Himbasha or Ambasaha is a Ethiopian/Eritrean celebration bread. It is lightly sweet and flavored with spices, usually cardamom. Just perfect for a light snack paired with a mug of Ethiopian coffee..
As part of the eat the world challenge we are recreating dishes from Ethiopia this month. If you haven’t had Ethiopian meal – you are missing an experience. Ethiopian food is known for its spicy dishes and abundance of vegetables and lentils. And yet I choose a dish that has neither of these.
It all comes down to timing – every year around X’mas I try to find a new celebratory bread to make. What better than a celebration bread from Ethiopia !
In essence this is a cardamom bread. What makes it special is the decorative way it is shaped. I have seen a few delightfully decorated loaves and mine comes nowhere close. What it lacks in decorative arena, it makes up in taste. I was hoping to save some for breakfast, it barely survived tea time. … And no second or third time is not a charm either .
More celebration breads
- Pane Di Pasqua – Italian Easter Bread
- Finnish Pulla Wreath – A lovely cardamom flavored bread
- Kozunak – Bulgarian Easter Bread
- Hot Cross Buns – Spiced Fruit Filled Easter Bread
- Lucia Rolls – Sweadish Saffron Buns
Yeast and salt
I browsed through a few recipes (google and local libraries are great resources) before coming up with this. Being a baker who values sour dough and natural yeast more than packaged versions, I found most recipes to be ‘ way too yeasty’. Even the recipe here has the absolute maximum amount of yeast I could go for. I am sure reducing it by a 1/3 will do just fine .
That aside many recipes use yeast and salt together at the activating stage. These two are not something you throw in together and expect magic to happen. Sure salt has an important role, other than flavoring, in bread making, but direct exposure to salt kills the yeast. May be that is the reason many recipes use large amounts of yeast. That is an experiment for another day.
As a baker
- I would not recommend using salt and yeast together.
- Use warm water to activate yeast
- Use high protein all purpose flour or bread flour to make this bread
- Use unbleached , un-bromated , preferably organic flour.
This is a round loaf of bread, decorated by scoring. As I was scoring it I realized something – it is not just decoration , but a way to ensure that the loaf rises evenly as well. Unlike my rustic breads this is not scored using a thin sharp blade , but rather using a dull instrument like dinner knife. You are making indentations on the surface of the loaf but nor really breaking the gluten structure.
Nigella seeds are another traditional flavoring found in this bread. I have used white sesame seeds, but black sesame seeds will work as well.
Ambasha / Himbasha
- 3 ½ C AP Flour unbleached
- 1 C water
- ¼ C Oil
- ½ Tsp Salt
- ¼ C Sugar
- 2 ¼ Tsp Active Dry yeast 1 pkt or 7 g
- ½ Tsp Crushed cardamom
- 2 Tsp Sesame seeds
- 1 -2 Tbsp Milk/Water
- 1 Tsp Sesame Seeds
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- Warm the water until it is just warm to touch. Take ¼ C water and add 1 Tbsp sugar to it. Stir to dissolve and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until the yeast begin to froth.
Using the stand mixer
- Add the activated yeast mix into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the flour , salt , sugar, sesame seeds and crushed cardamom to it. Fit the machine with the dough hook and stir the mix to combine. Adjust the speed to knead at low and add the water slowly to the bowl. Within a minute of kneading the dough will come together. If needed add a few more tablespoons of water/flour as required. Once the dough has come together slowly drizzle the oil and knead for addition 3 to 4 minutes until the dough feel smooth.
- Combine the flour, salt , sugar, spices , and seeds together. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and add the activated yeast mix. Knead by slowly incorporating the dry mix into the wet mix. Add as much of the remaining water as necessary . Once all the flour has been moistened knead in the oil little by little. Keep kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough feel soft and supple.
- Lightly oil a large bow. Form the dough into a smooth ball and place in the bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until it is doubled in size.
- Lightly grease the insides of a 9 inch spring form pan ( any circular pan you are using). Punch down the dough and shape into a disc. Place inside the pan and press and shape to fit the pan. Cover and let it rise till almost doubled – about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F .
- Uncover the dough. Using a dinner knife make decorative patterns all over the top of the bread. Do not cut through. Lightly brush the top with water/milk . Sprinkle sesame seeds on top .
- Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until done.
- This bread is done when it is browned lightly on top.
- Remove from the oven, brush the top with butter and let it cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Check out all the wonderful Ethiopian dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
- Juli: Misir Wot – Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew
- Sue: Ethiopian Beef Tibs
- Amy:Buticha – Ethiopian Hummus
- Evelyne:Flavor-Packed Ethiopian Shekla Tibs
- Lynda:Tikel Gomen (Ethiopian Cabbage & Potatoes)
- Wendy: Doro Wat and Atkilt
- Camilla: Ye’abesha Gomen (Ethiopian Collard Greens)
- Margaret: An Ethiopian Meal with Misir Wat, Signi Wat, Gomen Wat, and Speedy Injera Flatbread