Moroccan recipes: Msemmen Pancakes

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On the third day in Marrakech Morocco, about 15 of us met to go into the Medina. We had heard so much about the Medina, about the cat-calling, the aggressive bargaining, the crazy henna women who would grab your hand, and the cobras that would come out of the baskets. We would see it all, but not yet. 

We had to meet at a pharmacy outside the medina, and take our first taxi. The little French we knew helped us a bit, but it still felt so foreign, and all the racing motopeds and whiff of smog threw us out of normalcy. We stood together like a group of little ducks at 8 am in the morning, waiting for our guide to arrive and show us around this jungle. 

She knew it so well, we had to keep up, it was truly like a maze with rugs and cloths blocking the view from sharp turns here and there. Our guide, a little Moroccan 20-something with an attitude stopped here and there to set up something. We kept following her closely, trying not to get run over by the mopeds and trying not to breath in too much smog. We arrived at a little place that looked fine, but it wasn’t until we went upstairs that we felt special. The view upstairs- two or three flights of stairs gave us a view of the medina and neighboring rooftops. The terrace, and colorful cloths that lined the benches were a welcome treat in the thrid day of this foreign land. We were also starved. 

Once we sat down, we would begin the feast. There would be mint tea, coffee, orange juice to start. Then, a humble omelet and bread. Bread with different dips, argan oil with almond butter, and olive oil, and honey. And, then these incredible pancakes. They were folded up into squares and I haven’t seen anything like that before. It wasn’t a crepe, and it wasn’t a pancake or a tortilla. It had the texture of flatbread, but was slightly sweet. The morning was a bit cold, so these warm Msemmen pancakes, hand-rolled and folded were just perfect. 

Dip them in olive oil, honey, or argan-almond butter for the ultimate Moroccan brunch. Serve with mint tea and wear that colorful pashmina you bought years ago. Celebrate the colors, the warmth and chaos that is Morocco. 

For more recipes and stories, check out my new cookbook “Stories from Morocco: a food and travel memoir” now available through Kindle. 

Ingredients (Makes 12-15):
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup fine semolina
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cup warm water
For cooking and folding
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  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup soft butter, unsalted
  • ¼ cup fine semolina

  1. Add all ingredients for the dough except the water. Mix well and then add the water gradually, incorporating it into the flour well. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes. You can alternatively use a electric dough mixer and mix for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. 
  2.  Then, divide the dough into small balls, apricot size. Place the balls on an oiled tray. Then, let them rest at least 30 minutes. You can also do this the night before and place them in the refrigerator for one day. 
  3. After 30 minutes, dip one ball in the oil and stretch out the dough into an irregular square. Make as thin as possible  with your hands, no rolling pin needed.
  4. When it’s a square, dot with a little butter and sprinkle with a little semolina. Then, fold into 1/3’s, then fold from the top and the bottom to form a small square. Repeat with remaining dough. Set these squares aside on an oiled tray for at least 10 minutes. 
  5. After 10 minutes, stretch  the square piece of dough, flattening it as thin as possible. Then, cook on a non stick frying pan or cast iron skillet. Preheat the skillet or pan to a medium high heat.
  6. The pancakes should be turned often while cooking and bubble up. This take 5-10 minutes at a high heat. Test one to make sure its cooked through. It should be chewy, but not raw. Store them in between wax paper or parchment paper so they don’t stick. They reheat well too.
  7. Serve them warm with honey, butter, or amlou (a mixture of almonds, organ oil, and honey) and some mint tea. 

More Moroccan recipes: 

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