Recipes for Success: Bahraini baker Dona Murad offers advice, a delicious mocha recipe

Recipes for Success: Bahraini baker Dona Murad offers advice, a delicious mocha recipe
Dona Murad’s connection to the kitchen started with family. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 04 November 2022

Recipes for Success: Bahraini baker Dona Murad offers advice, a delicious mocha recipe

Recipes for Success: Bahraini baker Dona Murad offers advice, a delicious mocha recipe

TORONTO: Dona Murad’s connection to the kitchen started with family. Her mother and grandmother were talented bakers, who instilled in her an appreciation for the dedication and passion that is required to “create.”

Now a coffee roaster and owner of two bakeries, Murad left a regimented, nine-to-five job to focus on her passion for coffee and the food and beverage industry in general. She had noticed that some of her friends would travel to certain cities just for their café culture. In 2015, she founded Hopscotch Bakery & Café to cater to this gap in the Bahraini market.

Mostly self-taught, Murad believes that the hands-on learning that has come with running her own bakery and coffee shop has outweighed any academic training she might have gotten.

After achieving success with Hopscotch Bakery & Café and Grind Micro Roastery in Bahrain, she has now opened Librae Bakery in New York.

Librae Bakery is in New York. (Supplied)

Based in Lower Manhattan, Librae might be seen as just another just another grab-and-go coffee spot in the Big Apple. But as Murad tells it, it’s an oasis where her customers are encouraged to “come and dwell.”

She tells Arab News: “New York has incredible energy; it’s constantly rushing. We bring Bahraini hospitality and the culture around community — the aspect of slowing things down.” One example of this is the café’s majlis. Most of her NY counterparts wouldn’t be nearly so generous with a seating area taking up precious real estate.

Murad calls Librae a “third-culture bakery” — alongside Bahraini hospitality and New York vibes, the bakery uses Copenhagen baking techniques. Known for its culinary innovation, the Danish capital’s approach to fermentation is scientific and lengthy, with no shortcuts tolerated. At Librae Bakery, they employ a similar meticulous approach, with three tiers, Murad explains.

“Does it taste good? Is it the correct use of ingredients? And is it needed? If it passes these parameters, we know we’re on to something,” she says. A Librae croissant, for example, takes over 72 hours to create.

Here, Murad discusses the power of good bread, cleanliness, and kindness, and provides a simple mocha recipe.

Grape tahini danish. (Supplied)

Q. When you started out, what was the most common mistake you made?
A. Cooking when I was hungry. Never do that. And never take a shortcut.

Q. What’s your top tip for amateur bakers?
A. Clean as you go. That’s probably the first, and most important, lesson you learn in any kitchen. Also, purchase a cast-iron skillet. It’s my favorite, for baking and cooking.

Q. What’s one ingredient that can instantly improve any dish?
A. Black lime is my personal favorite. Not only is it a key ingredient in a lot of classic Bahraini dishes, but its versatility — it can complement both sweet and savory dishes — is amazing. One of our signature items at Librae is the Black Lime Curd Babka.

Q. What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly?
A. I make a plum cardamom crumble that my husband swears is the best thing I make. I think it’s totally average, but he loves it.

Butter croissants. (Supplied)

Q. What’s your favorite dish to cook?
A. I’m a sucker for incredibly crispy, grilled, or charred lamb chops. My mother, who works with me on every project, will tell you that I can eat a terrifying amount of lamb chops in one sitting. I am a simple person and I adore a garden barbeque, surrounded by people I love.

Q. What’s the most difficult dish to cook on your current menu?
A. A plain butter croissant. It took us months — and thousands of failed attempts — to get what we consider the best butter croissant.

Q. When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? What’s he most common mistake that you find in other restaurants?
A. Anyone who has the bravery and work ethic to open a restaurant only deserves my praise. However, one thing I’m always impressed by is good bread and good coffee. If a restaurant (does this well), I’m a sucker for it.

Q. As a boss, are you a disciplinarian? Or are you quite laid back?
A. I can say with great confidence that one of the most important things I did when hiring for the bakery was to think about having a kind team. Kindness was more important than talent. Restaurant hours are brutal, you spend all your waking hours together. I care for respect and integrity, the rest can be taught or learned together. The days of toxic kitchen culture are over.

Dona Murad’s Mocha recipe

2 cups cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
750 ml water

1. Blend all the ingredients together. The mix should have a syrup-like texture.
2. Add the syrup to your favorite espresso (or just to hot milk for a great hot chocolate).
3. Don’t forget the marshmallows!