Barbari Bread: hand-kneading fun (BBB June 2013)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Nan e Barbari (Persian flatbread); a Bread Baking Babes project; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) June 2013

Last month, Ilva whipped us back to basics. This month we’re plunging back even further and making the bread with our hands.

nan e barberi Some weeks ago, when we got anardana, I wandered around the internet to find what people made with it. In my wanderings, I discovered a Persian-style kebab. And along with the kebab, I learned about the most wonderful looking ridged golden flatbread, nan e barbari.

We HAD to make both! And as soon as we did, I knew what bread the BBBabes HAD to make this month. Out of the several similar internet versions of recipes for this bread, I chose Lida’s recipe. She wrote:

Perhaps the most famous and widely used bread in Iran, Barbari is a part of Iranian culture. A piece of Barbari with some feta cheese and a cup of tea form the traditional breakfast in Iran. The secret behind the golden color of Barbari and its unique smell is in the small amount of baking soda mixed with some water and used to brush Barbari before baking. This mix is called Romal.

– Lida, 1001 Recipes, Barbari Bread

I love the shape. I love the colour. Let’s face it. I love this bread.

Initially, nan-e-Barbari seems not unlike Indian naan (please note that both “nan” and “naan” simply mean “bread”). There are two primary differences between the Indian and Persian naan:

  1. shaping: To shape the bread, one first forms a ball and then after a resting period, puts in ridges with the fingers.
  2. sauce (Romal): Apparently, the real secret to success is to brush the bread with a baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), flour and water wash just before baking it – although there is some controversy amongst the BBBabes about the baking soda. Omit the baking soda, if you find that it seems to add a chemical flavour to your bread. You’ll still have really great bread; it just won’t be quite as aromatic.
  3. butter – or lack thereof: (Hey!! That’s three!) Unlike Indian naan, this Persian bread dough has no butter, milk or yoghurt in it.

BBB Persian Bread diary:

4 May 2013, 17:46 Ha! You should have heard me earlier today when I was kneading the dough and screaming that it was looser than the croc. In fact, it wasn’t dough at all. It was batter.

nan e barberi Why? Because I’m an idiot. I reduced the recipe by half and then cleverly added the full amount of water with the reduced amounts of everything else.

Luckily, I remembered before letting myself haphazardly dump in more flour. Instead, I threw the correct amount of flour and some extra salt onto the board and kneaded it all in. The dough is still pretty loose but it feels great!

nan e barberi 16:17 Whoa! That’s loosey goosey. But, in spite of my fears, stretching each ball into long thin discs wasn’t tricky at all.

18:17 After slathering the shaped breads with sauce (Romal), I ALMOST threw on sesame seeds. I even had the sesame seed jar open. And then at the last minute, I suddenly switched to nigella seeds.

5 May 2013, 02:17 This bread is amazing! I love the flavour that the sauce adds. In fact, we’re thinking we should use this sauce on all bread. It’s slightly sweet (I guess from the baking soda) and incredibly aromatic.

4 June 2013, 11:38 I plunged in once more to make the Barberi bread. And this time, I measured the flour correctly. (I’m so proud of myself.)

As I was hand-kneading the dough, alternately scraping & folding over, Bertinet lifting & plopping down, or wringing and twisting, I was looking out the window and admiring all the green leaves shining in the morning sun and listening to the birds sing. (I love a good run-on sentence, don’t you?) It was lovely, in spite of the fact that my hands were covered with dough.

I love the sound of the dough slapping down on Richard Bertinet’s ‘lift, flip, plop’. There is just a nice satisfying *plop* as the dough hits the board. Today, I made sure to really stretch the dough towards me before folding it back onto itself and then scrabbling it up to lift, flip and plop down once more.

If you haven’t already watched the video we made of this hand-kneading, please, turn on your speakers and take a listen so you can hear what I hear: hand-kneading slack dough (with sound!!)

And I got to thinking. If I’m not afraid to mix this 87% dough by hand, why am I so afraid of the croc? It can’t be this high in hydration can it?

I just looked at the recipe and see that I’m right. The croc can’t be that high in hydration. It’s even higher! It’s 97% hydration!!

97%!! Eeeeek. No wonder I was afraid of the croc. I’m still afraid. However, I might just be crazy enough to try it one more time. But later. When the barbecue isn’t calling to us to make Persian style kebabs with mint (and maybe some anardana too??), lentils, grilled eggplant, salad and Nan-e-barberi.

6 June 2013 15:12

[T]he baking soda on top made my bread taste slightly chemical.
-Ilva, BBB June bread discussion

I confess that we didn’t notice any chemical flavour at all. I wonder if it’s a difference in what kind of baking powder and/or baking soda we get in Canada.

I too wondered about the baking powder but simply included it obediently because the recipe I was using called for it.

Commercial baking powder preparations often contain undesirable ingredients (such as aluminum compounds)., How to Make Baking Powder

I suspect the baking powder could be left out and nothing bad would happen. But. I wouldn’t leave out the baking soda/flour/water wash. I think the baking soda makes a huge difference. But maybe it would be safe to cut back on the amount of baking soda?

15 June 2013 08:35 As an experiment, I slathered last night’s fougasse with sauce made with just flour and water. It made the bread a lovely colour but the amazing aroma wasn’t there. That clinches it for me. Whenever I make this Persian Flatbread, I will definitely include the baking soda in the sauce.

Here is the BBB June 2013 Nan-e-Barbari (Persian Flatbread) recipe:

Nan e Barbari (Persian flatbread)
based on Lida’s recipe for Barbari Bread at

This is a same day bread. In our 20C kitchen, I mixed and kneaded the dough at around noon. It was ready to shape at about 18:00.


  • 5 gm (~1.5 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 360 gm (1.5 c) water, at 90F ¹
  • 60 gm (~0.5 c) 100% whole wheat flour
  • 360 gm (~2.75 c) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 gm (~0.5 tsp) baking powder ²
  • 6 gm (1 tsp) salt
  • nigella seeds (and/or sesame (black, blonde or brown) or poppy seeds)

Romal (Sauce)

  • .5 tsp flour
  • .5 tsp baking soda ²
  • 80 gm (1/3 c) water
  1. Mixing the dough ³ Pour the water into a largish bowl. Whisk in the yeast.
  2. Add the flours, baking powder and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Kneading Turn the dough out onto an UNfloured board. Wash and dry the mixing bowl. Please do not be tempted to skip this step.
  4. Using both hands on either side of the dough and thumbs resting on the top in the center, lift it up and flip it over in the air before plopping it back down on the board. Fold the dough in half away from you as you plop the dough down. Keep repeating until the dough is smooth. Every so often, use the dough scraper to clean the board. Stretching the dough is desired on the turns. But this won’t start happening right away. (Please look at this video for clarification.)
  5. When the dough is smooth, place it in the clean mixing bowl (there is no need to oil the bowl). Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in a draft-free area to rise to double.
  6. Prepare the sauce Whisk flour, baking soda and water in a small pot. Bring it to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  7. pre-shaping Pre Shaping Line a cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scatter a light dusting of flour on the board and gently remove the risen dough onto it. Cut the dough in half. Form each piece into a ball and place well apart on the cookie sheet. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a plastic grocery bag and allow to rise to double in a draft-free area. (about an hour)
  8. Final Shaping Brush each round with the sauce.
  9. Dip your fingers in the sauce and dimple the rounds down to form two ovals with lengthwise furrows.
  10. Brush ovals with the sauce once more and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Allow the ovals to stand for about 45 min.
  11. baking 4 Put a stone into the barbecue and preheat it to high. Before putting them onto the stone, pull each oval with your hands to lengthen it. Wet your hands so they won’t stick to the ovals and pull the dough from the bottom with your palms facing downwards.
  12. pre-baking Put the lengthened ovals onto the hot stone (include the parchment paper). Move the stone over to cook the bread on indirect heat. Close the barbecue lid. Every so often turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the barbecue. (Remove the paper if it’s convenient.) Cook the bread until it is golden (about 15 minutes).

turn breadremove parchment paperbaking


1.) Water: Please do not use water from the hot water tap. Instead, heat the water in a kettle or microwave (to create lukewarm water, add cold water until it is the correct temperature of 90F (32C). If you are allergic to using a thermometer, you can do the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist.) Please note that before the yeast is added, the water temperature must be BELOW 120F (49C) because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

2.) Baking Powder and Baking Soda: Some of the other BBBabes said they detected a chemical flavour from the baking powder and/or the baking soda. If you’re worried about it, it’s probably safe to omit them entirely to let the yeast do all the leavening and the flour and water in the sauce (Romal) do all the caramelizing. However, the baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) really does add a wonderful aromatic dimension to the bread.

3.) Mixing: I always mix by hand, because we don’t have an electric stand mixer. If you usually use your stand mixer to mix and knead, go to town and do so. But bear in mind that making this bread by hand is not only traditional, but it’s dead-easy and may well add flavour. Lida notes that if you are using a bread machine, you should add the main ingredients in the order suggested by your bread machine manual and continue to follow the manual instructions for mixing and kneading the dough. Then skip to step 6. If you are determined to get your money’s worth out of your electric stand mixer, I suspect that at least one of the other BBBabes has left instructions on her site about how to mix and knead using the machine.

4.) Baking: If you do not have a barbecue, this bread can be baked in a conventional oven. Lida suggests baking it in a preheated 375F (190C) oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

Nan e Barbari (Persian Flatbread) - BBB June 2013

We could not believe how fabulous this smelled as T pulled it out of the barbecue! We had the most amazing dinner of stir-fried cabbage, dahl, Persian-style chapli kebabs made with anardana, all garnished with coriander leaf and hot hot hot red chillies.

We vowed that we would be making this bread all the time. And then it got cold and rainy again until early June when we made the bread again. It was easily as fabulous as the time before.

Yes, indeed it’s worth the effort to go back to basics. This bread is a keeper. I hope you like it as much as we do!


Bread Baking Babes

I have the honour of hosting June 2013’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. And I hope that you too would like to join us this month by plunging your hands into the dough to make this wonderful Persian bread!

We’re having the Persian kabobs tonight on the barbecue and to go with them I’m planning to make Nan e Barbari. […] This bread seems like a perfect June Babe Bread! […]

Last month, Ilva talked about going back to basics. Okay, BBBabes, let’s really go back to basics. Put your KAs, mix masters and bread machines away. I urge you to make the June bread by hand. It’s dead-easy. Really it is. And after all, this bread has been made by hand for eons.

It tastes better that way. :-)

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: clean off your board, wash your hands to make Nan e Barbari (Persian Flatbread) in the next couple of weeks and post about it – we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it: what you didn’t like and/or what you liked – before the 28 June 2013. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month (hey! that’s me!!) to say that your post is up.

Here’s how to let us know:



  • leave a comment on this post that you have baked the bread, leaving a link back to your post.

If you don’t have a blog or flickr-like account, no problem; we still want to see and hear about your bread! Please email me with the details, so your Nan e Barberi can be included in the roundup too.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ Kuchen:

Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


edit 30 June: Take a look at the line up of BBBuddies’ Nan e Barbari. They’re beautiful!

Nan e Barbari (BBB)



This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes on by . hand-kneading

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