly, baking & serving:
- Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
- Use some of the ghee to brush a round serving tray or oven tray (a flat metal tray works best). Take one piece of dough, put it in the middle of the greased tray and using your hands, gently start spreading it as thinly and evenly as possible (you want to be able to see the metal tray beneath the dough – don’t worry if you get slight holes).
- Now fold the one side across to the middle, then fold the opposite side to the middle as well, slightly overlapping the first fold.
- Weigh your filling, then on your calculator divide that amount by the amount of balls you have – this will help you get the same amount of filling into each bun. Spread the first portion of your filling into a long line across the dough (it helps to put the filling closer to the side you’re going to start rolling up). Pick up one side of the dough and start rolling it over the filling, making sure that it is tight enough to ensure no filling escapes – you’ll end up with a long thin rope. Now start rolling the rope towards the inside in a coil.
- Place the coiled dough buns onto a greased baking tray, brush with ghee over the top and bake 15-20 minutes (mine took more like 30 minutes) till golden brown. I brushed over extra ghee about half way through the cooking process.
- Once baked and out of the oven, brush some of the cold sugar syrup over the buns, or let them cool off and dust with powdered sugar (I did both and they weren’t too sweet at all). Serve warm or at room temperature.
Store Yafawi Sfeeha in an air tight container in the refrigerator and reheat them a bit when serving. Or freeze them in a single layer in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting