Moroccan Anise Bread
In the steep stone lanes of the Fez medina (the old town and bazaar area) around eleven in the morning, it's easy to find the bakeries: Just follow the children who are carrying flat cloth-covered trays on their heads. Under the cloths are low rounds of dough made at home, ready to be baked in the neighborhood oven. Then, sometime between noon and one, the children head back to the bakery to pick up the warm loaves, called k'sra, and take them home for the family midday meal.
3 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup coarse semolina (not fine semolina) plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon anise seeds
1 tablespoon salt
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
Put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Stir to dissolve it, then stir in the whole wheat flour. Add the semolina and stir in, then stir for about a minute to make a very smooth batter. Set aside, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours, whatever is convenient.
Sprinkle on the anise and salt, then add 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Try to incorporate only a little extra flour, so the dough stays moist and fairly soft. Set aside in a clean bowl or on a floured work surface, well covered with plastic wrap, to rise for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until about doubled.
When ready to proceed, knead the dough briefly on a floured surface, then cut into 4 pieces. Shape each into a ball, then flatten under your palm to a round about 6 inches across. Press on the dough with your fingertips to flatten it further. Dust a surface with semolina and put the breads on it, cover with plastic, and proof for 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, place baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, (or a baking sheet) on a rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place one bread on a peel (or the back of a baking sheet) dusted with semolina flour. Prick the top about 10 times with a fork. Transfer to the hot stone or tiles (or baking sheet). Repeat with the remaining breads--you may need to bake the breads in two batches, but don't worry; the second batch can sit longer with no ill effects. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Lift out one bread and tap on the bottom; it should sound hollow.
Place the breads on a rack to cool, covered with a cloth so the crust softens. Serve cut into 4 wedges each.
Large Moroccan Flatbreads: To make larger breads, divide the dough into only 2 pieces. Each bread will be 11 or 12 inches in diameter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (Makes 2 flatbreads.)