North African countries, and Morocco in particular, are not only known for their refined cuisine, but also for their desserts and pastries. Today, I chose to feature one of them, the thousand-hole crepe also known as baghrir.
What is baghrir?
Baghrir is a Moroccan crepe prepared with semolina flour that has the particularity of being cooked only on one side and that features a multitude of tiny holes on top. It is traditionally drenched in a sauce prepared with butter and honey but can also be topped with olive oil, orange blossom water, sugar, jam, or amlou paste (toasted almonds, argan oil and honey).
What is the origin of baghrir?
Both Moroccans and Algerians actually claim the paternity of this delicious treat. It is probably from both countries, as this ancient recipe takes us all the way back to the Berbers, the native people of North Africa. Baghrir is actually a Tamazight word (Berber language) that means “too soft”.
Baghrir (بـغـريـر) has different names depending on the region or country of origin. In Berber, it is also called edarnan, tibouajajin or tiγrifin (in Kabylia). In the Eastern part of Algeria and in Tunisia, it’s called ghrayef.
Baghrir variants around the world
Similar crepes are also known throughout the Middle-East as atayef or katayef, although this version is filled with walnuts, dates, shredded coconut or even cheese, after being cooked and before being deep-fried.
Depending on where the baghrir comes from, there will be various traditional toppings. In the region of Algiers, it is often drizzled with orange blossom and cinnamon. In Kabylia, it is topped with olive oil and sugar. In the Southern Algerian province of Ghardaïa as well as in Kabylia, there is a savory version of baghrir where several crepes are stacked and filled with tomatoes and onion, as well as meat or kadid (salted dried meat).
Somalians and Yemenites make lahoh, a cornmeal and wheat flour bread. Both of these breads also feature a multitude of tiny holes. They are much lighter and larger than baghrirs though. They are prepared daily and used as bread to accompany various dishes like zigni or doro wat in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Lahoh can be used as a basis for a Yemenite recipe called shafout that is very popular during the period of Ramadan.
The recipe for modern baghrir calls for yeast, which was probably not included in the traditional recipe. Indeed, women prepared the batter ahead of time and let it rest for hours, allowing it to ferment to create the bubbles that would help generate all those inimitable tiny holes.
I made those baghrirs for breakfast, and the kids loved them. Of course, they had to put their favorite toppings, including Nutella and maple syrup, and could not care less for my delicious clarified butter, honey and orange blossom concoction. Oh well, it’s ok, my friend Yasmina and I made them for our Moroccan cooking class and we definitely enjoyed them with this deliciously decadent syrup.
- 2 cups fine semolina flour
- 2 to 2-½ cups water (depending on semolina flour)
- 1 tablespoons active dry yeast
- A pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter (or ghee)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- Mix 1 cup of lukewarm water with the sugar and yeast and let froth for a few minutes.
- In a blender, mix 1 cup water, semolina, orange blossom water (optional) and salt. Then, add the yeast mixture and blend really well. Add more water if necessary to obtain a somewhat liquid batter, similar to a crepe's batter.
- Let stand for 30 minutes.
- Heat a nonstick pan on medium/high heat and pour some of the mixture in the center of the pan. Tiny holes should form really quickly. Cook on one side for about 2 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the honey and orange blossom water.
- Pour over your baghrir once ready to serve.