There is a delightful tradition in the Middle-East called sobhiyeh, (meaning morning), which means a morning get-together. Our neighbors in the Chouf mountains would often invite us to a sobhiyeh (and we would reciprocate) and this would always entail cups of Turkish coffee being served and lots of pastries (savory and sweet) and of course, lots and lots of banter (and gossip). Usually, only women would be present.
May Bsisu in her The Arab Table, refers to this tradition and how she used to be invited to sobhiyeh in Kuwait with other women; how each one would try to outdo the other by producing a new and delicious pastry.
Mrs. Bsisu came up with the idea of a pull-away cheese roll for one of her sobhiyeh. Here it is, adapted.
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1/2 cup of powdered milk
- Dash of salt
- 1 egg
- 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 cup of oil
- Olive oil, as needed
Cheese Filling ingredients:
- 1 package of halloumi or akkawi cheese or mozzarella (8 ounces)
- 1 package of shredded swiss or any cheese of your choice (8 ounces)
- a few tablespoons of minced herbs such as parsley (optional)
- a few tablespoons of nigella or sesame seeds
- Place the yeast and sugar in a small bowl; stir and add 1/4 cup of warm water; place somewhere warm and let the yeast proof.
- Combine the flours, powdered milk and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Add the proofed yeast mixture, the oil, egg, and the rest of the warm water and mix till the dough becomes compact and not too sticky. Roll the dough in oil, cover and place in a warm place for one hour or so till doubled in size.
- To desalt the haloumi and akkawi cheese, soak in cool water; rinse after 15 minutes and repeat the process three or four times until the saltiness is gone; dry the cheeses and grate. Mix with the other cheese and the herbs and set aside.
- Deflate the dough and shape into ropes; cut each rope into smallish egg-size balls and take each egg and flatten it to enclose one tablespoon of cheese mixture. Fold it well and set aside. Grease a 10 inch pan and place the cheese-filled balls side by side. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame or nigella seeds and let the balls rest for 30 minutes.
- Bake in a 400F oven for about 25 minutes until they are pale gold and baked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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