Himbasha | Ambasha | Ethiopian Celebration Bread

Ehtiopian celebration bread - Himbasha or Ambasah - lightly sweet adn spiced with cardamom
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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..

Ehtiopian celebration bread -  Himbasha or Ambasah - lightly sweet  adn  spiced with cardamom

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.

Why?

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 !

Ehtiopian celebration bread - Himbasha or Ambasah - lightly sweet adn spiced with cardamom

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


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.

Decorating

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.

5 from 1 vote
Ehtiopian celebration bread - Himbasha or Ambasah - lightly sweet adn spiced with cardamom
Ambasha / Himbasha

A delightful bread lightly flavored with cardamom . This celebratory bread is decorated with simple scoring patterns and  seeds.

Cuisine: Ethiopian
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 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
To glaze/decorate
  • 1 -2 Tbsp Milk/Water
  • 1 Tsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
Instructions
  1. 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
  1. 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.
By Hand.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 F .
  5. 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 .
  6. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until done.
  7. This bread is done when it is browned lightly on top.
  8. 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.
Recipe Notes

Use milk instead of water

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!

The Ethiopian and Eritrean Celebration bread lightly sweetened and flavored with cardamom

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    15 thoughts on “Himbasha | Ambasha | Ethiopian Celebration Bread

      1. Thank you! We did an experiment once to see how much salt is needed to kill yeast :-). In a recipe that called for 1 tsp, 1 tbsp retarded it quite a bit. But even there we did not add salt directly to yeast. So I was definitely taken aback to see videos where they were activating yeast in a salted solution.

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