If you decide to make this traditional Ethiopian bread, your life will be changed forever. I can guarantee you that. It is fragrant, delicious, and perfect for Ethiopian stews, or wats. I just like saying the name – yewollo ambasha!
My first experience with Ethiopian cuisine was when I still lived at home. My mother owned the Time-Life set of cookbooks called “Foods of the World,” and she tore through them like it was nobody’s business! Every week we’d be served food from a different country, whether we liked it or not! (My only bad experience was with Chinese fried tiger lilies.)
The set consisted of spiral-bound, small recipe booklets, and a larger companion book with photos, history, and stories. This is the cover of the African cookbook.
Being the geek that I was, I loved to look at the photo-filled book. I was enamored with the different-looking people, the colors of their food, and various cooking equipment.
I’ve mentioned that I began cooking seriously in 1982, when I got married. My husband was limited, shall we say, in his experience with food growing up – quite the opposite of me. However, I didn’t really know this, so I cooked through cuisines naively and we ate. More importantly, he ate.
As a girl, I never dreamed of my wedding, but I did dream of eventually having Thanksgiving turkey, something my mother refused to make…. something about French people not liking turkey. (Enter eye rolling.)
The first year my husband and I were married, I got my wish! A full-on turkey with all the fixins. The second year? My husband asked for Ethiopian food. Yes, I created a food monster!
I don’t remember what all I made, but I know this bread was a part of the menu.
Makes 1 – 12” round loaf
1 package plus 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
10 tablespoons niter kebbeh, melted over low heat, divided
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, pulverized
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon berberé
In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 of the lukewarm water. Let the mixture stand for 2 – 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast completely. By habit, I always add a little sugar on top of the yeast.
Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up and the mixture almost doubles in volume. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 8 tablespoons of the niter kebbeh, the coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, white pepper and salt, and stir with a whisk or spoon until all the ingredients are well blended.
Stir in the flour 1/2 cup at a time, using only as much as necessary to make a dough that can be gathered into a soft ball. Also by habit, I always start with a slurry, using only a small amount of flour, and let that rise first, then proceed.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough. Sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour if it sticks to the board. Repeat for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still soft.
Tear off a small piece of dough, roll it into a ball about 1/2” in diameter and set aside. Place the remaining dough on a large untreated baking sheet and pat and shape it into a flattened round about 10” in diameter. To decorate the loaf in the traditional manner, make the impression of a cross on top of the loaf by cutting down 1/2” with a long, sharp knife into the dough, “dividing” it into equal quarters. Then with the point of the knife, cut 1/2” wide slits about 1/2” deep and 1/2” apart crosswise along both cuts of the cross so that the cross looks like the map symbol of railroad tracks. Holding the tip of the blade steady at the center of the cross, make shallow cuts at 1/4” intervals all around the loaf to create a sunburst or wheel design on the top. I did the best I could. Flatten the ball of dough and press it firmly into the center of the loaf.
Set the loaf aside in a warm, draft-free spot for an hour; it should double in bulk. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until it is crusty and a delicate golden brown.
Slide the loaf onto a wire cake rack. While the bread is still warm, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of niter kebbeh and the berberé and brush the mixture evenly over the top.
Yewollo ambasha may be served while it is still warm, or may be allowed to cool completely.
It’s so pretty I almost hate cutting into it, but the fragrance is so lovely that it’s never stopped me!
I used to have that set of spiral-bound cookbooks, along with the hardcover companion. Time-Life Books as I recall. It was a great series
Those books taught my mother so much, and she gifted me a set when I married, and that’s how I learned to cook. But I still refer to them!
It sounds absolutely delicious! And you made me smile bacause I have a French friend here in Iowa that rolls her eyes every time it comes to Thanksgiving’s turkey ! Lol
Hahahahahahaha!!! Seriously?!!! that’s hysterical. Maybe the French really don’t like turkey, but I’m pretty sure my mother just disliked American holidays!
Wow! No wonder your husband asked for Ethiopian food 🤪 it looks so nice! And with all that spices must be really delicious 😋 and is so good looking too 😍
Ha! I know! He fell in love with it, but it’s exquisite. And so unique.
Great new bread recipe to try/
Saying yewollo ambasha reminded me of the phrase “hakuna matata.” What a fun, flavorful bread! Thanks for your recipe and memories, Mimi. Happy Thanksgiving!
Exactly! Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving Kim!
This looks like a beautiful bread!
And it’s so good, too!
it looks so good and beautiful!!!
Thank you! It’s pretty amazing.
That looks very good!!! I must try :)
It’s so unique – you won’t regret it!
I’ve dined in many Ethiopian restaurants, but never seen this bread on the menu. It looks so good!
It might be a celebratory bread… I’ll have to read up on it.
love your snowflakes! and the bread looks heavenly. and yes i love the sound of the name of the bread too!
It’s a great name. I was worried when I had to change my blog format, because I used to have a nice red background this time of year, that contrasted beautifully with the snowflakes. But I’ve got them on in any case!
Now I see why you made the other two recipes. How much yeast is in a packet weight or mls wise?
Ah, yes, from the old days when yeast was in little packets! I’d say use 2 1/2 teaspoons.
Very interesting and I have never heard of this bread before. It looks fab though, packed with flavour.
It’s so flavorful, so unique!
I’m proud of your food monster. An Ethiopian Thanksgiving! Well done. How fun! What exotic fare do you have planned this year? GREG
Ha! The monster insists that’s not a true story, but…. One year I did a total Southwestern menu with a blue corn and chorizo stuffing, sweet potato enchiladas with tomatillo sauce… all really lovely. Back to traditional now. No surprises. I’ve finally come to love gravy.
This is really cool! Since I love to bake bread, this is definitely on my list to try.
It’s really unique!
You have such an interesting culinary background. I have to confess that I have never had Ethiopian food for Thanksgiving! But why not. In any case, this bread looks so extraordinarily cake-like. I bet it’s great for soaking up sauces. I happen to live kitty-corner from a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant! I hope it survives through the plague.
Oh how lucky you are! I hope they all survive. it’s so sad.
This bread is new to me – and I can’t wait to make it! I’ll need to make more niter kebbeh, too, as I just looked and I am down to 3-4 tablespoons. What a joy this will be and it would perfect with Doro Wot for a thanksgiving dinner! (Not a turkey fan, either – must be all my French blood!
Hahahahahaha! Maybe it’s a true thing?!! I have no idea. My mother moved here in 1954, married to a Sicilian who she met after the war, but he’d come to the US as a teenager and became an American citizen and joined the army. My mother never became a citizen of the US and hated just about everything American, so I’m pretty sure she was just anti-Thanksgiving.
I think I’ve said in a comment before Mimi that your husband is very lucky. Ethiopian food and the homemade bread to go with it? My wife Lynne burns water unfortunately but at least there’s not two of us competing in the kitchen I suppose! Thanks for sharing this Ethiopian bread recipe. Ever since eating in the Ethiopian Frankfurt restaurant I’ve wondered how they made their breads!
That’s exactly true. Even when my husband makes coffee or looks out the kitchen window he’s in my way! A chicken stew is next which is simple and so flavorful. But it does require the butter and berberé.
So different and so delicious! I love all the ingredients in this bread–your kitchen must smell absolutely fantastic when you make it!
Oh, it’s incredible!!! Thanks!
I do love to bake bread, and this would be something entirely different for me to explore. It sounds so delicious. I’m loving the series of Ethiopian recipes, Mimi.
Thank you! I wasn’t sure how they would go over, but I originally did this when I had only 3 followers, so it was not hard to make the decision to re-make all of the seasoning mixtures, the lovely foods, and re-post.
I like the changes to your blog, Mimi! And the snowflakes are a lovely touch. It makes me feel so warm and cozy :)
Thanks. I discovered that my theme didn’t format properly on all devices, so I had to change.
You make me more and more interested in Ethiopian cuisine! Been dying to find a restaurant here in NZ that offers such thing and no luck so far. I just want to try the real thing first before I make them at home, so I know whether I had cooked it correctly or not
I think it’s like any other cuisine, as long as you have all of the ingredients, it should taste the same! Which is why I can’t make Thai food, because I can’t get all of the ingredients. Now, you do need to experience the spongy bread. That is unique! I’m going to try again, but the one time I tried, I failed.
I can’t say I’ve ever hd yewollo ambasha, but you’re right! The name is fun to say! Love the seasonings that are in it, I’ll have to try it one day!
It’s pretty amazing! The seasoning mixtures are really unique!
Thank you very much for sharing your story; it’s similar to my growing up since my mother, too, was investigating different types of food to please people coming from all over…. We both are so blessed to grow up this way. Thank you so much Mimi !
Oh that’s very interesting! I was certainly exposed to many kinds of foods.
This is so unique! Great to learn about different world foods on your blog~
Thank you so much! I love learning, and there’s so much left for me!