hembesha recipe

pair with your favorite eritrean entree ::::


Making bread is a way to inculcate patience, much less patience that what I described in my last post about the Sinai Desert hostage situation. My bread-making issues pale, PALE!, in comparison. There are proofing times, rise times, sometimes overnight prep of a soaker or a biga or maybe waiting days for the pleasant tang of a sour-dough starter. Even the quick breads that only require a mix of ingredients, no yeasty rise, still need a rest time and/or a bake time. There is always at least of modicum of waiting, some period of forbearance, involved with a bowl of dough.


 The hembesha recipe is one of those, kind of in the middle, no extreme outlier of quick or of lengthy preparation and waiting. hembesha-prep2

It is a little tricky, however. I found the step to flip the bread over in the pan was difficult due to the size of the bread, and perhaps its thickness. Oiling the pot (on my second go at it) helps, along with a wide spatula.

And perhaps that waiting time makes the finished product all the sweeter to try. This is a great bread to serve with stew, like the tsebhi sega that I made in my last post. It soaks up the juices wonderfully, a vehicle to make sure all of the flavors you worked so hard to slow cook end up in your mouth.

One year ago: savory sesame seed monkey bread and sugared rosemary bread

Two years ago: pina colada sorbet

Three years ago: ginger brown sugar soda sundaes and ricciarelli (sienese almond cookies)

hembesha (eritrean flatbread) recipe
Recipe type: breads
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Pair this bread with the spicy meat tsebhi sega (see my previous post).
  • 5 ounces (150 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1¼ teaspoons dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • scant 1 cup (120g) flour
  • scant 1 cup (120g) whole wheat flour
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for a few minutes to allow it to froth. Meanwhile, mix the garlic, egg, oil and spices and beat slightly.
  2. Sift the flour in a large bowl, add the egg mixture and the yeast. Mix to combine.
  3. Prepare your counter with flour and knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover and allow to rise for around 2 hours in a warm place.
  5. Gently deflate dough and knead again for 10 minutes. Oil a 12-inch flat cast iron pot well. Form the dough into a flatbread and place into pot. NOTE: you will need a cover for this pot to bake it later. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  6. Score with knife to make wedges. Place cover on top of pot and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  7. Flip the bread over (a bit challenging) and bake for 5 minutes more, without cover. Remove from the pan and spread with some clarified butter. (Remember the extra you made on my last post? Perfect!)
  8. Serve warm with the tsebhi sega (spiced meat, from my last post), cut into wedges.


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