When Hasan al-Basri was asked whether sadaqa was better than recitation of the Qur'an, he related the tradition: "A piece of bread and a handful of dates given in alms is more beneficial than reciting the Qur'an a thousand times."
Turkish Bayram Bread
Not to be confused with the pocket bread, pide is a sweet round loaf fragrant with sesame and fennel.
Total time: 5 hours
Dough preparation: ½ hourCooling: 1+ hours
Cooling: 1+ hours
1 cup warm water, at skin temperature
2 tsp. yeast
3 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. butter
¾ cup milk
4-¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. sesame seeds
1-½ tsp. fennel seeds
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then stir in the milk and sugar and warm to skin temperature.
Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, then pour in all of the liquid ingredients. Stir until the mixture forms a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or more, until the dough is smooth and resilient. Clean out the mixing bowl, butter it lightly, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let rise for 1-½ hours.
Punch down the dough, knead it briefly, then form it into a tight ball. Place the ball in the center of a lightly buttered 12" round baking dish, then flatten the dough until it covers all but 1" around the edge of the dish. Cover with a clean damp towel and let rise again for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Beat together the egg and milk, then gently brush it over the surface of the dough, the sides as well as the top. (Save any excess egg wash for another project.) Evenly sprinkle the sesame and fennel seeds over the dough, and pat them down gently with dry hands so that they will adhere to the egg wash. (Be careful not to deflate the dough. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make several shallow cuts in a pleasing pattern over the surface of the bread.
Bake the loaf for 40 minutes, or until it turns a golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
from Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook