Morocco: A Visit to a Mountain Berber Village

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Morocco with a National Geographic Expedition was our visit to a traditional Berber village in the High Atlas Mountains. The Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco. National Geographic arranged the visit through American Peace Corps volunteers who acted as our facilitators, ambassadors, and translators.

After traveling through the mountains on a narrow highway fraught with hairpin curves, our bus arrived at the base of the village. As the Peace Corps volunteers walked us up the unpaved road and into the heart of village, there was so much to take in: red clay houses — outfitted  with electricity and satellite dishes — whose color matches the red of the surrounding hills; the village mosque; the man screening earth; the woman with the captivating smile, sweeping leaves.

Read on to see these photos and learn about how the Berber women bake bread

Fast Food in Marrakech

Street food in Marrakech, Morocco has quite a reputation. Now, I am delighted to say, I understand why. During our two days here, Jay and I sampled some of the wonderful offerings at the Jemaa el Fna, the huge square in the Medina, the walled old city.

This woman fries pieces of flattened yeasted dough on a griddle. Drizzled with honey and rolled up… a fantastic treat for two dirhams (about 25 cents).

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Banana Crumb Bread

For this banana bread, inspired by my all-time favorite from The Moosewood Cookbook, I replaced a portion of the flour with fine dry bread crumbs. The crumbs I used were from a slightly sweet oatmeal molasses bread, but any crumbs should work if your banana is good and ripe.

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Cinnamon-Raisin Sourdough Bagels

There’s been a lot of bagel-making going on around here. More about that in a later post. These cinnamon-raisin bagels are a lot like the blueberry bagels, only with raisins. And cinnamon. Go figure.

And speaking of figures — at 85 grams, these bagels a little smaller than the 100-gram ones I’ve been doing recently. The missing 15 grams doesn’t seem to make the bagel appreciably smaller, but if I’m eating one every day (and I might be), those eliminated grams should eliminate more than three pounds from my waistline over the course of a year.

I guessed at how much cinnamon to add to the dough. It wasn’t a bad guess, but if you like your bagels really cinnamon-y, I think you could double the amount and still be in the ballpark. The bagelpark? Whatever.

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Open Sesame

The inspiration for this seeded bread came from Pain de Beaucaire, which uses a unique shaping technique to create a rustic, bran-speckled fissure in the loaf with no slashing required. Here, the bran is replaced with black sesame seeds, for a nutty flavor and dramatic presentation. Sandwiched between two slurry-slathered layers of dough, the seeds cause the loaf to open down the middle.

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This month the Bread Baking Babes were all about shaping our loaves into leaves and ladders, as Elizabeth directed us to use our favorite bread dough for fougasse. These breads are shaped into flat-ish ovals and cut either before the final proof or just before baking. The payoff is maximal surface area (crust!) and something different for the table.

Fougasse often has cheese, herbs, or other additions in the dough or on top, but I kept it simple and used plain old (and by “plain old” I mean my very favorite) Norwich Sourdough. I cut my ovals after proofing (just before baking) with a small rigid plastic dough scraper. After baking I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with Kosher salt. A nice accompaniment to early fall vegetable soup.

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