As you may know, my husband is a Coptic Christian from Egypt. I asked him what he would like me to make for the Christmas holidays and he said he wanted "fayesh". Fayesh is a type of bread from upper Egypt** that is baked and then dried. A better name for it would be Egyptian tea rusks. Years ago I got this recipe from my dear friend Vivian (she and her husband had immigrated from Egypt around the same time my husband came). When I got married back in 1975, Vivian and her husband lived on our same street. A year later, her sister-in-law and my dear friend Sonia joined our group. For all those 20+ wonderful years, we used to bake together and share our recipes.
The matriarch of this group was Vivian's sister-in-law, Zaizaf. Zaizaf and her family immigrated to America in the mid 1960's. It was at Zaizaf's sisters home that I met my husband. Back then there wasn't any deli or gourmet store where you could go to get your international food stuffs (unless you lived in a big city). So, Zaizaf learned how to make these things herself. She made pita bread and homemade feta cheese and on and on. She would pass on these recipes to Vivian who would pass them onto me. Zaizaf gave me my first Middle Eastern cookbook back in 1976....
And I think I made every recipe in this book!My husband and I moved from our small town in 1997 to the suburbs south of Seattle. Zaizaf lived about 10 minutes from my new home. I had 13 wonderful years getting to know her and hear about her younger years growing up in Egypt. I loved listening to her stories. And, best of all I got to bake with her during the Christmas and Easter holidays. I last saw her in 2010 before I moved to California although we spoke often. She passed away in 2011.
So here is my recipe for Egyptian Fayesh - Tea Rusks. It's popular to eat it in warm milk that has sugar added or with a cup of tea. I make the dough late at night and let it rise in a cool place overnight. The bread should have a fine texture so there's no much yeast used in the recipe.
1/2 package yeast (use regular active dry - not fast rising)
3 cups lukewarm milk (you can use whole or 2%)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon tumeric (it gives the dough a lovely yellow color)
1 teaspoon ground mahlab*
Flour - approximately 2 pounds
*Mahlab is a spice made from the seed kernel of the St. Lucie cherry. It can be found at Middle Eastern/Persian markets either whole seed or ground. It adds a wonderful flavor and a lovely fragrance to the bread.
(I made my dough in my mixer with dough hook). In large bowl, add lukewarm milk and tumeric. Add in yeast and about 1 Tablespoon of the sugar. Let it sit until yeast dissolves. Add in mahlab and two to three cups of flour. Mix and then add in melted butter. Continue to add flour until mixture forms a ball. (Dough should not be sticky but it should have a soft consistency). Knead well until dough is smooth and place in large bowl and cover well and place in a cool area to sit overnight.
Here's a photo of the dough after rising and punching down
Grease 4 baking tins with melted butter (be sure to grease the sides, too)
Divide dough into 4 equal parts and form dough in pans, pressing dough into pan
Let them rise for one to two hours (see the pan in the upper right - I made little finger rolls)
Brush tops generously with melted butter
Bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack.
Enjoy with your morning tea!
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into memory lane. If so, you are most welcome to sign up to follow my blog. I would love to have you join in.
Until next time, happy baking,
**Note...for those unfamiliar with the term "upper Egypt" it represents the southern portion of Egypt. Since the river Nile runs north down to the sea, hence "upper Egypt" is up river or south.....
I googled "fayesh" on the internet and there was a recipe out there but believe me when I say my recipe is authentic and will give you perfect results! My dear departed Mother-in-law used to bake this bread during the holidays in her "forn" or outdoor clay oven which was on top of the roof of the family home.