Bread baked over fire

Posted on February 4, 2011


There is something about the Western Galilee that enchants me.  The landscape is so rugged and pristine,  and it seems like the spirits of Crusaders are still hovering in the air.  There are villages here that are particularly isolated from mainstream Israeli life, and one of them is Fassuta.  It is populated by Christian Arabs and is small, compact and very orderly.  I have had the tremendous good fortune to develop an acquaintance and friendship with a family there, who has shared with me the traditional foodways they practice.

Early yesterday morning, I drove up north to get to Fassuta in time to join the older generation of women who were baking bread –  every other week they bake, and distribute to all the members of the family.  The flour is made from locally grown wheat – either what they grow on their own using seeds that have been in their family for generations, or what they buy from neighbors – and which they take to the mill. 

I joined Angel and her sister in law in a small, smoky room on the side of the house where the baking is done – a fire was going underneath a “saj” – upon which they were baking what is usually called “Druze pita” – and what they called “enrif”.

Early that morning they had prepared the dough and rolled it into about 200 balls – enough bread for Angel to distribute to her four daughters and their families and her brother’s family.   Her brother will only eat bread cooked over a wood fire. 


Sitting on the floor facing each other, with their legs outstretched, Angel patted out the balls of dough into disks, then passed them to her sister-in-law, who twirled them thin and huge and patted them onto a blue pillow. 

Using the pillow, she flipped the dough onto the hot saj and Angel arranged it with her bare hands. 

We chatted about baking and they told me that making bread in the winter is so much easier.  You use more yeast than in the summer, but the heat of the stove, which in summer dictates baking at 4 AM, makes the work cozy and pleasant.  According to an old saying, they told me, bakers in the winter don’t need to get paid – the heat from the oven is compensation enough.


what we ate with the fresh elrif