An American attempts to make Milwi

I previously wrote a post about milwi (re-read it here); it’s buttery, kind of flaky, and delicious.  Here’s my story about making it, kind of. One day recently, my wife and I had grand plans to cook lunch for our host family.  We had been planning this (or at least thinking about it, for over a week.  As it grew closer to time to cook, a friend/member of the family named Itoo (pardon the spelling and I still haven’t figured out whether she’s friend, family or both; but she’s fun, funny and often visits the house) arrived and disappeared into the kitchen.  A few minutes later brought hear loud slapping and pounding noises.  I curiously (and sightly timidly) peeked into the kitchen to investigate and found Itoo making dough in a large (maybe 24″ across) ceramic dish.  I recognized corn meal, but wasn’t sure of the other things being added.  I watched briefly, but didn’t want to be in the way, so left to find my wife and let her know that our lunch cooking would be delayed.

A short time later I heard my name being called from the kitchen and went in to find a mountain of dough balls with Itoo in the middle, rolling them into flat circles.  She beckoned me over, showed me the process, then put me to work as you can see in the video. (You can hear Itoo speaking darija, particularly in the beginning of the video.  You can hear my host sister, Imane, telling me to push the dough harder, and my wife with the camera, putting up with my antics.  We tend to have fun with our host family.)

You take a ball of dough and find a flat surface, preferably somewhat clean.  Liberally sprinkle oil across the flat surface and begin to push/slap/roll out the dough until it is flat and round.  Once flat roundness is achieved, put melted butter on top.

  • This part should get more attention, though.  There’s a pot of melted butter sitting nearby into which I dipped my hand, scooped up butter, and put it on top of the dough.  Each time I was corrected for doing it wrong.  Apparently, I’m incapable of putting enough butter on to satisfy a discerning Moroccan cook.  Each time I was told, “lla!  zid!” (no! more!)  I truly couldn’t believe the quantity of butter going into and onto this dough.  I guess I’ve discovered the source of the buttery nature of milwi… It’s butter, go figure!

After drizzling pouring butter on the dough, you sprinkle the top with cornmeal, then take a side and fold a third towards the center with the opposite third folded over top of it.  (kind of like folding a letter)  This leaves somewhat of a flattened tube; then take one end of the tube and fold a third towards the center, then the other end of the tube over top.  The dough should now be a folded squarish rectangle.  This folded rectangle is placed on top of another flattened round of dough (that has, obviously, been slathered with butter) and the flattened dough is folded up around the square in the same manner that the square was folded.

the milwi process
The blue bowl holds cornmeal, the white has oil, the pot has butter. Folded milwi can be seen in the back

These started to stack up, especially once my wife and I were both entrusted with working the dough.  Itoo began the process of flattening out these squares and cooking them on a large round metal “thing” (like a huge frying pan with no sides) that had been placed on the hot stove.  Minutes later we were eating fresh Milwi… Delicious!

Keep in mind that all of this took time and the afternoon had passed quickly.  We abandoned our plans to cook lunch and decided we’d cook dinner, instead.  Then we realized that this massive undertaking of milwi was in preparation for a large kaskrut (re-read about kaskrut) being hosted later that afternoon for about 8 visiting women.  Any plans we had to cook anything that wasn’t milwi vanished at that point (as well-laid plans often do, in Morocco) in the midst of trays of food that were brought by each of the women.  More milwi, moroccan pancakes, hoobz, the list could go on and on and on…  Kaskrut became dinner for us and we did our best to entertain 8-10 Moroccan women, only 2 of which spoke any english.  It was a good (great!) day.


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