Pain Petri (Moroccan Aniseed Challah)

Adapted from Joan Nathan

Round-shaped loaves of bread are served in Jewish households all over the world on Rosh Hashanah, although their names, shapes, and recipes may vary. Pain petri is related to the Sephardic bread bollo, also known as pain a l’anis, or boyo. This recipe moved with Sephardi Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and made its way to Jewish communities in North Africa and Europe.

Pain petri translates to kneaded bread. This originates with the women who made it spending a lot of time kneading the dough to achieve a smooth, light loaf. They formed the bread at home and then baked it in public ovens, a practice that lived on in Morocco until recent years. Pain petri can be served as a holiday afternoon snack during Rosh Hashanah and is often part of the Yom Kippur break-fast meal.

Pain petri is delicious served a multitude of ways. It can be served as an appetizer with dips, like salade cuite and babaganoush. It’s equally delicious spread with butter and plum jam for breakfast. Yum!


2 cups warm water

1 Tbs active dry yeast

1 Tbs & 2 ½ tsp sugar

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1 Tbs kosher salt (we use Diamond Crystal)

1 heaping Tbs anise seeds (they can be replaced with fennel seeds or caraway seeds)

1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting your work surface

1 Tbs sesame seeds


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place 2 cups of warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the water. Wait a few minutes until you see that the yeast has activated, about 5 minutes. It will be bubbling and foaming on the surface.

Mix in the whole egg, salt, anise seeds, and oil. 

Mix in 4 cups of flour with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until you have a smooth, soft, elastic dough, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky or wet. Form it into a rough loaf.

Place dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, and cover with a tea towel. Place the bowl in a warm place in your kitchen, and let it rise for 30 minutes. 

Divide the dough into two pieces, using a knife or a dough cutter. Flour the work surface and your hands, and roll each piece of dough into a long rope, about 40 inches long. Take one of the ropes and, starting from one end, form the dough into a coil. Tuck the ends under the completed coil and place it on one of the two prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining rope and place it on the other baking sheet.

Beat the egg yolk in a bowl, and add about a tablespoon of water. Stir well. Brush all the egg wash over the loaves and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when the bottom is tapped.

2 loaves
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