የገብስ ሓበሻ ድፎ ዳቦ (Habesha - Defo Dabo) Barley Traditional Ethiopian Homemade Bread

The traditional home baked bread (ሓበሻ ድፎ ዳቦ - habesha dabo) is moist, tender and hearty, only if it's done right. Meaning - No Rush! Because of the low gluten content in barley grains, barley flour baking demands a bit more attention than wheat flour baking,

Since this comfort food extraordinaire was steam baked wrapped in enset leaves (false banana plant) for hours at a very low heat; its distinct flavor was enhanced by the infused aroma of the enset leaves as well as by the mild sour nuance of the wild yeast (irsho - እርሾ).

Back in the days, ingredients for habesha dabo were just whole grain wheat and barley flour, salt, water and (እርሾirsho) (wild yeast). I remember dembelal (tiny aromatic seeds), and tikur azmood (Ethiopian black cumin) were also added to the dough. Although sugar and oil were not added the habesha dabo was still yummy.

I tried to recreate the habesha dabo enjoyed growing up and I am happy with the outcome. The heavenly aroma of this freshly baked habesha dabo (on display) right out of the oven always takes me on a priceless and sweet journey down memory lane.

See, back then, the habesha dabo was baked only on special occasions. It was huge with a diameter of about 2 to 3 feet. Yeah, you can feed an army with that.

Baking the traditional habesha dabo was a labor of love. It was also time-consuming but it was worth it. 

Have you ever wondered, back then in the good old’ days, why the traditional habesha dabo took almost 24 hours, sometimes even more to make?

Here are some pointers:

  • As there was no dry active or rapid yeast available, the women were left at the mercy of the wild yeast.
  • The process would begin a day before to develop the wild yeast.
  • The following day they mix all the ingredients and wait for the dough to rise.
  • Then, they would prepare the special, round clay baking tub with Enset leaves covering the inside, ready to wrap the dough top to bottom when it is poured in.
  • After ensuring that the dough is fully covered and will not burn before baking through – it is topped with a slight cone-like metal sheet as shown in the picture.
  • After the long wait for the disturbed dough to rise a second time, a fire is lighted using wood and dried cow dung for fuel.
  • The roaring flame is allowed to burn down before most of the embers are distributed to the top of the metal sheet. The dough bakes, as the embers slowly die down; a natural timer – when set correctly.

Knowing the balance of fire fuel to dough amount is what sets apart the “untried” girls from the “real” women. There was no way of knowing, if the habesha dabo was ready except by the smell of fresh baked bread wrapped in the now crisp Enset leaves.

The fires were usually set around 4pm and when the evening would come, the heavenly smell of the habesha dabo baked over an open fire, would announce that it was done.

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