According to Faye Levy, a cookbook author and columnist for the Jerusalem Post, kubaneh comes in two varieties. There’s folded kubaneh, in which the dough is shaped into balls, rolled out, smeared with soft butter or margarine, then rolled in a coil or spiral and put in the pan. And then there’s another version that calls for making balls of dough, dipping each in melted butter or margarine, and placing them in the pan: Israeli monkey bread. In Yemenite Cooking (published only in Hebrew), Malka Almoni notes that you can even put the whole, undivided dough ball straight into the pot with melted butter. You can listen to Almoni, but the rolling and buttering takes mere minutes—and is worth it for the fancy, croissant-like end product.
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (7g)
- 6 T sugar
- 1 1/2 t salt
- 13 T butter
- 3 C all-purpose flour
- + olive oil (or more butter), for greasing the pan
- 8 eggs (optional)
This recipe takes a total of 10 1/2 hours, almost entirely unattended.
NOTE: If you want an extra-crispy crust, Uri Scheft of Breads Bakery recommends cooking the kubaneh at 300°F for 15 minutes, then turning the oven down to 225°F.
Put the yeast into a small bowl with 1/3 cup lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes. The yeast should be foamy—if it’s not, you’ll need to start over with new, fresher yeast.
Place 3/4 cup water in a large saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and add the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar, the salt, and 5 tablespoons of butter. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved, the butter has melted, and the mixture has slightly cooled. Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the mixture becomes too stiff to stir.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the remaining flour. Knead for 5–10 minutes, until the dough is smooth but still soft, adding more flour a little at a time to prevent the dough from sticking.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and let rise until doubled in size again, about 1 hour. Leave the remaining 8 tablespoons of cut butter out to soften.
Heat the oven to 225°F. Grease an ovenproof pot and its lid with oil. Cut a piece of parchment to fit directly inside of the baking dish and lightly oil one side.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly oil your work surface and a rolling pin. Roll one ball of dough into a rectangle 1/8-inch thick. Smear the dough with 2 teaspoons of butter (two thirds of one tablespoon-sized piece). Take one of the long edges and roll the dough up into a long tube. Flatten the dough as best you can with your hand, and smear the top with 1 teaspoon butter (the remainder of your already-divided piece). Then take a short edge and roll the dough up again. Put the roll of dough into the greased baking dish with the spiral side facing up. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Rinse and dry the eggs, if using, and nestle them among the dough. Put the parchment paper oiled-side down, directly on top of the dough, and cover. Bake for 8–12 hours. Serve warm.