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It Is Risen

At the end of Passover festival known as Mimouna, Moroccan Jews return to yeasty treats in grand style

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A Moroccan Mufleta. (Lara Rabinovitch)

Many Jews will mark the end of Passover unceremoniously, with a slice or pizza or a piece of toast. Yet for Moroccan Jews, and increasingly for other Jews as well, the transition back to eating bread and other yeasty foods is celebrated in grand style with a feast known as Mimouna.

Traditionally, Mimouna is celebrated in Moroccan homes after sundown on the last day of Passover with a sumptuous spread piled high with sweet delectables, including stuffed dates, candies, brightly colored jams made of carrots, beets, or citrus fruits (known as mazune), and zabane (almond nougat). Most importantly, mufleta, thin pancakes doused in honey, are eaten with abandon. Thus in a similar way to how Yom Kippur is ended with an elaborate breakfast, on Mimouna tearing into a plate of freshly baked food signals the end of matzo-filled days and the start of something new.

The Mimouna table is not set as usual but is covered with “an array of symbols that are basically variations on a theme,” explains the Israeli historian Yigal Bin-Nun. For example, some families display a whole fish on the Mimouna table—even alive, swimming in a bowl of water—as a sign of good fortune, and also because the holiday is said to fall on the day when God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross to freedom. Foods are often served in numerical groupings, such as seven green pea pods dotting a plate of flour to symbolize fertility and renewal. Things symbolizing luck are central to Mimouna, with Hanukkah gelt-like gold coins strewn across the table. The celebration continues the next day with outdoor picnics and celebrations.

Though the festival’s name is often thought to refer to the 12th-century’s Rabbi Maimon (the father of Maimonides), Bin-Nun has uncovered folkloristic songs and historic sources that link it to the rituals of the Gnawa, a Sufi sect in Morocco whose adherents pray yearly through songs, parades, and ecstatic dancing to the goddess of luck, Mimouna. Sure enough, during Jewish Mimouna celebrations, “songs are sung in honor of ‘Lady Luck.’ One of them is ‘Lala mimouna/mbarka masuda,’ which means ‘Lady Mimouna/lucky and blessed.’ ” In addition, the Arabic word mimoun means luck or good fortune.

While celebrated for centuries in Morocco, the holiday was popularized and even politicized in Israel, particularly in the 1980s, when Ashkenazi politicians publicly attended Mimouna celebrations in order to curry favor with voters of Moroccan descent, as Rachel Sharaby explains in The Mimuna Holiday: From the Periphery to the Center, which was published in Hebrew last year. Ashkenazim were not always so eager to join in the fun. In the early years of Israel’s existence, Ashkenazim saw the celebrations as backward and out of step with the new state’s spirit.

Feelings toward the holiday have mellowed, and nowadays Israelis more or less consider Mimouna a national party, and they’ll point to its celebration as an example of peaceful relations not only between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, but also between Muslims and Jews. After all, the culinary traditions of the holiday originate with Arab and Berber families who lent flour and yeast to their Jewish neighbors following sundown after Passover. In return, Moroccan Jews are said to have either given them the remainder of their matzo or opened their homes and eaten their first baked goods together—a tradition still maintained with Moroccan Jews leaving their front doors open on Mimouna eve.

In recent years, Mimouna celebrations have extended beyond Israel and taken hold in Paris and Amsterdam, as well as in less obvious places like Minsk. This year celebrations are also expected in Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, and Boston. But with just a bit of fresh flour, anyone can celebrate Mimouna by trying mufleta, based on the traditional Moroccan recipe.

Mufleta
(about 12)

2 cups of flour
¾ cups of water
½ tbsp salt
½ cup of vegetable or canola oil, set aside in a small bowl
Butter and honey for serving

Mix the flour and the salt. Add water slowly while mixing. Knead into whole soft dough.

Shape into mounds the size of golf balls. Dip each ball into a bowl with the oil and set aside on a tray. Pour the remainder of the oil over the tray and cover with a kitchen towel. Let stand at room temperature for 40 minutes.

Heat up a skillet or small pan. Open the balls with the palm of your hand on a well-oiled surface (or the tray itself) until each gets stretched to a very thin pancake.

Put the first ball on the skillet (no need to oil it). When it begins to brown underneath or at the edges, turn over. Immediately place a second pancake right on top of it. Wait 30 seconds and flip it so that the second one is now touching the pan. Place a third one on top of the two. Wait 30 seconds and flip. Repeat so that each mufleta only cooks on one side directly. This way they cook together and stay warm and moist in the stack.

Serve immediately with butter and honey.

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Roz Sarah says:

We started celebrating about 8 years ago — when our extended friends and family could no longer sit around the table for seder. At first we followed tradition and celebrated the day after with an open house. Folks were asked to bring Moroccan food. Which soon included Middle eastern food and food from different areas of Africa (prior Peace Corps folks as well as friends from Nigeria, Kenya, Niger etc.)
A few years ago, we established our Mimouna, as the first Saturday, after the last day of Passover. It is a grand celebration of wonderful food, friendship and community. And we hope some good luck!

There’s nothing ‘risen’ in this recipe. Shouldn’t there be some baking soda/powder or something in it? These pancakes are likely to end up very unrisen with the current recipe – something must be missing.

Marian says:

I was about to get highly upset if there were no recipes included. Luckily, there was one ‘below the fold’. Those pancakes sound too good to be true.

Celeste says:

Does anyone celebrate in New York City. I would like to join a group that does.

G & G says:

Very interesting also too sweet & fattening.
Love you G & G

Indeed the recipe is wrong.
There should be about 10gr of fresh yeast diluted with some warm water.
Who makes 12??? For 40 mofleta’s you need 20gr of fresh yeast.
And as we say in morocco during mimouna: TERBAH!

You’re right; it won’t rise (I like the pun, now that Easter is over but we’ll be eating matza for another few hours). Claudia Roden in her Book of Jewish Food (p. 476 in the Penguin edn.) suggests using the same dough as for pitta ‘but with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil instead of 1′, enough for 20 pancakes. So: 2 teaspoons dry yeast, 2 pinch sugar (also not in the recipe above), 250 ml or 9fl oz warm water, 500 g or 1lb 2oz flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons oil, plus a little more to grease the dough. For copyright reasons I’ll leave it at that. ¤

Folks, like many things culinary and not, there is a long debate on whether to add yeast or not when making mufleta, which do not literally ‘rise’ in any event. The recipe does not require yeast, and you can double or triple the yield as much as you like.

Without something to leaven it, it’s gonna taste like cardboard – seriously.

Perhaps, in a warm climate where the flour has natural yeast and you let the mixture sit for awhile, you might get a natural ‘souring’ out of it like with sour dough starter. Here in the states in most modern kitchens, this recipe will be a non-starter (pun intended).

I just attended my first Mimouna in Israel and it was one of the great experiences of my life! Happily, we were staying with Moroccan Jews (and thus, also attended a kick-butt seder). At the Mimouna, I got a Mufleta cooking lesson – and they did use yeast, as the celebration marks the end of Peysakh (and the happy transition to khomets). The dough is rolled/pressed by hand so it’s supposed to be super-thin (not risen) and torn when placed on the pan. But it needs to have a doughy, springy quality and that comes from the yeast. I am sorry to say that I don’t think this recipe would work as well (or produce the same results) without yeast. Our hostess also put oil in the dough (not just around it). Once the dough was mixed by hand, she tied a large plastic bag around the bowl to activate the yeast. The GOOD NEWS is: It’s relatively easy and I will try it for sure to mark the end of our next Peysakh. We also had a number of sweets (like Zabane – which makes Marshmallow fluff taste as sweet as a pickle – this is literally the sweetest thing I ever ate! Also, Mrouziya, a sticky raisin concoction that will pull out any fillings you might still have after the Zabane). The best part of the evening, though, was the blessing. The entire extended family (and we guests) were individually blessed for the coming year by the family patriarch. He dipped mint sprigs in milk, shook them over our heads and sang the blessing. The whole evening was blissful and I am so happy to be part of this conversation about it. If anyone has the chance to attend a real Mimouna – it will rock your world! A belated Chag Sameakh/Git Yontef to all.

It’s easy to create your own healthy and fluffy homemade Denny’s flannel cakes with this easy-to-follow Denny’s flannel cake formula with healthy ingredients, such as Graham and Canola Oil, served with a dollop of cream cheese and gross maple syrup or dear , or create your own healthy flapcake toppings.

Absolutely awesome pancakes and the recipe is easy enough even for the less skilled in the kitchen. Thanks!

It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

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It Is Risen

At the end of Passover festival known as Mimouna, Moroccan Jews return to yeasty treats in grand style

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