Monday, July 27, 2015


The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Java that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The “Yafawi Sfeeha” or also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor.Click here for the link to the background information and original recipes from the challenge.

I was nervous about this challenge and especially nervous about getting the shape done. The dough seemed very thin and I saw disaster in my kitchen looming. So, I did a bit of research to see if perhaps there was another acceptable shape that I could manage. I was surprised and happy to see that one of our own in Daring Bakers, The Food Doctor, had blogged about meat pies and had a nice(easy) shape to mimic. So, I am admitting that this may not be a true Yawafi Sfeeha but it is a Sfeeha and it is a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The Sfeeha look impressive and made the house smell divine. My hubby kept lurking about waiting for me to turn my back so he could  taste test. He loved them but he likes a sauce with most everything and I knew he would want one with these. They don't need them but he was dipping away and said they were really good. I used a Peanut Coconut Sauce from Whole Foods. I put a link on the name to Amazon in case you do not have a Whole Foods nearby but want to try it. Here is a picture of the sauce.
Now back to the Sfeeha. I want to give a suggestion about the baking. Because the Sfeeha bake at a very high temperature, I used two baking pans nested to help insulate. This proved to be a vital step. When I removed the Sfeeha from the oven, two of them were not yet golden brown on the bottom(they were the first two I shaped also) so I removed the others and put the two back in the oven for a few more minutes. When I put them in though, I did not double pan them as I did initially. Within a minute, my oven was smoking. I took them out and they were burned, the parchment paper was burned and here is what they looked like. The underside was black.
No Good :(
But let's talk about the other successful eight! The pastry was crispy outside and cloud like tender inside. The meat was juicy and flavorful, the spices worked well together not overpowering each other or the dish. I served them with braised broccoli rabe and Russian kale but I think a fresh cold salad would have been a better choice. 
All in all, I think these will make a nice pot luck and I plan to bring some to the next book club meeting. They will travel well and don't really need a knife and fork.
Manal has some great versions that are sweet as well. Perhaps you are braver than I am and will give them a try.
Below is the recipe for Sfeeha that I made:


2  to 2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup water
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon sour cream, or Labana
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
salt, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint flakes



Proof the yeast by mixing the yeast, sugar and warm water and allowing it to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble and foam. 

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the oil and rub the mixture with your fingers to make a coarse looking meal.

Add the water/yeast mixture and knead the dough until it forms a smooth soft dough that does not stick to your hands.

 Lightly coat a clean bowl large enough to allow the dough to expand and put the dough in it. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to double in size. At my house, in 72 degree Fahrenheit, it took a little over an hour. The warmer the room the faster the dough will rise. 

Punch down the dough and cut into 10 balls. Cover them with a towel and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.


In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onions in the 2 
tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground beef and spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is browned. Turn off the heat.

Add the molasses, tahini, sour cream or labaneh and mint. Mix well.

Grease your baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommended temperature was 270 degrees Celsius(518 degrees F.) but I was uncomfortable cooking higher than 500.  I also double panned my baking sheets for extra insulation.

Roll the dough into a small(I did a 4-inch) circle. Place the filling in the center. Wet your fingers and pinch two sides of the dough circle with your index finger and thumb. Repeat on the other side so that you have four corners
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and allow to rest 10 minutes.
I you are making a large amount of meat pies, cover the pies with a cloth while they are resting to prevent the surface from drying which will result in cracked surfaces at baking.
Just before baking, re-pinch the corners to , making sure they are sealed tightly. Brush the pastry surface with an egg wash optionally. I mixed an egg with 1/4 cup milk and brushed the pastry using a pastry brush.

Bake the pies for about 10 minutes or until the underside is golden. If they are golden on the bottom but not on top, you can put them under the broiler to brown the tops. i did not have to do this and the egg wash helped promote browning. Transfer to a wire rack and cool slightly. These are delicious warm.

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