Berbere Bread Bites

Recipe by Tami Ganeles Weiser; photo contributed by Sherry Gerstein Yield:  5 dozen
Prep Time:  35 minutes Resting and Rising Time:  12 hours 30 minutes Cook Time:  20 minutes

Berbere Bread Bites

These bread bites are spicy, hot, chewy, and sustaining. They are inspired by "dabo kolo," a traditional Ethiopian street food made from a dough that is similar to French pâte à choux. My version is anything but a puffy and light pastry—they are bread all the way. “Dabo” means bread and “kolo” means roasted barley. My butter-enriched yeast bread that has a slight tartness (from yogurt) that harkens to the distinctively sour Ethiopian injera bread. This foundation is overlaid with the richness of berbere, the Ethiopian spice mixture, and the sweet, earthiness of malted barley syrup. Now, I know, this whole recipe is anything but traditional, but the flavors and textures are guaranteed to leave you reaching for more.


2 packages (14 grams/ 4½ teaspoons) active dry yeast

¾ cup warm water (see Kitchen Tips)

4 cups (520 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 to 2⅓ cups (260 to 303 grams) bread flour 

¼ cup (34 grams) berbere spice mix (see Kitchen Tips)

¼ cup barley malt syrup (see kitchen tips)

2 teaspoons (12 grams) salt

½ stick (¼ cup/57 grams/2 ounces/4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

1¾ cups (497 grams) plain full-fat Greek yogurt


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the water and yeast and mix at low speed to blend. Let stand for 5 to 7 minutes, until it bubbles (see Kitchen Tips).
  2. Add the flours, berbere spice mixture, syrup, salt, melted butter, and yogurt and mix at very low speed until incorporated. Switch to a dough hook attachment and knead for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the mixture starts to come away from the side of the bowl. (The dough will remain somewhat tacky and will not completely pull away from the bowl.)
  3. Place the dough into a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. It will have almost doubled in size.
  4. When the dough has risen, dust a work surface with flour. Line 4 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and position them near the work surface.
  5. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each into a 22- by 1-inch rope shape. Cut each rope into about 15 (1- by 1½-inch) pieces. Place on the prepared baking sheets, 15 pieces per sheet,  leaving 1½ inches between the pieces. Continue with all of the dough, making sure to leave enough room for the bread to expand during baking. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and kitchen towels and set aside to rise in a warm part of the kitchen for 25 to 30 minutes, until they have puffed and have increased in size by about 50 to 75 percent.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 4 to 5 minutes, and swap the baking sheets between the oven racks and rotate them front to back to ensure even baking. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes more, until golden brown in color. Repeat with the remaining bites (see Kitchen Tips).

Kitchen Tips

  1. Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it—between 85°F and 100°F—but if the water is too warm you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
  2. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a handheld electric mixer is NOT a good alternative because the dough is a fairly dense, sticky one. You can try making these by hand, but you’ll need to really resist the temptation to add too much flour to counteract the stickiness. This recipe is really best made with a stand mixer.
  3. Berbere, the spice mixture that is one of the keys to the Ethiopian flavor profile, is available in well-stocked markets, specialty spice stores,  and online. Not all of the authentic Ethiopian ingredients are available here, but you can make a reasonable facsimile at home. Try The Weiser Kitchen’s American-style Berbere Spice Mix.

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