Naan-e-Barbari/ Noon Barbari/ Barbari Bread - Persian/ Iranian Flat bread
If there’s one thing to be said about flatbreads, apart from the fact that they are flat, is that almost every culture/ cuisine in the world makes at least one version of it. Some flatbreads are leavened, some are not. Flatbreads are very versatile. They can be thin or thick, sweet or savoury, topped with seeds or spice mixes, stuffed with a variety of fillings, wrapped around fillings into rolled wraps, and are great to either mop up gravy preparations. Eastern European cultures also make some of the most beautifully decorated festive flatbreads for weddings.
So when I saw a group of bakers baking Naan-e-Barbari this month, I knew I wanted to have a go at it myself and decided to bake with the Babes! Naan-e-Barbari is also known as Noon Barbari or referred to as Barbari bread and is perhaps the most commonly baked flat bread in Iran. A longish oval shaped furrowd bread that is usually topped with Nigella seeds, it is traditionally served with a ewe’s milk cheese similar to Feta, and tea for breakfast.
Now this Naan-e-Barbari is not the same as the Indian Naan, though both are flat breads. The word “Naan” is a generic word in Persian, for bread and usually used to refer to flat breads. So the name Naan-e-Barbari means “bread of the Barbars”. The Barbars are a group of people belonging to Khorasan near eastern borders of Iran and are supposed to have brought this Naan to Iran.
What is unusual about this flat bread is that a baking soda-flour solution/ glaze, also called “Roomal” is brushed over the dough before it is baked. This gives the Naan a beautiful golden brown colour and a distinct aroma and flavour that sets it apart. The glaze also gives the bread a slightly crispy crust.
It is usually topped with Nigella seeds (also known as black onion seeds) which are the best with this Naan because of their flavour, but you can always use sesame seeds or poppy seeds instead. I have seen a recipe for Barbari bread in the book “Ultimate Bread” by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno and that is a much simplified version but they use a little honey in their dough. So I used that and then adapted Elizabeth’s recipe a bit to make my Naan-e-Barbari.
Her recipe makes 2 largish Naans, but I have small oven so I made 4 smaller ones from the same dough. She also cooks this bread on the grill but I chose to bake it instead. For instructions on how to cook this flatbread on a grill please see Elizabeth’s post for detailed instructions
Here are two videosthat demonstrate how Naan-e-Barbari is made. The methods in the videos differ slightly but give a good idea on how to shape the bread. The baking soda-flour glaze should be thick and of pouring consistency which you can brush on, rather than a thick paste.
One thing I must mention is that the dough for this bread requires to be kneaded really well to make it soft. It will seem a little sticky and please don’t be tempted to deal with this by adding more flour. The kneading method here is a bit unusual, as one has to literally beat it into submission. I’m not joking!
You may use a kneading machine/ processor to the initial kneading, and after that you have to work the bread dough by slapping it down against your work surface and folding, repeatedly. This gives you a really soft and smooth dough, and it’s a good way to work off some of your negativity too. The "window pane test" is a good way to check if your dough has been kneaded enough.
Feel free to serve your Naan-e-Barbari with Feta and herbs or whatever else you might like, or eat it warm from the oven with coffee/ tea like we did. This bread was an unqualified success with all of us.
For the dough:
For the Roomal:
- This bread dough is traditionally made by hand, but I always opt for the food processor, because it is easy on my wrists.
- Put the yeast, honey and the warm water in the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix, and allow the yeast to dissolve. Then add 1 1/4 cups of flour and pulse a couple of times so you have batter-like mixture. Leave this in the bowl for about 20 minutes.
- The mixture in the food processor bowl should be “spongy” looking by now. Mix the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. . Add this in two portions to the “sponge” and process until you have a pliable dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn out the dough onto an unfloured working surface. The dough might stick a little to your surface and if you find it difficult to work with this, lightly oil your work surface or use a dough scraper. Do NOT add flour!
- Hold the dough in both hands and flip it over and plop it down hard on your work surface while still holding it. Think of yourself beating your work surface with the dough while still holding on to it. The dough will stretch a bit and the other end will land on the work surface with a “thwacking” sound. Fold the dough in half away from you, and repeat this “throwing/ plopping/ thwacking” motion a few times until your dough is really soft and smooth. Your dough should pass the window pane test.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl (you don’t need to oil the bowl, but you can lightly do so if you want), and cover. Let it rise until double in volume.
- Lightly flour your work surface. Turn out the dough onto it (do not knead) and divide it into four equal pieces (or two if you prefer). Shape each piece into a ball and place them apart on a sheet and cover with a towel and allow to rise for another hour or so, till double in volume.
- Work on one ball of dough at a time, keeping the others covered so they don’t dry out. Place a ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface and, using your fingers (lightly dust them with flour if you feel the need), lightly press out into an oval approximately 7” by 5”. Brush the entire surface of the dough well, with the “Roomal” or baking soda-flour glaze.
- Dip your fingers in the “Roomal” and then use them to form 4 lengthwise furrows. You can press down almost to the bottom, as the “furrows” will disappear once the dough rises. Sprinkle the Nigella seeds over the surface of the furrowed ovals.
- Pick up the furrowed oval piece of dough with your fingers by one end and transfer to a baking sheet dusted with semolina. The oval will elongate slightly when you pick it up. Otherwise, very gently stretch the oval from both ends making sure it is uniformly thick along its length and breadth. Allow the ovals to rise for about 30 to 40 minutes till they’re nice and puffy.
- Bake them at 190C (375F) for about 30 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Serve them warm with cheese or a dip or just plain with a hot cup of coffee or tea. This recipe makes 4 small or 2 slightly larger Naan-e-Barbari.
This Naan-e-Barbari/ Barbari Bread is being YeastSpotted!