A Dab Will Do You

When it comes to making ultra-thin sheets of pastry, you can go one of two ways. You can roll, which is the Western way, or you can “dab”, which is the Eastern/North African way. For long ago it seems, pastry makers in the East (probably China) realized that rather than trying to compress a dough to a paper-thin thickness, you could instead dab a moistened ball of dough onto a hot surface to make a film. Cooked, that film could then be lifted off, lubricated and used to make pastry.

Mococcan warqa (also called “brik” or “brick” bread) employs this technique. Traditionally it’s made by dabbing a wet dough ball onto a convex copper plate that’s heated over a low charcoal fire. Since most of us in the Western world lack that equipment, we use a thin batter and brush it onto a non-stick pan that’s heated from below by boiling water. The gear array is different but the effect is very much the same. On the ingredients side, you’ll need:

8 ounces (1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons) high gluten or bread flour
1.5 ounces (1/4 cup) durum flour (all-purpose will do as an alternative)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, then gently whisk the two mixtures together. The batter should be extremely thin.

Pour 2-3 inches of water into a Dutch oven or other broad pot and bring it to a boil. Place over it a large non-stick sauté pan or griddle.

Using a new nylon or polyester paint brush, brush a film of the batter around onto the un-greased surface of the pan. As the dough cooks, very gently brush or dab batter onto any bare patches. Allow the sheet to cook about 2-3 minutes. When the sheet is pale in color and crisp around the edges, gently pry up the edge with a spatula and lift the sheet off.

Place the sheet on a towel and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Wipe the pan out and do it again! Stack up the lubricated layers, keeping the stack under the towel. When the batter is all used up, wrap the stack in plastic wrap until ready to use. These will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

4 thoughts on “A Dab Will Do You”

  1. Could you spray the sheets with vegetable oil? I think you’d be less likely to tear them that way.

    1. That would probably work very nicely too, provided you were very sparing.

      Good idea!

      – Joe

  2. Made the Warqa today. Tried both the electric skillet and pan over boiling water. If you choose the skillet try about middrange ‘simmer.’ That was about the right temperature. I did prime the pan with a 1/2 tsp oil on a paper towel and wiped completely into the teflon. Besteeya planned for tonight.

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