The flatbread on the cover of The Hot Bread Kitchen by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez intrigued me enough to give bread making another try.
This recipe book is full of breads from all over the world which are made by women in the bakery. The idea for offering breads from all around the world began from a misunderstanding about a position the author had applied for at the Women’s World Baking organization. She had been after a job with the Women’s World Banking organization, but the idea of women baking bread was born.
So instead of employing a high percentage of men – as bakeries generally do – the Hot Bread Kitchen is staffed by mostly women, from minorities. The bakery’s sales are put back into the business and are used to pay for training the staff in food management which may help to even the imbalance.
Sounds like a great idea to me.
Let’s give this bread a try. Mix together water and yeast.
Then add the flour.
And the salt.
Turn on the mixer.
Set the timer.
Six minutes later, the dough has cleaned the sides of the bowl, JUST LIKE THE RECIPE SAID.
Put the dough in a greased bowl and let it alone for an hour.
This is a good time to make the roomal.
Mix the all purpose flour, sugar, canola oil and water together and cook over medium heat.
After two minutes.
After an hour, dump out the dough and halve it. Stretch it into a rectangular shape.
A rectangle of dough. To make a log roll, I stretched the short side of the dough towards the centre and then pressed down. Then I brought the top edge down to the bottom of the rectangle and pressed it down too. The I rolled the dough to make a cylinder. (Get the book, it’s explained there, with pictures!).
While the dough is resting, measure out the sesame seeds…
and the nigella seeds.
After the final rest of the dough, stretch each half to a rectangular shape. My flatbread’s size was determined by the size of the parchment paper I have.
Poke a line of holes down the bread to produce 5 ridges.
Paint half the roomal over the top of the bread.
Sprinkle with half the sesame and nigella seeds.
After eighteen minutes: Nan-e barbari.
My Nan-e barbari ended up looking only similar to the front cover photo (fewer ridges, less seeds and wider), but it did taste good. Because I don’t live near the Hot Bread Kitchen, I will probably make this again, though it would be so much easier to buy it and support their mission.
The recipe is here:
Servings: 6 to 8, makes 2 14×5″ loaves
One of our most dramatic looking breads is nan-e barbari, a 14-inch oblong. A defining characteristic of the barbari, apart from its shape, is that its surface is spread with roomal, a flour and water paste, before baking, which puts a layer of moisture directly on the bread. This ancient bread-baking technique isn’t seen much anymore, since steam ovens are common in bakeries. This recipe lets you create a bread with a great crust without having to introduce steam into the oven.
At the bakery, we make one long loaf, but unless you have a really big oven, you will likely make two lovely oblongs as directed here. Nan-e barbari makes a dramatic addition to any cheese plate. I especially like it served with feta, cucumbers and olives.
2 cups (450 g) lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
4 cups (510 g) bread flour, plus more for shaping
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup (80 g) cool water
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (aka black onion seeds)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1. Stir together the water and yeast in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
2. Add the bread flour and salt and mix on low speed until the flour is integrated. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is elastic, about 6 minutes. The dough should be cleaning the sides of the bowl. Coat the inside of a large bowl with canola oil and transfer the dough to it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or put the whole bowl in a large plastic bag and let rest at room temperature until the dough is softer than a firm balloon, is supple, and holds an indentation when pressed lightly, about 1 hour.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half (each piece should weigh about 490 g). Gently form each piece into a rectangle and perform a log roll. Loosely cover the pieces of dough with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and let rest at room temperature until the dough has risen and is supple, about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine the all purpose flour, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon canola oil, and the water in a small saucepan. Cook the flour paste over medium heat, whisking, until bubbles form around the edges and it becomes thick and opaque, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
5. Put a pizza stone on the lowest rack of the oven and preheat to 450°F/235°C. Let the stone heat up for at least 30 minutes.
6. Line the back of a baking sheet with parchment. Put one piece of dough on the parchment; leave the other covered and in a cool place. Gently pulling the ends and pressing down on the dough, extend it into a 14 × 5-inch rectangle. Using your fingers, press 5 deep lengthwise ridges into the dough being sure not to break the dough. Rub half of the flour paste over the surface and sprinkle with half of the nigella and sesame seeds.
7. Slide the dough and parchment onto the hot stone and bake until the bread has puffed up and is golden brown, about 18 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack, dispose of the parchment, and repeat the process to make the second loaf. Serve warm. Store any leftovers in an airtight plastic bag at room temperature for up to a couple of days.