Hanukkah kubanah with fig jam (pull-apart Middle Eastern bread)

Time 5 hours
Yields Serves 8
Hanukkah kubanah with fig jam (pull-apart Middle Eastern bread)
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until the yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes.


If the jam has pieces of fruit, remove them and cut them into small pieces, about one-fourth inch, and then return them to the jam.


In a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon, or in the bowl of a stand mixer using a dough hook, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar, the jam, the salt, 5 tablespoons oil and hot water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.


Add 1 cup flour and stir until the ingredients are blended. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add the remaining 2 cups flour and mix until a dough is formed. If the dough becomes difficult to stir with a wooden spoon, finish mixing the ingredients with your hand; the dough will be soft and sticky.


Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkling a little flour on the dough and on the work surface as necessary, until the dough is very smooth and hardly sticks to the work surface but is still soft, about 10 minutes.


Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat it on all sides with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened cloth, and set aside in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 1 hour.


Knead the dough briefly in the bowl for 1 or 2 minutes, then set aside to rise again until nearly double, 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften. Cut each piece (about 1 tablespoon) into 2, one larger (2 teaspoons) than the other (1 teaspoon).


Generously butter a deep 2-quart baking dish. Lightly oil a work surface with olive oil. Lightly knead the dough and put it on the work surface. With a heavy knife, cut the dough into 8 pieces. Put them on an oiled plate and cover them with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened cloth.


Oil a rolling pin lightly with olive oil. Roll out one piece of dough on the oiled work surface to a 7-inch square, roughly one-eighth-inch thick.


Take a larger piece (2 teaspoons) of the softened butter, and smear it over the dough piece. With a pastry brush, dab the dough with olive oil. Roll up the dough as in making a jelly roll or cinnamon rolls, pressing firmly; the dough will be shaped like a rope.


Flatten the rope by tapping it firmly with your knuckles until it measures about 7 by 2 inches. Take one of the smaller pieces (1 teaspoon) of butter and smear it over the dough.


Roll the flattened dough rope up tightly into a spiral. Place it in the baking dish with its spiral side facing up. Continue shaping the remaining pieces of dough, placing them one next to the other in the dish. Put a piece of buttered foil directly on the surface of the dough, folding it over the sides of the baking dish. Cover with a tight lid and set aside while heating the oven.


Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Bake the bread until it is golden brown, about 2 hours and 50 minutes to 3 hours; its internal temperature should be about 200 degrees when done.


Turn the bread over onto a plate or platter. Serve the bread hot or warm.

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