Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Sorj Experience

The other day Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial did a post on her new chapatti pan and how she originally wanted a Sorj but got a chapatti pan and even though it isn't a Sorj she still loves it (are you still with me?).

Now, I worked in a bakery for 10 years so I know all about the different tins we westerners bake our bread in, not so much about other tools/pans/implements used around the world but thanks to Celia I now know what a Sorj.  Not an upturned, biggest-wok-I've-ever-seen at all, but a traditional Lebanese bread maker!  Now I know.  And, best of all, I've seen one in action, with my very own two eyes!

[cue story]

Two years ago now the LOML and I were travelling the world and living it up a little.  Well, as much as you can live it up when you're travelling light and not-so-cashed-up.  

Anyway, we ended up in Lebanon and found the LOML's family up in the mountains using only a village name and a vague idea of actually where in Lebanon it was - but that's a whole other story for another are some pictures to set the scene...

Looks like a postcard doesn't it?  It was like this everywhere I looked - amazing!

Once we had been with the family for a few days, we were taken early one morning around to the LOML's aunt's house to see how she went about making the flat breads which she would sell in the village.  She had tried for the last six or so years to retire from the bread making, being that it is an all-night vigil in order to have fresh breads for morning and she is not a young woman anymore, but the village would not let her retire, so here she was at 4 in the morning kneading dough and cooking the most delicious, crusty-crackly flat breads you could possibly imagine.

True, she had been up for hours doing this and was nearing the end of the dough balls when we arrived but, without breaking stride - knead, roll, flip, flop, bake...repeat, she had a traditional breakfast feast pulled out for us to eat (labneh, tomatoes, olive oil, hummus) with the freshest of fresh, piping hot flat breads all while watching her work her magic.

And it was magic.

Watching her hands move with a confidence that comes from a lifetime of doing a task - shaping the dough into a flattish round with patting motions on a floured stone, then picking it up and twirling it around and around her hands like they do in the best Italian pizza restaurants but thinner, way thinner, until it was almost translucent and then flipping it onto a floured cushion to rest for a minute or two while the bread on the hot Sorj baked, before carefully flipping the rested flatbread onto the now empty Sorj to bake for a minute on one side, then flipping to the other side for even less time and then gently lifting it off to the pile of freshly baked breads already done. 


An experience I will never forget.


  1. That's it! I want one of those! That looks like it's gas powered, is that right Shelley? I can't believe how even and thin all that bread is. Did she use the big pillow in the bottom photo to slap the dough onto the sorj?

  2. Hi Celia - it is gas powered - it looked like a camping stove getup that could be manoeuvred under the sorj. The pillow was used to slap the dough onto the hotplate and then the bread was delicately lifted by hand to flip it and then take it off. The water bottle in the bottom photo had a couple of little holes punched in the lid and it was used to shake water onto the fresh cooked bread once it joined the rest of the pile (I think to keep it soft as it cooled). Once cooled, the breads were folded in quarters and packaged for sale in the village. Amazing!


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