Holy bread

It may seem strange to some of you not familiar with the Near East to be eating holy bread as a snack, but here  it is sold in grocery stores as well as used in religious service; I am starving, having spent all day driving around; I walked into the grocery store in town, which also doubles as internet café and video rental joint and was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of bags and bags of this holy bread, the fragrance of rose water and mahlab wafting through and calling me.

I am in Deir el-Qamar, a required stop-over for buses filled with tourists  visiting the Chouf mountains and our family’s summer retreat; deir meaning convent and qamar meaning moon (the convent or monastery of the moon).

My cousin Andrew is landing later tonight from London; and I am going to attend a party organized by  the local Greek-Catholics of this town; (this small town of about 5000 counts churches of every denomination, mosques and probably a synagogue).

This is a recipe I posted already here.


  • 6  cups of flour
  • 1 1/2  cups of sugar
  • 4  tablespoons of butter, soft (optional)
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons  of dry  yeast, 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 pebbles of mastic, ground with a teaspoon of sugar in a marble mortar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon mahlab (can substitute ground anise, or cinnamon)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/8 cup orange blossom water
  • 1/8 cup of rose water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Proof the yeast in 1/4 cup of water warmed at 110F and a dash of sugar.
  2. Mix the flour with the sugar, mahlab, ground mastic, nutmeg, dash of salt and baking powder.
  3. Add the rose and blossom water in a small container.  Measure the milk and let it sit at room temperature or make sure it is not too cold. Ideally, you want it at 110F.
  4. Place the flour mixture in a mixing bowl and add the yeast, milk and rose water mixture and mix the  dough until  smooth. Let it rest one hour.
  5. Divide the risen dough into small balls. Let them rise 2 hours.
  6. Shape the balls into flattened disks and  let rise one hour.
  7. Sift a thin layer of flour on the disks and press the mold firmly on each disk.
  8. With a toothpick, poke each disk 5 times all around to help prevent it swelling up while baking. (5 times to symbolize Christ who was nailed 5 times to the cross)
  9. Let the disks rest and  preheat the oven to  400F  or you can also use your gas grill, making sure the disks are placed on a heavy-bottomed sheet.
  10. Bake the bread for 10 minutes or so until golden.

NOTE: This bread is called qurban in Lebanese, pronounced urbane.

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  1. Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Dear, I love your bread! never I seen before, look nice! thanks by sharing, gloria

  2. Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve been away for awhile but I’ve been keeping up with your posts. You have one lucky family! Your apricot jam and the shrimp on phyllo look delicious. Everything does. I really love the photos in this post. They pull at my heart strings and I’m not sure why – maybe I need to take a visit. Look forward to more of your posts. :)

  3. Monique
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I have just discovered your website, and I love it!!!! Thank you for the wonderful recipes, and all the memories they bring to me (sorry for my English… I speak more French).

  4. Posted June 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I have never heard and seen this bread, looks great..

  5. Posted June 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    This qurban looks very good! Love that spiced combo of mahlab and rose water. Looking great!

  6. Posted June 26, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Love traveling with you, Joumana. The holy bread looks divine and the floral flavors must be wonderful. Very interesting bread recipe; I’ve never seen anything like it.

    I am picturing you in your photos! Such fun!

  7. Posted June 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, this bread looks like “artos” (meaning bread in Greek) or “prosphoro” (meaning offering) the bread used for Holy communion. I am a bit confused by Greek-Catholic, as Greeks are Orthodox. Is there a community of Greeks who are Catholic?
    Can someone go to Chouf mountains by teleferique? I remember seeing a documentary with a very beautiful trip by teleferique going up to the mountains and the scenery was very beautiful.

  8. Posted June 26, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    j’aime beaucoup ces pains et l’eau de rose doit donner un parfum très subtil…
    j’ai un tampon presque identique en bois pour marquer le pain..Bonne soirée.

  9. Posted June 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    merci pour ce voyage et ses photos magnifique, ton pain est merveilleux , j’aime beaucoup la recette, bisou chef joumana

  10. Posted June 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    We make holy bread-we call it artos- either and take it to church for the priest to bless it and then we give it to the people who attend the ceremony. I love mahlepi as we call it and I use it in tsoureki which is kind of sweet bread.

  11. Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Joumana…you’re certainly taking full advantage of taking in everything I can only assume you’ve been missing;o)
    What a charming area you’re galivanting around.
    About those breads…you just gave me an idea…How about stamping the ‘His’ and ‘Hers’…do you think that would be marketable??? Alright, sorry…no disrespect of course…just poking a little fun;o)
    Very interesting recipe including one of my favourite aromas of orange water.
    Keep having yourself a great time.
    Ciao for now, Claudia

  12. Posted June 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Your pictures are beautiful. I am so envious of your trip. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Posted June 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Such a gorgeous looking bread! Thanks for sharing!

  14. SYLVIA
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    This bread reminds me of Choreg, an Armenian Easter bread, a sacred tradition during the Easter week. made with aromatic mastic gum and mahleb, the seed of the black cherry, that’s used in ground form, the bread is great with coffee or tea. I will try it with orange and rose water next time.
    Joumana, I love the mountain that you are visiting, surrounded by woods of comforting evergreen, It looks so peaceful.

  15. Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Perfectly baked and yummy bread, thanks for sharing

  16. Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh Joumana – How I love this bread! It is on my to make list. Thank you for taking me on a journey with you through your country ;)

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  17. Posted June 27, 2010 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    hey, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry! the rose and orange blossom waters must add so much to this special bread.

  18. Posted June 27, 2010 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Oh no, hungry in the car with no snacks! Dangerous…I love how you post so many things I’ve never even heard of, it shakes me out of my jaded complacency ;P

  19. Posted June 27, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Beautiful sites.The bread must smell so good with that hint of blossom water :D

  20. Posted June 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The bread is very nice, as are the pictures.

    I have heard about mahlab, but I have never tried it :)

  21. Posted June 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    What a charming town! More pics like these, please!

  22. Posted June 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Jolie recette de petits pains, d’après la liste d’ingrédients, ca doit être un peu sucré, non? j’essaie de m’imaginer leur parfum, et je crois que l’eau de fleur d’oranger doit vraiment leur donner une petite touche très agréable. Superbes photos!

  23. Posted June 27, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    carbs- i love them in all forms- and why not have them as a treat? and what a gorgeous place you are in, Joumana- a crossroads of all the major religions- that truly is the beauty of Lebanon. x shayma

  24. Posted June 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been remiss in my reading and am only now catching up. This bread is beautiful. I love the mold. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful and intriguing. I need a trip to Lebanon and Cyprus.
    I have everything to make these except…mastic. I’ll be shopping tomorrow.

  25. Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Hey Joumana, this bread looks very interesting. I lovet he print on it aswell. I have never seen it before like this. You look like you are having a real enjoyable trip around Lebanon! Enjoy it!!!!

  26. Posted June 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    never had this kind of bread..sounds interesting and delicious recipe to me..enjoy reading your post..thanks for sharing this!

  27. Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I remember this recipe! What an amazing & beautiful place … your posts just make me want to visit more and more.

  28. Posted June 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I love the little symbol stamped into the dough. All in all it sounds like a great snack!

  29. Posted June 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful place, thank you for sharing your trip. The bread sounds really delicious.

  30. Posted June 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    This holy bread is new to me and it looks so delicious! I see you have substitutes for mahlab but mastic is one ingredient that I’m not sure where I’ll find here. It would certainly be worth the effort to find it and try this!

  31. Posted June 29, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful village in the photo… I get so inspired in such places. It is truly amazing to walk where so many before us have passed. Beautiful. Would love to see more.

  32. Dhoolly
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    When I moved to Lebanon a few years back, I first lived down the “Hôtel Dieu” part of town. I used to grab some of those in the morning in the Bakery in front of my bulding, and it would just make any morning beautiful.

    Yeslamo idayki!

  33. Joumana
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    @Dhoolly: Tekram 3einak!

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