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Reem Assil's Yemeni Honeycomb Bread (Khaliat Nahal خلية نحل)

Makes two 9-inch cakes or one 16-inch cake

Our crew made our way to Qahwah House, a café that brewed every imaginable roast of Yemeni coffee, served in both modern pots and traditional rakwahs, tiny long-handled copper vessels, kept warm over a low candle. Qahwah is the Arabic word for “coffee,” which originated in Yemen in the fourteenth century. A wall of photos showed the cultivation of coffee beans on the café owner’s family farm in Yemen. There was something familiar about walking into Qahwah House. As soon as I caught the fragrant scent of Arabic coffee, it transported me straight to my grandmother’s back patio. But what felt novel to me were the Yemeni pastries, which lined the front counter, fragrant with honey, another of Yemen’s celebrated ingredients. Every time I discover a new sweet from the Arab world, it makes me smile—how much I have yet to learn about the wondrous expansiveness of the region’s culinary arts.

Khaliat Nahal in Arabic translates to “beehive.” Baked closely together in a round pan, pollinated in the center with a dollop of creamy cheese, and sticky with honeyed syrup, these Yemeni buns bake into a honeycomb pattern. I stumbled on this delectable treat in Dearborn, Michigan, the promised land for Arab American foodies. I was on tour promoting We Are La Cocina, a collection of stories and recipes with my sister entrepreneurs from La Cocina’s kitchen incubator program.