Rghaif is a primitive form of pastry, sometimes served with honey and butter for breakfast, sometimes coated with confectioners' sugar, sometimes stuffed with almonds, or, best of all to a Moroccan, stuffed with spicy preserved meat, khelea. It bears a certain resemblance to the much finer French pâte feuilletée, in which firm butter is folded into pastry in complicated ways to build up many fine, thin butter layers, or "flakes." Actually rghaif is made with either oil or melted butter, which is spread over dough that is only folded in three twice. I should mention that for me rghaif can be very good if served hot, but quite ordinary and tough when cold.
Miklee is the kind of rghaif served most often for breakfast. If the dough is properly worked, these airy pancakes can be quite good.
1/2 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3-1/2 cups flour (approximately), preferably bread or strudel flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sweet butter
1/2 cup honey
Small and large mixing bowls
Electric beater with dough hook (optional)
Formica or marble workspace, at least 20 x 20 inches, or gsaa Heavy cast-iron skillet
Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup sugared lukewarm water. Stir to dissolve and set in a warm place for 10 minutes, until bubbly.
Mix the flour with the salt and make a well in the center. Pour in the bubbling yeast and enough lukewarm water to make a soft ball of dough. Knead the dough well, adding more water if kneading becomes difficult. (The dough, at first, should be sticky and soft, but after a good 20 minutes of kneading it should become highly elastic and smooth. If you have an electric beater with a dough book attachment, set it on slow speed and knead about 10 minutes.)
Lightly grease your hands, the working space, and the dough with oil. With thumb and forefinger, squeeze off small balls of dough about the size of large prunes. Coat each ball with oil. Take the first ball and pat down to a disk shape. Flatten with the oiled palms and fingers of both bands, stretching the disk as you flatten it. If you have kneaded the dough well (until it is very elastic), it will practically slide outwards. Avoid tearing the dough as it becomes paper thin, and try to keep it consistently thin.
Stretch out the dough to a paper-thin rectangle 10 x 9 inches, then coat with oil. Fold the ends of rectangles so they meet in the center. Turn halfway and fold again. Pat down slightly with oiled fingers. Set aside and repeat with the other balls of dough.
Fill the skillet to a depth of 3/4 inches with oil and heat. Press the "package" out a bit and slip it into the pan. Fry the first package in oil until it puffs and its bottom becomes golden brown. Spoon a little hot oil over the top, then turn it over and continue frying for 1 minute. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve warm, with butter and honey.
Working time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: A few minutes for each miklee
Yield: makes 18 (approximately)