There is this young lady that goes by the name Alia. Bless her soul, this gal is both an enthusiastic cook and a savage eater. She is absolutely hilarious and has such an amazing, energized style that it makes you want to track her down and give her a big hug. I don’t follow things on youtube much but Her Channel is worth checking out and, if you like her style, subscribing to; she typically has interesting things going on. In addition to having a super cool attitude, she has a bunch of great Moroccan recipes that, I would assume are pretty authentic.
I was fascinated when I saw her video on a type of bread called Harcha. Simply had to make them. After slaving away for about…I don’t know, less than half an hour, I had a fresh batch of these suckers to go with dinner. Style wise, they lie somewhere between a chunk of shortbread and a biscuit. The heartiness of the pan toasted semolina and the richness of the butter makes a great platform for a wide variety of spreads and toppings. They are really simple, really rich, really fast to make, and not at all good for you. Yay! We served ours with some triple cream brie just in case the hefty 230 calories and 3.3 g of fat in each harcha wasn’t enough. Ate some lamb with them too in order to further boost that fat count for the week.
After taking some time to recover, I am finally getting around to writing something up about these breads, simply because they are too incredibly good to be ignored. As Alia makes clear in her video, “This is not a diet recipe, people”. That said, there is really nothing unhealthy in them, at least to my way of thinking. To me, as long as something is made from real, natural ingredients and you consume with some form of common-sense moderation, you are generally good to go. Strategically, it is good to know that a piece of harcha is calorically dense enough that it can easily, once a topping is applied, account for half the calories that you should be eating in a single meal. This simply means that you only get one. Make it count. Luckily, the amount of butter that they pack makes them very satisfying; one is probably all you will want.
Assembly of the harcha is really simply. Mix the dry ingredients together, add the melted butter and thoroughly incorporate it, then stir in the milk to moisten. Like most things that you cook with semolina, you need to rest the dough in order to let the semolina hydrate, so give it a quick knead and set it aside for at least 5 minutes. I found that it was easy to form rounds inside a large cookie cutter. Doing this on parchment paper definitely makes transferring the rounds to the skillet easy.
In order to cook the rounds, heat a heavy skillet to a medium-high heat and then turn the heat down. You need to cook these relatively slowly in order to get the semolina on the interior to cook fully without scorching them. Once your transfer the round to the skillet, leave it alone for a bit to let it brown. The semolina dough is quite fragile until it “sets” during cooking, so keep this in mind while you check it and when you flip it to brown the other side. Once browned to your satisfaction, transfer the harcha to a rack to cool completely. Unless quite cool, they are difficult to slice, as they will crumble.
Although we ate ours smeared with cheese for dinner, Alia is not kidding when she says they work for just about any meal, any topping. I can easily see a harcha with jam serving as a stand-alone breakfast. Similarly, stuffed with cream cheese and sliced tomatoes would make a lovely lunch. I look forward to incorporating this bread into our standard cooking regime. Thanks Alia!
- 1½ cups semolina
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- 7 Tbs. butter (melted)
- ~1/2 cup milk
- Place semolina in medium bowl and mix in sugar, salt, and baking powder.
- Pour melted butter into bowl and mix well, at first with a spoon, then with hands, until well incorporated. Add milk and lightly knead in bowl. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes.
- Form into about 3 to 4 inch cakes approximately ½" to 1" in thickness using a cooking cutter or similar. Forming on parchment will help in transferring to the skillet for cooking.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, turn down to low. Transfer rounds to pan and cook until browned, flip and brown other side.
- Transfer to plate and allow to cool fully prior to cutting.