Makes 12 jachnun
Active Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time (including cooking time): 12 hours 30 minutes
If ever there was a weekend Shabbat cult food, jachnun—deep golden coils of buttery dough baked low and slow—fits the bill. As is the case with yeasty, brioche-like kubaneh bread, jachnun, which contains only baking powder, is traditionally placed in the oven or on a hot plate before Shabbat on Friday, then devoured the following morning after synagogue prayers. It’s sold in almost every makolet (mini-market) and from food trucks and carts all over the country, and in the neighborhood where I live (Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter), tiny jachnun joints (usually open only on Friday and Saturday) sell it by the piece with its traditional accompaniments: resek (grated tomato), schug (hot sauce), and hard-cooked eggs.
As a teenager, my friend Merav Tzanani Perez—known as Tamati at the coffee shop her husband, Miki, named after her—would have a traditional Shabbat dinner with her family at home, then go out clubbing until the wee hours. Upon coming home, she’d become intoxicated anew with the buttery aroma of jachnun slowly baking in the oven. “I wanted to sneak into the pot and demolish all of it,” said Merav. “But I’d go to bed, then wake up to those jachnun rolls, sweet and slightly golden and crusty on the outside.” Merav arranged for me to visit her mother, Ramia, at home to learn how to make jachnun. As a newlywed, Ramia, a retired nursery school teacher, learned to prepare a variety of Yemenite breads, which she would sell on Fridays. Watching Ramia, I found a similarity between jachnun and strudel (see page 350) in that pieces of dough are stretched gossamer-thin before use. Though it’s a much more rustic process, jachnun is roughly croissant-like, with flaky layers that can be pulled apart once cooked. These days, Ramia makes the dough less often but still in huge batches, which she freezes and distributes to her children and grandchildren to take and bake at home. Merav, for one, is grateful. “I never learned how to make jachnun,” she told me. “Maybe now I’ll try.”
7 cups (910 grams) all‑purpose flour
1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon (18 grams) fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1 tablespoon (21 grams) honey
2 1/4 cups (532 grams/ml) lukewarm (115°F) water, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon (14 grams/ml) vegetable oil, for greasing, plus more as needed
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks/6 ounces/170 grams) very soft (but not melted) unsalted butter, plus more as needed
8 large eggs, shells gently washed with soap and dried
8 vine-ripened tomatoes (about 11/2 pounds)
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and honey. Add the water and use your hands to mix a loose, sticky dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then grab a corner of the dough from underneath, pull the dough, and fold it over the top and across the dough, rotating the bowl a bit each time and repeating three or four times total. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rest in a warm place for 1 hour. Lightly oil a baking sheet with the oil, then use oiled hands to divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces and transfer them to the baking sheet. Cover loosely with a large plastic bag and let the dough rest again for 10 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Cut two parchment circles the same size as the bottom of a 9-or 10‑inch kubaneh pan (an aluminum pot with a tight-fitting lid) or another pot with a heavy lid. Butter one side of one of the parchment rounds and set it into the pan, buttered side up. Use oiled hands to lightly grease the counter, then place one of the dough pieces on the counter. Scoop up 1/2 tablespoons of the butter with your hands and use it to help spread the dough as thinly as you can into an almost-translucent rectangle (it may tear a bit; that’s OK), about 12 inches wide × 18 inches long.
3. Using both hands, take both ends from one long side of the dough and fold them toward the center, then take the other long ends and fold them over to create a long, narrow three-layered rectangle (this is called an envelope fold). Starting at one narrow end, roll into a log, trying to lift slightly as you fold to aerate the log, pulling the sides out so you end up with a uniform log. Arrange the jachnun in the prepared pan or pot, then repeat with more butter and dough, arranging 3 or 4 logs, then layering the next 3 or 4 in the opposite direction. Butter one side of the remaining parchment round and place it, buttered side down, on top of the jachnun. Nestle the eggs in their shells on top of the parchment and cover tightly, sealing with foil if the lid is not tight.
4. Bake in the oven (or on the lowest setting of a hotplate) until the jachnun is deeply golden and the layers can easily be pulled apart, 11 to 12 hours.
5. Right before serving, grate the tomatoes on a box grater into a bowl; discard the skins. Season with pinches of sugar and salt to create the ultimate vine-ripened tomato taste. Separate the jachnun rolls and serve them alongside the eggs with the grated tomato and schug.
From Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours by Adeena Sussman, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Adeena Sussman.
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