My first introduction to mofleta, the very distant Moroccan cousin of say a flour tortilla, was at a Chanukah gathering quite a few years ago, at the home of some Israeli Moroccan friends. I watched with great interest as the mother prepared the dough and baked the mofleta in a frying pan. Her actions were deliberate and methodical— she prepared the dough with a beautiful rhythm developed over years of preparing that very same dish. I had the strong sense that we were re-living history here in her kitchen, and given the anticipation of her grown children, it was clear that indeed something very important was taking place. What was important about mofleta and why it was important really didn't seem at all relevant. The fact was, that the preparation and serving of this family favorite brought the generations together that night of Chanukah, in a home filled with warmth and love and laughter, and light.
Since that Chanukah night many years ago, I've learned that if you happen to mention mofleta to a Moroccan, the response will very likely be something like ahhhh, mofleta, my Savta's mofleta is the best! Mofleta is made from dough very similar to pita dough, with just a touch more oil, and it is cooked in a frying pan like a large pancake. Good mofleta must be made from very thin dough, and is quite tasty when eaten with butter and honey. (Symbolizing abundance, sweetness, and happiness, and also Israel, the land of Milk and Honey.) While mofleta is eaten during the year, in some families every Rosh Chodesh, in others as a Chanukah treat, it is universally enjoyed amongst Moroccans as the first bread after Passover, as part of the mimouna celebration, when it is believed to be a source of blessings for the coming year
Looking back I now realize that my friend's excitement over a fairly basic food which they had eaten countless times, was of course much deeper than their desire to eat something delicious. Their excitement was about their desire to feel their mother's love, and to connect to the meaningful tradition of generations before them who also gathered together to eat mofleta. Generations I might add who lived beautifully full lives in Morrocco, and were overtly thankful for the goodness that was bestowed upon them. It may very well be, that one of the reasons that Moroccans are so enthusiatic about their cuisine is that it connects them to a time when life was quite simply good!
For recipe and complete instructions continue reading below.
- 500 g white flour plus 500 g whole wheat flour, or 1 kilo whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 tblsp dry yeast
- 1 tblsp sugar or honey
- 2 1/2 cups warm water, (if using only white flour 2 cups may be enough, so add water gradually)
- 1 tblsp salt
- 4 tblsp olive oil, plus oil for lightly greasing pan
Note: The mofleta made today is generally made with white flour, but it's quite likely that the original version was made with something more similar to whole wheat pastry flour, so I'm going to be a renegade and suggest you try that, or some combination of white and whole wheat, which is what I did. Use some delicious, (try organic for superior taste) whole wheat flour, and the resulting mofletas will be in my opinion so much heartier and quite distant from a white flour tortilla. If you'd prefer to make mofleta exactly as it's being made now, in most homes, so use white flour. Your choice.
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in about 1 cup of warm water and set aside. In a large bowl or mixer combine the remaining ingredients. If using a mixer add the flour to the water, and vice versa if mixing by hand. Add half the flour and the salt, mix thoroughly, and then add the yeast mixture, making sure that it has started to bubble. Once a ball of dough has been formed, kneed for roughly ten minutes. Dough should be firm such that it is easily removed from the bowl without sticking to the sides.
Place ball of dough in a large plastic bag, remove air from the bag and tie bag at the top, leaving room for the expansion of the dough. Set aside in a warm spot until dough has doubled in bulk. This may take around 1 1/2 hours. (If you're really in a hurry, an hour is probably sufficient since in any case, we're making flat bread, right?
Break off egg-sized pieces of dough and roll between your palms to form a small ball. Set on the counter to rest as you continue to make balls from the remaining dough. Let balls rest for roughly ten minutes or just a bit more. With a rolling pin, roll out individual balls of dough as thinly as possible. To produce a circular piece of dough, start by rolling out the ball, and then lifting up the dough and rotating it say 9o degrees such that by rolling in a few directions the result will be round as opposed to oblong. I found that working on an un-floured counter worked for me, but if your dough is too sticky to work with, coat the work surface with some flour. Once you've rolled out your dough as thinly as possibly, try pulling and stretching it with your hands to make it as thin as possible. If a few holes form from the dough tearing, not to worry, that's just fine.
Note: I do believe that the traditional way of forming the mofleta is not with a rolling pin, but rather with one's hands. The first time I witnessed mofleta being made, the dough was stretched over the back of a round stainless steel tray, but this is a technique that one needs to witness first hand, and one that I have yet to master.
Heat a large frying pan with just a bit of oil, and carefully lift your round of dough into the pan. Cook on one side for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned, and flip over and cook on the other side for about 1 minute. Traditionally, as one pancake is done, a new one is either slipped under it, or preferably placed on top of the cooked one, and then flipped over together with the previously cooked mofleta providing stability. In this way a stack of say up to 20 mofletas can be made and kept warm in the pan at the same time, which is preferable since once cooled the mofletas tend to harden and are not as delicious.
If preparing a stack seems too difficult (it's really not, give it a try!) keep the mofletas soft by wrapping in a towel and placing in a plastic bag. If necessary reheat in the oven wrapped in foil.
Serve with butter and honey and a nice hot glass of Moroccan mint tea. Accompany with sliced oranges doused with just a bit of rose water and cinnaomon, fresh fruit of any kind, an array of dried fruits and nuts, and some delicious Moroccan cookies from your local bakery. No Moroccan cookies nearby? Substitute with any Middle Eastern dessert like baklava, or even French style pasteries. Enjoy!