TIPS & TRICKS TO MAKING THE PERFECT MANDAZI/MAHAMRI
PROBLEMS WITH COOKING MANDAZI/MAHAMBRI/MAHAMBRI: POSSIBLE REASONS & WAYS TO RECTIFY IT
Due to personal experience, and many mistakes that made me realize that even if you follow a mandazi recipe to the letter, you might still encounter some problems if you do not understand WHY you do or should follow certain steps. So after (many) doing and reflections, here are some mistakes that you too might encounter (or if not (yet)) then we help you never encounter them or help in finding ways to rectify them. If you understand the science behind your mistakes and mishaps, you are all the way there!
PROBLEM & QUICK CHECKLIST FOR POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:
1) The dough is not pliable:-
a) Use the right type of flour for making mandazi (Use flour with high protein contents).
b) Too little liquid used for mixing the flour (Add the right amount of liquid).
c) Not kneading enough (knead until the dough is not sticky and it surface becomes 'shiny').
d) The dough is not rested after each handling, and especially before cooking (Rest the dough between handling especially before cooking to relax the gluten).
2) The Mandazi did not proof/puff up:
a) Yeast: You might have forgotten to add the yeast or the amount added was not enough. Check the yeast is within its expiry date/stored appropriately so as not to go 'flat'?
You might have in date yeast (which should have been stored appropriately).
b) Use lukewarm liquid to activate the yeast (too hot will kill the yeast).
c) The dough was not given sufficient time to rise (let is rest a little longer).
d)Too much sugar was used in the mixture (this will inhibit the yeast activity).
e) Make sure the oil is hot enough before deep frying.
c) Use quality Ingredients. The ingredients, especially the flour might be of the wrong type or inferior quality. Eggs might have been cold or were not fresh (Remedy: If using an egg in your mandazi, use a fresh one and at room temperature).
3) The mandazi puffed too fast until they burst:
a) Too much yeast used (use right amount of yeast as per recipe).
b) Overproofing (reduce the resting time).
4) The Mandazi is hard after cooking: -
a) Too little liquid used in mixing the flour/dough (Add the right amount of liquid).
b)Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes.
c)Let the dough rest in between handling (this helps the gluten relax).
d)Do not roll the Mandazi too thin.
e)Too little heat used in cooking (Adjust the heat setting).
5) The mandazi are not cooked evenly i.e some parts are soft and others are hard/unrisen:-
a) Roll the mandazi evenly (this will ensure all parts of the mandazi cooks evenly).
b) Uneven distribution of ingredients: The leavening agent might not have been distributed evenly with the flour (Make sure all the ingredients in the mixture are mixed evenly before adding the liquid. Tip: If using instant yeast, mix the flour/leavening agent properly, or try and sift them together so that they are evenly mixed.
6) The inside of the mandazi is still raw after cooking:-
a) Do not roll the mandazi too thick (all parts of the mandazi should be rolled evenly).
b) Too much heat causing the outside to completely cook before the inside is ready (adjust the level of heat).
7) The mandazi is soft after cooking but became crumbly/hard after
a) The gluten in the dough was not fully developed : knead the dough until it is soft pliable and has a sheen. Also do not forget to rest the dough for the appropriate time/s.
b) The dough was not covered when resting (forming a hard crust on top of the dough/balls).
c) The dough was dry. If not using coconut milk/cream (which has natural oil) for mixing the dough, add a little oil or yoghut. It helps soften the mandazi for longer.
d) Use of baking powder. If using baking powder instead of yeast, the mandazi will naturally be crumbly like a cake (substitute the baking powder with yeast).
8) The mandazi soft but has some hard patches on its surface:-
a) Too much dusting flour used (sprinkled on the plate during the resting period) or when rolling the mandazi (use only a little dusting flour as required. If too much has been used, pat the mandazi or blow off the excess flour on its surface before deep frying).
9) The mandazi has small raised 'pimples' on its surface.
a)The ingredients (especially sugar and oil) was not mixed in evenly in the flour.
10) The mandazi has stripy 'zebra' or 'stretch marks' on its surface.
a) Overproving (reduce the time the dough is left to proof).
b) The dough was not covered when proofing (make sure you use a draught free cover to cover the dough pieces).
11) Mandazi either too dark or too light in colour:-
a) Adjust the cooking time (and the amount of heat used). This is a personal preference: some like their mandazi a dark tone while others prefer them lighter or just golden.
To deepen the colour, fry for a little longer and vis versa.
b) Use coconut cream or milk to mix the dough. It gives a lovely golden sunset orangy tint to the mandazi.
12) The mandazi have a yeasty taste/flavour
a)Too much yeast was used (use right amount).
b) Left to proof for a long time (reduce resting time).
13) The mandazi are greasy:-
a) Use good quality flour (strong flour is the best).
b)Variation in the proportion of ingredients used. (use the exact amount as stipulated in recipe)
c)Make sure all ingredients used are at toom temperature.#
d)Too much oil used (if not using coconut milk) therefore reduce amount of oil rubbed into the flour.
e) Put in a metal colander to remove any excess oil after deep frying.
14)The mandazi are wet/soggy upon storage:-
a) Too much sugar used.
b) After removing the mandazi from the oil, do not cover. Let them air dry.
Only cover/store when fully completely cooled down.
1. FLOUR: The type of flour used has a tremendous effect on the end product. Different flours have different amounts of proteins in them which will affect their elasticity. So if you follow all instructions of trying to make mandazi but you still do not get satisfactory results, try changing the flour you use.The best flours to make mandazi (or most yeast leaven dough) are usually produced from medium hard to hard varieties of wheat. Try using strong white flour or all purpose bread flour.
Also remember, the atmospheric environment also affects flour properties. So if a recipe calls for a specific amount of liquid, you might need to add slightly less or more depending on the environment (e.g too cold, hot, high humidity etc). That is why certain recipes calls for an addition of extra flour if the dough turns out to be wet or extra liquid if the dough turns out dry even though you used the exact amount of liquid as specified! In mandazi, it is better if the dough has less than more liquid.
2. YEAST : Mandazi is a fried leaven dough and it is mostly leaven using yeast (although some using baking powder too). Yeast used can either be fresh or instant yeast. I personally prefer instant yeast as it is more reliable. If the mandazi does not rise, then problems might (mostly) be arising from the yeast.
Dos and Donts when using yeast:
a) Use luke warm water (or liquid) to activate yeast. Very hot liquid will kill the yeast and make it inactive. Cold liquid will take longer to activate the yeast.
b) Use fresh or within date yeast. Out of date yeast will give unsatisfactory results.
c) Use the right amount of yeast as called for in the recipe. Too little will result in a longer waiting time and too much will result in a yeastly smelly product.
d)Use the right amounts of ingredients in the recipe as stipulated esp
e)Store yeast in their original packaging. If opened, store in an air tight container. (Tip: Buy in smaller amounts to ensure 'freshness').
3.SUGAR. Mandazi are sweet as a result of the addition of sugar. Sugar will affect the rate of yeast fermentation. However too much sugar added will affect or cause problems with fermentation of the yeast (will cause crenation of yest cells). Do not deviate too much from the amount stipulated in the recipe.
Also remember there are different types of sugars (honey as well) which will also affect the rate of fermentation.
4. LIQUID: Whatever liquid being used in making the mandazi needs to be:
a) The right amount.
b) Right temperature i.e lukewarm (neither hot nor cold)
Why? You will need enough coconut milk/milk/water so that the dough has the right hydration for formation of gluten and hence its pliability. If too little liquid is used, the dough becomes dry and less pliable. If too much is used, the dough becomes water logged: both conditions will affect the mandazi cooked. Generally, the dough for mandazi should be comparatively harder than the dough used to cook chapati or paratha. So try to use just the right amount of liquid in making your mandazi.
Whatever liquid you use, make sure it is lukewarm. It should neither be too hot or too cold. The right liquid temperature should be used because this will affect the activation of the yeast. Too hot a temperature will kill the yeast and too cold will take ages for the yeast to be activated.
Remember when warming liquid in the microwave, you need to mix it thoroughly (to avoid any hot spots).
Too much flour to liquid ratio will also cause a crumbly texture. Therefore if the dough is sticky, knead the liquid in rather than just sprinkling more flour over.
Machine for kneading? If using a kneading machine, slightly reduce the amount of liquid or you will need to reduce the kneading time, otherwise your dough may turn 'gooey'.
5. KNEADING: The most obvious reason for chewy hard mandazi is in the kneading process. A well kneaded dough will produce better results than one that is not. Knead until the flour is not sticky to the hands/container and is pliable. A well kneaded dough will have a glossy surface which is as a result of the gluten formed. If using a machine for kneading the flour, remember to slightly reduce the amount of liquid used otherwise the dough will turn 'gooey'. Alternatively, reduce the machine kneading time.
6: RESTING THE DOUGH: When you knead the dough,either manually by hands or by using a kneading machine, 'gluten' aligns within the flour molecules which causes it to 'toughen' up. In order to allow the gluten to relax again after kneading or handling, let the dough relax by covering and putting aside for about 15-20 minutes. It does not matter where you keep it (some wrap the dough in cling film and relax it in the fridge or just cover and place in a cool place), the most important thing is just to let it relax.
7. PROOFING THE DOUGH: The mandazi should be ready to be cooked when it has risen by about a third from its initial thickness. To test whether the dough has proved sufficiently dent it with your finger. It should spring back gradually. If it springs back quickly, it means it has started to overprove- deep fry immediately otherwise it will puff up too much during cooking. (Overproving will also result in your mahamri having a 'yeast' smell). If the dent does not go away, it has not proved enough therefore give it more time to prove.
8.COVERING THE DOUGH DURING PROOFING: When letting the dough relax, cover it with a draft proof lid which does not touch the mahamri. This ensures that the surface does not dry up which will result in a hard crust with 'stripy zebra stretchmarks' on the surface when fried.
9.OIL USED DURING PREPARATION : When making mandazi without coconut milk (which has natural fat), it is sometimes advisable to rub some little oil in the dough before kneading. This helps in making the mahamri soft. The fat in the dough increases its elasticity hence its texture after being cooked. However do not rub too much oil in the flour as the mandazi will become greasy after cooking. The type of oil used does not really matter! However, the oil of choice used is usually ghee (or butter) for its wonderful smell which adds to the aroma and flavour of the mandazi.
10. ADDITIONAL DUSTING FLOUR: When rolling the mandazi, do not add too much additional flour. It is essential to add flour to help the mandazi not stick onto the rolling pin or surface. However too much flour will stick onto the surface of the mandazi creating a hard crust when cooked. So just add enough flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin or surface. Do not add more than is required. In the event that you have too much flour on the mandazi dough, pat it off or blow it off before deep frying or otherwise you end up with dirty oil as well after cooking.
11.ROLLING/MANDAZI THICKNESS: The mandazi should not be rolled too thin as a pastry. It needs to be comparatively thicker than a pastry so that it does not become hard and crunchy or crumbly after cooking. However, also do not make it too thick either, otherwise your unleavened bread will end up too thick and uncooked inside or resemble a bread. The perfect mandazi should be be slightly 'meaty' but have a hollow hole inside. How big the mandazi is is a personal preference. (I personally roll to an estimated thickness of between 0.5cm, though you do not have to be exact. Just gauge thickness with your eyes and with time and much more practice, you too will get the hang of it!). The only rule I can suggest when it comes to rolling mandazi is to make sure that you get the same thickness throughout. Make the whole rolled mandazi dough as even as possible so that all areas cook at the same time and pace. If the edges or sides are thinner than the center, these will cook faster and dry out and hence become hard. The same applies to the center. If the center is thinner than the edges, it will cook faster hence result in a hard crumbly center.
12. FRYING THE MANDAZI: Make sure the oil is hot enough before placing the mandazi in it. Otherwise it will end up cooking for longer and drying up, becoming hard. You can use a deep pot to fry the mahamri but if you frequently cook this bread, I would advice you to invest in a deep karai/wok which distributes heat evenly.
13. EXCESS OIL: Use a slotted spoon to remove the mandazi from the oil after deep frying. Also place on a metal oil colander or kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Do not use a lid to cover them up after frying as this will lead to condensation and the mandazi will become wet and sticky.
14. OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS: There are certain optional ingredients that can be added to the mandazi to make it better but traditionally they are nor considered essentials. These include addition of egg/s, yogurt etc The use of all these ingredients makes the mandazi. Any ingredients all should be used in moderation so as not to alter the texture or flavour of the mandazi being cooked.
15.STORAGE: Before storing mandazi, make sure they have completely cooled down which will prevent condensation and soggy bottoms). Once cooled, store in an airtight container to prevent air drying them out which will result in a crunchy hard crust.
POLITE REQUEST: If there is any other problem that you have personally encountered in cooking this dish, which we have not mentioned here, please get in touch and let us know about it so that we can include it in the list of problems so that we can all get to know. Thank you!