Shakshuka Bread

I wasn’t always friends with no-knead bread, partially because I like kneading, and find those five minutes out of my day become the least-stressful activity that I know of. Although I worked at a bread bakery one night because I thought it might be interesting to become a bread baker. By the time we finished up, very early the next morning, my aching legs, back, and arms, helped me decide to stick to my current career path.

However, no-knead bread dough does dress up nicely, as evidenced in Bread Toast Crumbs, by Alexandra Stafford, which highlights not only how to make loaves of bread, but offers up surprisingly inventive ways to use it.

There’s everything in the book, from soup and starters (Cabbage soup with Gruyère-rye toasts and Endive & fava bean salad tartines with herbed ricotta), to sandwiches and sweets (pear-frangipan toast, as well as toasted brioche with caramel and sea salt). But I was intrigued by the individual Shakshuka breads, a riff on the Tunisian baked egg dish that’s usually eggs simmered in a spicy tomato base, served with plenty of bread to scoop up the eggs and jam-like tomato sauce.

The dough for these single-serving breads is simplicity itself. It takes less than a minute to put together, and the sauce can be made in advance, which I did. (Because, as you now know, I’m not a morning person and these were listed in the book as a “breakfast” dish.) So I had a leisurely morning, drinking my coffee and puttering around my apartment, then stirred together the dough before running out to do some errands. (Ok, I lied. I actually went to Pilates to work off everything I ate this winter.) After struggling through an hour of trying to make my core somehow reappear again, since it’s buried under a stubborn layer of fromage, baguettes, and wine, around my midsection, I came back and finished the breads.

Since it’s probably going to come up, I don’t imagine za’atar is traditional in shakshuka. But since dried yeast wasn’t traditionally added to bread, since you’re already taking liberties, you get a pass with the sauce seasonings and you can customize it, adding ground coriander, paprika, or caraway for a little extra pizzazz, or use the seasonings I use to make shakshuka. (Since that recipe uses two cans of tomatoes, you can cut the spice amounts in half to use in the recipe here, which calls for one can of tomatoes.)

When I pulled the breads out of my oven around lunchtime, the smell of the spicy sauce and yeasty bread made me want to dive right in. Which I did, taking a bite of the freshly baked rounds smothered in spiced tomato sauce, with the soft yolk spilling out over the warm, sesame-seeded bread. I immediately forgot how hard I had worked holding that third plank pose our Pilates teacher made us do (which is part of the reason my midsection is really being especially stubborn) and quickly polished it off. Then I reached for another.

Shakshuka Bread
Print Recipe
6 servings
Adapted from Bread Toast Crumbs by Alexandra StaffordThese were originally called "Individual Breakfast Shakshukas" although I'm not all that lively in the morning, so I had one (or two) for lunch instead. If you have more pep than I do in the morning, or want to make the dough in advance, Alexandra advises that you can assemble the dough using cold water and let it rise 8 to 10 hours at room temperature, then make the recipe as directed.Za'atar can be found in shops that specialize in Middle Eastern ingredients as well as on Amazon, or by mail order from Kalustyan's. (You can also make your own.) You could swap out Ras el hanout for the za'atar, if you have that on hand or it's easier to get, or check out my Shakshuka recipe, and use the spices listed there, cutting the amount in half for this recipe.I didn't test the bread with other kinds of yeast but there's a link below the recipe in case you're interested in the conversion.
For the sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (60g) diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher or sea salt
big pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon za'atar
One 14 ounce (410g) can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
For the dough
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup (240ml) lukewarm water
To assemble the shakshukas
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 teaspoons sesame seeds, plus a few more for finishing the breads
6 medium or large eggs
1. To make the sauce, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they're soft and wilted, 2 to 4 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic and salt, stirring for a minute or so, until the garlic softens. Stir in the red pepper flakes, cumin, and za'atar, stirring for about 30 seconds to release their fragrance.
3. Add the tomatoes and any juice in the can. Increase the heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and still juicy, but not runny. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Set aside. (The sauce can be refrigerated for up to five days in advance.)
4. To make the bread, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. Stir in the water using a rubber spatula until the dough becomes a sticky ball. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
5. To assemble the shakshukas, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Put 3 individual teaspoons of olive oil in three puddles, equally spaced apart, on each baking sheet. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds over each pool of olive oil.
6. Using two forks, scrape the dough from the edges of the bowl toward the center, to deflate it, then use the forks to shape the dough into a rough ball.
7. With the two forks, working from the center, separate the dough into two equal portions. Use a pastry scraper or spatula to transfer half of the dough onto a lightly floured countertop. Cut the dough into three equal pieces and roll each into a smooth ball, pinching the bottom seam closed as you tighten it up and roll it closed.
8. Place each round of dough on top of the puddle of olive oil and sesame seeds and roll it around to coat it. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
10. Using lightly oiled hands, stretch the balls of dough into disks, until the dough starts pulling back and resisting. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes, then stretch each one into a 6 or 7-inch (16cm) round.
11. Divide the shakshuka sauce in the centers of each round of dough and spread it almost to the edges with the back of a soup spoon, leaving a 1/2-inch (2cm) border. Use the spoon to make a crater-like deep impression in the center of each round of dough and sauce, which will hold the egg later. Brush the exposed rims with water and sprinkle with some additional sesame seeds.
12. Bake the shakshuka bases for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven, and switching them on racks, midway during baking.
13. Remove the breads from the oven and use a soup spoon to redefine and deepen the indentation in the center of the sauce, and create little rims in the sauce, so the egg won't run out. Crack an egg into the center of each. (Tip: You might find it easier to crack each egg into a small bowl or teacup first, then tilt them into the breads.)(As you place the egg on top of each, use a tablespoon to futz with the sauce and build a fortress-like barrier, if some of the egg wants to run out.
14. Carefully put the baking sheets back in the oven and bake, rotating the baking sheets as they cook, until the whites of the eggs are just cooked and the yolks are barely set, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve warm.

Related Recipes and Links

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris

Yeast Conversion Table (Red Star Yeast)

Shakshuka

Lamb Kofta

A Visit to a Za’atar Farm

Man’ousche: Za’atar Flatbreads 

Eggplant Jam


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26 comments

  • Leyla Brenneman
    June 2, 2017 4:20pm

    Oh, I will be trying this recipe out in short order. I am a huge fan of shaksuka, never thought about it in a bread form but it can’t miss! My sister in law is from Turkey and makes shaksuka often but always includes eggplants. I know it’s one of those dishes that vary considerably from region to region, I haven’t tried every style but imagine I would lIke them all. Especially if a bread base is added to it!

  • Susan B
    June 2, 2017 5:01pm

    These look scrumptious! Interesting that in the pre–baking phase you manipulate the dough with two forks, instead of moving directly to dough scraper or spatula.

    Wee typo: it’s Kalustyan’s with a K, not a Z. I took my goddaughter there on a shopping spree a couple of weeks ago–amazing place! We spent 15 minutes just looking at the Wall of Rice. Then we turned the corner and there were the chiles…mindblowing!

  • June 2, 2017 5:03pm

    This is a great breakfast idea for the long weekend. I like the integrated bread bowl.

  • Mary
    June 2, 2017 5:06pm

    You had me at Shakshuka!

  • Theresa
    June 3, 2017 2:29am

    D’ya reckon this could sub as a pizza base, David?

    • June 3, 2017 2:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      Absolutely. I think the sauce would be great, and you could top it with egg and feta, or perhaps use some merguez sausage crumbled or sliced on top.

  • Olga
    June 3, 2017 5:27am

    Very interesting – the taste of Za’atar. Never tried it, I am intrigued. Very much looking forward to trying this recipe!

  • Edith
    June 3, 2017 6:35am

    Hi David, in your newsletter you mentioned the app Headspace. I have used that for one year as well but it didn’t really do it for me. What I really like are the apps from Andrew Johnson (you can find them in the app store), such as Deep relaxation, or Positivity. Johnson is from Scotland, has kind of a soothing voice and accent, and leads you through a 20 minute relaxation/meditation. Every time I listen I fall asleep for only 3 to 5 minutes and wake up very refreshed and ready to go on with the day. It might not be “real” meditation, but it somehow really works. Just wanted to share:)
    ps: this has nothing to do with the delicious recipe above, but I couldn’t add comments to your newsletter, sorry.

  • Gavrielle
    June 3, 2017 2:12pm

    I must make this immediately if not sooner! Shakshuka is all the rage here in NZ as a café dish but I certainly never thought of using it to top bread. I happen to have some sourdough rising overnight and will use your toppings. Thanks David, looking forward to breakfast!

  • June 3, 2017 5:20pm

    I have some left over pizza dough and think I will try this recipe using it rather than your no-knead bread.

  • Teresa Bentley
    June 3, 2017 5:42pm

    Everything David Leibovitz shares is wonderful. One addendum…the beauty of the “no knead” bread is the long slow fermentation and rise driven by a tiny amount of good yeast. The critters are working their butts off to produce greatness and as result the flavor is outstanding. I actually knead mine a little because like David I love the feel/smell/life of the bread. But the knead is not essential to great gluten. The hydration, gluten content of bread etc with the industrious yeast makes the bread superb. Buono appetito!!

  • Terry Hickman
    June 3, 2017 5:59pm

    Note to self: add fresh cilantro to grocery list … I’ve got everything else … yum! Something different for dinner! (I’m not a morning person either.) Thanks for this great variation! You turned me on to shakshuka with your blog post several years ago.

  • MmeRose
    June 3, 2017 6:32pm

    I’m going to make it today! It looks perfect for a summer lunch. I have a packet of sumac in the kitchen and wondered what to use it for, apart from chelo kebab.

  • Ynnsie
    June 3, 2017 7:57pm

    Futz. To futz. Strong culinary tradition, rarely admitted to. I’m going to make these up when I get home (currently in Paree where, along with another fan of this blog, I’ve been doing the DL trail. Marché Aligre on Wedneday, a stroll in the 11th, a couple of your recommended restaurants).
    And when I get to adding the egg, I will futz with abandon.

  • Laurie Gafni
    June 3, 2017 8:05pm

    Can’t wait to try this, but can the recipe be halved? (Would it be possible to freeze the unused dough?)

    • June 3, 2017 8:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      You could certainly halve the recipe but since you’re going through the trouble of making it, but I don’t know about freezing the dough. I’ve only frozen dough that was baked, never before. King Arthur did an article about freezing no-knead bread dough that answers the question, with techniques on how (and when) to do it.

  • June 4, 2017 12:44am

    I love this recipe and book! I’ve made so much bread from this book already and the fava radish tartine. Everything has been delicious.

    • June 5, 2017 4:44am

      PS David, my favorite is still the Pumpkin Harvest Bread. Fun and tasty for breakfast toast.

  • Carol
    June 4, 2017 10:50pm

    I bought “Bread Toast Crumbs” last week, and I have already made three different types of bread (have you tried the Dark Chocolate Bread? OMG!). After making the Cheddar Parmesan Bread (so golden and beautiful, so easy, so delicious), I immediately ordered two more copies of the book for friends – everyone who bakes should have this book. Thanks for your recipe, David – I look forward to trying it!

  • Beverly Mire
    June 5, 2017 3:24pm

    Love, love, love the idea of no-knead bread.

  • Ted
    June 5, 2017 5:12pm

    Is step 6 the same procedure as the first sentence in step 7? (I’m assuming so, otherwise something isn’t making sense.)

    Thank you!

  • Ted
    June 5, 2017 5:15pm

    OK; never mind the previous comment. I misread. Apologies. Step 6 deflates the dough, step 7 forms it into 2 portions.

  • Ttrockwood
    June 6, 2017 8:27pm

    Breads bakery in nyc makes something that is nearly the same as this- perhaps only on the weekends…? I didn’t order it in my last visit, but this does sound like the ultimate breakfast bready dish!

  • martha
    June 8, 2017 1:36am

    This recipe looks great so I did manage to make it for lunch yesterday and it took hours. I would never get up early enough to have it for breakfast! The sauce was really tasty and I did have za’atar on hand which I love (even the fresh cilantro). I sprinkled more za’atar on top and another pinch of salt to taste. Still, I have to say it was more work than I am willing to do on a regular basis. I might make the sauce to cook the eggs in and put it on toast on some other flat bread thus cutting the labor down considerably.

  • June 11, 2017 8:19am

    I’m very much a morning person but I think I would also be preparing as much of this in advance, or have it for lunch because I need food in the morning asap – otherwise I get seriously hungry and grouchy at the same time (not even a good coffee can save me).

    And as a bread fanatic, I’m loving the sound of Alexandra’s book!

  • June 23, 2017 1:56am

    OMG! You have no idea how much I love Shakshuka and seeing your recipe makes me so excited that I got to try this immediately! Thanks so much for this!

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