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Moroccan Anise Bread
A loaf with a blooming aroma, well-suited to accompany any North African meal. In Algeria, it is known as mattoua.
Total time: 4-5 hours
Dough preparation<: ½ hour
Baking: 40 minutes
Cooling: 45 minutes
¼ cup warm water
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. dry yeast
3-½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter
1-¼ cup milk
2 tbsp. orange flower water
1 tbsp. anise seeds
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. cornmeal

Pour the warm water into a small bowl, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and set aside.

Combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then add the milk and heat until it just barely warms to skin temperature. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the milk and yeast mixtures, orange flower water, anise and sesame seeds. Stir until you have a mass of dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl; add more warm water if necessary, a tablespoon at a time, to make the dough workable.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes or more, until it becomes smooth and elastic. Divide the dough in half, form into balls, and set aside to rest while you lightly butter a bowl. Place one ball of dough into the bowl and work into a cone shape with your hands. Transfer the cone to a baking sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal. Flatten the cone to form a 6" circle with a slightly raised center. Butter the bowl again and repeat the process with the second ball of dough. Cover the loaves with a damp towel and let rise for 2-3 hours, until almost doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Make a pleasing pattern of fork pricks on the upper surface of the bread. Bake for 10 minutes at 400F, then reduce the heat to 300F and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on wire racks for 45 minutes; then serve the ksra warm, cut into wedges.