Flatbreads are fun to bake
Our We Knead to Bake group has taken a new turn. Aparna, the starter of the group, suggested that members take turns to decide on the type of bread the rest can bake. I hosted the #40th bake. Barbari had been on my long list of bakes for a long time. Since we hadn’t baked a flatbread for eons,I decided to challenge the group with Iranian Barbari Bread.
Barbari or barberi means our fathers ‘of or related to the Barbars’ in Persian language. The Barbars live in the Khorasan region, near the eastern border of Iran. The word Barbar means uncivilized, foreign, barbarian) . The Barbars hated being referred to by such a name and Reza Shah granted them the name Khavari (Easterners). However, the name of the bread remains. It’s a very popular bread baked in Iran. It’s made in traditional brick ovens. The bakers make it about 70-80cm long and 30-45 cm wide. It’s usually served with tea and a soft cheese called lighvan cheese which is made from ewe’s milk. It’s also served with typical Iranian jams (Moraba).
Modern times means it can be served with feta cheese, olives, dips, gravies, curries and whatever you fancy. The bread is golden brown because of the spread or roomal that is smeared on it before baking. Barbari bread is slightly thicker than most flatbreads that we know of.
Check out Heghineh.com
on how to knead the dough and stretch it into an oval shape without using a rolling pin.Baking this bread in convectional ovens gives a different texture from those baked in the traditional ovens. If you have a pizza stone use it to bake this bread.
Since our home ovens are small, I divided the dough into 4 parts.
Iranian Barbari Bread/Naan-e-barbari/Noon Barbari
Makes 2 or 4
For the dough:
3 cups all purpose flour (plain flour)
1½ cups warm water
1½ tsp instant dry active yeast
1½ tsp sea salt (or normal salt)
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
For the roomal (spread):
⅔ cup water
1 tsp all purpose flour (plain flour)
1 tsp baking soda (soda bicarbonate)
Nigella seeds(kalonji) or sesame seeds
Some semolina (sooji) to spread the dough
Some oil for greasing
Extra flour for kneading the dough
Preparation of the dough:
1. Mix flour, yeast, salt, baking powder and sugar in a big bowl.
2. Add warm water and form a dough.
3. Dust the worktop with some flour and knead the dough for 10-15 minutes or till it is smooth and elastic. This bread requires a good gluten formation so make sure you knead it well. Or alternatively knead the dough in a dough machine.
4. Form the dough into a ball shape and place it in the greased bowl. Cover with a wet tea towel or a cling film.
Place it in a warm place to allow the dough to rise till its double the size. This will take about 1½ hours.
In the meantime prepare the roomal or spread:
1. Put the flour, water and baking soda in a pan.
2. Mix well.
3. Put the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
4. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes.
5. Let the roomal cool down before using it.
Preparation of Barbari Bread:
1. Knead the dough gently and divide it into 4 parts.
2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or grease it with oil.
3. Sprinkle some semolina on the worktop.
4. Take one piece of the dough and using the roomal, spread it into an approximately 9”X 4” oblong shape.
5. Using the roomal, make grooves/lines lengthwise about 1-2”apart on the flattened bread.
6. Place it on the baking tray.
7. Repeat steps 3 -6 with the remaining dough.
8. Spread the remaining roomal on the bread pieces.
9. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds or nigella seeds or a mixture of both.
10. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
11. Place the trays in the oven and bake the bread for 20-25 minutes or till it’s golden brown.
12. If you place both the trays in the oven at the same time, remember to switch their positions half way.
13. Remove the baked barbari bread from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool.
14. Serve with tea, your favourite dip, olive oil, feta cheese or any soft cheese.
- Since the bread requires good gluten formation, its advisable to add gluten powder if you don’t get bread flour.
- Use the roomal or spread liberally to shape the bread and also so you get that lovely golden colour.
- Add seeds of your choice to the bread dough also if you like.