The Bread Baking Babes have been baking together for thirteen years now! That’s a baker’s dozen in years. This month, Tanna picked a Uzbeki Stamped Non for us to make. The word Non (or Naan) means bread and is pretty self explanatory. What the word doesn’t tell us is that the Uzbeki bread is a real thing of beauty! It is both an everyday bread as well a celebratory one.
Many years ago, I used to have a subscription to a magazine called Aramco World. I discovered the gorgeous Uzbeki Stamped Non within the pages of one of its issues. I fell in love with the bread. Uzbeki Non comes in a lot of varieties and is central not just to the cuisine but to their culture. This not surprising considering that Uzbeki Non is old enough to find mention in the Epic of Gilgamesh written in 2700 bce! Depending on where you’re in Uzbekistan, you can also find varities of this flatbread being sold on the streets of Tashkent, Samarkhand, Urgench, Bukhara, etc.
Uzbeki Stamped Non is a flatbread and a true work of art. It has a characteristic flat decoratively stamped centre and puffy sides, almost like a shallow well. The centre is decorated using a stamping tool/ patterned docking tool called Chekich. One can also use spoons, the tines of forks or combs, rims of glasses, etc to create the patterns.
Uzbeki Stamped Non is lighter, less dense, softer, and slightly chewy in texture. These flatbreads are typically baked by the Nonvoy (bread baker) in huge clay ovens called Tandoors. They’re then delivered by bicycles, to the doorstep, straight from the oven and warm. Traditionally this bread is never cut. As Tanna tells us, a knife is an instrument of war. The bread is eaten after being torn into pieces by hand. The best way to eat it, in my opinion, is warm with a cup of spiced chai.
Though these decorated flatbreads are originally Uzbeki, other countries across the region make them too. Some examples are the Lepyoshka in Russia and Tandyr or Tandoor Non of Kyrgystan.
My sister gifted me with a set of Uzbeki bread stamping/ docking tools on discovering my love for these breads. Chekich, have wooden handles into which metal nails have been inserted in patterns. This month’s bread meant I got to use my Chekich again. I refer to my flatbread as a Uzbeki Stamped Non because my recipe uses yogurt in the dough. This is not traditional for this type of Non but yogurt results in a very soft texture.
Uzbeki Stamped Bread
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup water or more
- Proof the yeast with the sugar and some of the water after warming it slightly. If using instant yeast add it directly with the other ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix all of the dough ingredients including the yeast (proofed or not) except the water. Add enough of the water (or more if required) and knead well till you have a smooth, soft and pliable dough that is just short of sticky.
- Shape into a ball, and place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough ball to coat well. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled (about 1 to 2 hours or so depending on ambient temperature).
- Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal portions. Let them rest for about 10 minutes. Work with two balls at a time, keeping the others covered with a damp towel.
- Flatten the ball into a circle about 1/2-inch thick using your hands and fingers. Place it on a lightly oiled or parchment lined baking tray. Let it rise for about 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. In the meanwhile preheat your oven to 200C (400F) using a baking stone or an inverted baking sheet.
- Now press down the center of each round flat using the base of a bowl or large ladle. Then enlarge the depression with your fingers to create a shallow well like indentation. The indentation should be larger than the bread stamp pattern you plan to use.
- Use the Chekich (or fork or spoons) to stamp down/ dock patterns in this flat centre. Dip the tines of the Chekich in flour before stamping the dough. Press down hard so the tines pierce through the dough and you get a good imprint. This will prevent the centre from rising when baking. You can also use a lame or blade to make decorative shallow slashes on the puffy circumference. Alternately, use the tines of a fork or comb to lightly mark lines without deflating the dough.
- Lightly brush the top of the Non dough with water and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes till deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. The centre will be papperned and thin while the rims would have puffed up on baking. Repeat with the other two portions of dough. Cool on a wire rack. This bread should ideally be served warm from the oven.