The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Iranian Barbari Bread (نان بربری سنتی ایران)

Omid's picture
Omid

Iranian Barbari Bread (نان بربری سنتی ایران)

Greetings! I am a new member here, and this is my very first post. So, allow me to briefly introduce myself. My name is Omid, from Southern California. About two years ago, I brought my law career to an abrupt end after working for many years in the field of civil litigation. I just had to find a new undertaking, a new reason to seduce me to life, something "creative". So, I have been working as a pizzaiolo in a Neapolitan pizzeria for the past two years. On the side, I try to bake breads at home as much as time allows me. I find it quite riveting when one can discipline one’s own senses and hands in order to transform raw materials (such as water, flour, salt, and a fermentative agent) into a work of art, in which one can find oneself, define oneself, overcome oneself, recreate oneself. In my assessment, the psychology of baking is just as important as the act of baking itself. In other words, baking is about transforming the raw materials as much as it is about transforming oneself, cultivating oneself, building artistic character. As German philosopher Karl Marx eloquently expressed, “As man works on nature outside himself and changes it, he changes at the same time his own nature.”

Upon scanning this forum, I noticed that barbari bread has not been discussed in appreciable details here. I am by no means a professional barbari baker, but I will try to make contributions, if the members are interested, as much as time allows and as far as my knowledge can assist me in this matter. Once upon a time, I did one year of internship (six hours per week) at a traditional barbari bakery in Tehran, Iran. Unfortunately, back then I was too impatient to absorb everything.

Last Monday, I baked some mini barbari breads. Below are some pictures of the bake session.

Barbari breads in the process of baking inside the brick oven

Omid's picture
Omid

If the members are interested, I will provide more details on barbari breads. Good day!

Regards,

Omid

Yippee's picture
Yippee

Dear Omid: 

Your expertise in Babari bread is impressive! May I ask if you ever made Sangak in your oven? If there's any information you could also share with us about baking this other Iranian bread at home, I'd appreciate it.  Thank you in advance.

Yippee

MacSia's picture
MacSia

Dear Omid,

I'm so delighted to have just discovered your post on barbari bread-a personal favorite. Your comprehensive documentation on this ancient marvel is a model for Iranian-Americans to emulate and worthy of high praise.

I'd like to ask a couple of question to hopefully unleash a mindful dialogue between us...

1- Have you thought about teaching a class on baking bread (esp barbari)? I would certainly be one to enroll.

2- What are your thoughts on the philosophy that only {things made with human touch have soul}?

Cheer,

Siamak

mdvpc's picture
mdvpc

Very nice!  I too am a lawyer, retired now.  I had not heard about this type of bread, thanks for posting.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Thanks for the post. What is the recipe for the sauce that you mention?

Paul

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Is the final bread dry like a cracker or soft? 

dsadowsk's picture
dsadowsk

My summary judgment is that the barbari looks very appealing.

How are these loaves traditionally eaten? Dipped in oil?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

but it sure looks fantastic!  Just beautiful,  What sauce are you using?

Well done and welcome to TFL!

kygin's picture
kygin

  

And I love the quote....

>>recipes make breads no more than sermons make saints!

A world of truth in that one!

 

 
M2's picture
M2

This bread is available in our local grocery stores and I always eat them with my eyes :-)  Thank for for sharing all these amazing photos.  I have the same questions that other TFLers have asked.

Welcome to the TFL community!

Michelle

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello,
Your Barbari breads are beautiful! Your fork mixer looks like it does a wonderful job of developing the dough.
Thank you for the formula and illustrative pictures of the process to make this bread.
:^) breadsong

Mirko's picture
Mirko

could you please explain what you mean sourdough starter (8%)? You just used 176gr starter or sourdough fermented 12-16h?

by the way bread looks amazing

Mirko

clazar123's picture
clazar123

They are so regular and yet look like fingerpokes. 

Is oil brushed on before the sesame seeds? Is that the "sauce"?

Beautiful bread! I have been looking for some Persian/Assyrian breads to try.

Thank you!! Beautiful post!

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Omid

Welcome to TFL and thanks for a very informative post that i think a good few members will have a shot at, Including myself.

i am very interested in the propane lance firing arrangement for the brick oven if you could elaborate on that would be wonderful, i have long been thinking of a similar arrangement for our WFO  either during high fire danger times or unfavourable wind conditions for the smoke or just to get more use of the said oven.

Many thanks and kind regards Derek 

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear members, I thank you for your patience and generous compliments. Although I am not a professional barbari baker, I will do my best to answer your questions. Before I do so, allow me to make some prefatory remarks. Since bread, culture, and history go hand-in-hand, I will complement my remarks with some historical and cultural information germane to the subject matter.

Iran is a bread culture with a long history of bread-making. According to archaeologists, wheat was cultivated more than 9,000 years ago near the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. It is not fully known how many different types of bread exist throughout the land, but four of them are quite prevalent. Barbari is probably the second most mainstream bread in Iran. Until recently, barbari bread of Iran was unknown in the West. Since the commencement of the 21st century, it has been progressively gaining popularity among professional bakers and consumers in North America and Western Europe. More and more, I keep encountering barbari recipes in online journals and in cookbooks authored by Western bakers. There are few non-Iranian bakeries in the United Stated that have adopted barbari as part of their bread repertoire.

When I was a 9th grader in Iran, as part of a school program initiated by the Ministry of Education, I did one year of internship, one day per week, at a barbari bakery in Tehran. So, almost everything I relate here is based on what I learned during my internship.

§1. History of Iranian Barbari Bread

Barbari bread of Iran seems to have scanty and highly speculative history; no one seems to know for sure the origin(s) of this bread in Iran. Similar types of bread are also produced in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey under different names. Nonetheless, they can be distinguished from the Iranian barbari by the recipes, preparatory procedures, geometric configurations, and ovens they employ to prepare them, with the exception that Turks and Iranians generally use the same type of masonry, brick-domed, wood-fired ovens to bake the breads in.

In Persian, the adjective barbari (بربری) means “of barbars”. And, the noun barbar (بربر) means “barbarian” or “foreigner”. Some hypothetically attribute the barbari bread to the Hazara people (a people that are said to be of Mongolian and Turkic ancestry) who began to migrate from Afghanistan to Northern Persia (the modern-day Iran) about or over two centuries ago. According to this hypothesis, the Hazara migrants, whom the Persians referred to as the “barbars”, began baking the flatbreads in Northern Persia, which Persians eventually named “barbari bread”, the bread of barbarians/foreigners. It is said that Hazara of central Afghanistan are skillful bakers, and bread-making is one of their main occupations.

According to another hypothesis, the barbari bread of Iran is of Turkic origin. Keep in mind that the Turkic people (who are diverse people)—before migrating to northern Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and conquering Byzantium and Anatolia (collectively known as the modern-day Turkey)—inhabited the land that was in close proximity to the Hazara in Afghanistan. It is said that the Turkic people, similar to Hazara, are genealogically related to Mongolians. In the 13th century, the Mongol Empire encompassed much of Eurasia, including modern Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey.

 

Akin to the Neapolitan pizza which transformed into the New York-style pizza in New York in early 1900s, the proto-barbari likewise underwent a transformational process to reach its present form in Iran. Whatever might be the genesis of the Iranian barbari bread, it is an integral part of the culinary landscape of the land. It is believed that barbari bread has been mainstream in Persia since late 1700s, when the Qajar Dynasty (whose kings were of Turkic origin) began to rule over Persia.

§2. Geometric shape of Iranian barbari bread

The geometric shape of the traditional Iranian barbari bread consists of a flat, rectangular plane. The approximate measurements of the length, width, and depth of the flatbread are 60-70 cm (24-28 inches), 20-23 cm (8-9 inches), and 2-3.5 cm (0.79-1.38 inches), respectively. (See the picture below.)

Here is a picture of actual barbari breads which were professionally produced in Tehran, Iran.

The two widths of the flatbread are round rather than straight. In certain regions of Iran, the flatbread takes on a circular shape. Naturally, the provincial variations, in terms of the geometric configuration and dough formulation of the bread, have always been present. Reproductions of cultural products are not always immune to mutations. Nonetheless, the rectangular configuration is considered the norm. Within the last 20 years, there have been many new-generation bakers who do not adhere to the traditionally prescribed shape and dimensions of barbari bread.

To produce a barbari bread with the aforementioned dimensions, Barbari bakers measure each dough ball (technically known as chāneh in Persian) at about 650 to 700 grams. However, 700- to 900-gram dough balls, which make bigger breads, are not uncommon.

§3. Anatomy and organoleptic attributes of Iranian barbari bread 

The anatomy and organoleptic attributes of traditional barbari bread of Iran are as follows: 

1. Top Crust

  • Description: “Top crust” (known as poosteh bālā) refers to the crusty skin that covers the entire top surface of the bread. (See the picture below.)
  • Characteristics: The top crust is golden brown in color. And, akin to a good French baguette, the top crust is crisp in texture without being brittle or flakey.

2. Bottom Crust

  • Description: “Bottom crust” (known as poosteh pāeen) refers to the crusty skin that covers the entire bottom surface of the bread. (See the picture below.)
  • Characteristics: The bottom crust is lighter in color than the top crust. And, akin to the bottom surface of a good baguette, it is crisp in texture without being brittle or flakey.

3. Bulges

  • Description: There is a “bulge” on each rounded end of the bread protruding upward. (See the picture below.) The bulges are technically known as gonbad, bālesh, or ghos, literally meaning “dome”, “pillow”, and “arch”, respectively.
  • Characteristics: The two bulges are more inflated than the rest of the top surface in between them. The crumb within the bulges are airy and moderately elastic/chewy.

4. Grooves and Ribs

  • Description: There are parallel “grooves” (sheeyār) and “ribs” (dandeh) extending through the length of the top surface of the bread from one bulge to the other. (See the picture below.) There is really no fixed number of grooves or ribs, which partly depends on (1) how well dough balls have ripened before baking, (2) the rheological qualities, i.e., the elasticity and extensibility, of the dough balls, (3) the weight of dough balls, and (4) the intended width of bread. The number of grooves ranges between 6 and 14, the most common being 8 or 9. As a general rule, more grooves mean less crumb. And, conversely, less grooves mean more crumb.
  • Characteristics: The grooves are deep and do not extend over the two bulges. Moreover, the grooves should not make it difficult to separate the top crust from the bottom crust by using your fingers. In other words, the seams, created by the grooves, should be loose or tender enough to enable you to detach the top crust from the bottom crust without tears developing along the seams.

5. Crumb

  • Description: “Crumb” (maghz-eh nān) refers to the entire inner, fleshy part of the bread enveloped between the top and bottom crusts. (See the picture below.)
  • Characteristics: The barbari crumb must not be dense. The air bubbles/pockets in the crumb should not be of uniform shape and size; they are of various shapes and sizes distributed throughout the crumb. The crumb should be airy and light, moderately elastic, not doughy or gummy or glossy or translucent, not overly chewy, not bleached in color, subtly sweet and nutty in flavor, moderately or less than moderately sour if sourdough culture is used; not yeasty if baker’s yeast is used, and easily digestible.

The following video provides a good example of how the barbari crumb sould be like, although the video is about French baguette whose crumb is comparable to barbari’s:

After I sauced and grooved the dough balls, I sprinkled raw, not roasted, sesame seeds on the barbari doughs. (See the picture below.)

Alternatively, black caraway seeds (Nigella sativa) or both sesame and black caraway seeds can be used, or no seeds at all. For your information, black caraway seeds are also known as “black cumin seeds” in the US. From my perspective, sesame seeds can add a delightful dimension to the flavor of the bread. Some barbari bakers prefer to forgo addition of any seeds in order to appreciate the innate flavors of the bread by itself. Traditional barbari bakers advise us not to sprinkle excessive amount of seeds on dough balls, for the seeds are there to accentuate—not dominate—the subtle flavors of the bread.

§8-8. Stretching, positioning, and launching the finalized dough balls

After I flattened, sauced, grooved, and seeded the three barbari dough balls, I (1) picked up the first dough, (2) stretched it lengthwise, and (3) placed it on the wooden launching peel. (See the picture below.) The three-step sequence of actions is collectively known as bār kardan.

How a barbari dough is manually picked up, stretched, and positioned on a launching peel is another critical part of the operation. A fair percentage of successfully producing a barbari bread depends on how skillfully this part of the operation is executed. It requires agile and decisive movements of the hands to execute it properly. Here’s how it is traditionally done:

  • Before you begin, the lengths of the finalized dough should be facing you. With your right-hand fingers, softly grab and lift an edge somewhere along the length of the dough and quickly insert your left hand, palm up and fingers stretched open, under the dough and position the hand under theleft portion (i.e., between the left bulge and middle) of the dough. Lift the dough higher with your left hand and quickly maneuver your right hand, palm up and fingers stretched open, under the right portion (i.e., between the right bulge and middle) of the dough.
  • As you hold the dough on your both hands, palms up and fingers open, stretch the dough lengthwise by moving your hands away from one another. Before the gravitational force unduly gravitate and overstretch the middle, unsupported section of the dough, lay the middle down on the middle section of the launching peel (which should be situated to your right side) while your left hand places the left portion of the dough on the front section of the peel. Now, your left-hand palm, still under the dough and fingers open, needs to turn clockwise and face down as it slides toward the front side of the peel and exits from under the left side, which is now the front side, of the dough. (See the picture below.)
  • After  your left hand exited toward the front side of the peel, your right hand needs to place the right portion, which is now the back portion, of the dough on the back section of the peel.  Your right-hand palm, still under the dough and fingers open, needs to turn counter-clockwise and face down as it slides toward the back of the peel and exits from under the back side of the dough.
  • As the left and right hands make their exits, they stretch, straighten, and symmetrize the dough. The left hand should exist before the right hand, so, if needed, it can assist the right hand with stretching, straightening, and symmetrizing the dough.

 

Below is a picture of an Iranian baker positioning a finalized dough on a launching peel.

 

Here is a video demonstrating the process described above:

§10. Customary Division of Labor in Iranian Bakeries

Bread production on commercial scale is of vital importance in Iran. Since time immemorial, bread has been a main part of the Iranian diet. In Iran, the four principal types of breads, all of which are flatbreads, are: (1) sangak, (2) barbari, (3) taftan, and (4) lavash. Additionally there are three popular types of sweet flatbread: nān-e ghandi, nān-e shirmal, and nān-e roghani. (The word nān or naan—which simply means “bread” without specifying any particular type of bread in Iran, India, and some other nations—is a Persian word derived from the Old Persian word nagna. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, 5th edition, nagna means, “naked, bare [probably from being baked uncovered in an oven rather than covered in hot ash].”) Consumption of bread reportedly constitutes, on average, 70% of the daily caloric intake in Iran. Accordingly, standing in long bakery lines is part of the daily routines of Iranians. Therefore, to facilitate the daily production of massive number of breads, a customary division of labor has been in place since distant past. Per the customs, the division of labor in barbari bakeries is as follows:

  • Khamir-gir (i.e., “dough preparer”, who is sometimes referred to as the “caliph”)
  • Chāneh-gir (i.e., “dough-ball preparer”, who is also in charge of finalizing the dough balls)
  • Vardast (i.e., “assistant” to the dough preparer and dough-ball preparer)
  • Shāter (i.e., “oven-tender”, who is in charge of oven management before and during baking. In addition, she or he is responsible for stretching the finalized dough balls, launching them in the oven, and baking them.)

There used to be an hour-long documentary video, professionally made by a French baker, on barbari and sangak (which is the irrefutable queen of all Iranian breads). The documentary, which was titled "Bread and Civilization" is unfortunately no longer available on Youtube. I hope the video resurface.

Any of your questions that were not addressed above, I will answer in my future posts. Have a great day!

Omid

dsadowsk's picture
dsadowsk

Amid, this is an impressive, well researched piece. You really should start a blog here, you have so much to contribute.

Among the many fascinating areas you touch on is the decline in standards in bread baking, a phenomenon repeated in many places around the world in response to economIc pressures. Is there an artisan bread movement in Iran? To sustain an artisan bakery there needs to be customers able and willing to pay the higher prices for bread baked with care. I don't know whether such a customer base exists, in light of worldwide economic conditions and of the effects of sanctions. I also wonder, given what I understand are significant cultural and political differences between rural and urban populations in Iran, whether the traditional breadmaking values that you tell us persist in some village bakeries are appreciated among the comparatively more well-off urban middle class persons who might have more income to buy artisan breads. 

Always more questions, but I hope that providing the answers doesn't interfere with the actual baking!

Don

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Don, you asked, “Is there an artisan bread movement in Iran?” I do not know. Frankly, I am not even sure what is meant by the term “artisan” as a culinary movement. The term is ubiquitously heard in the culinary circles in the US. Is there an actual, organized artisan bread movement here in the US? Good day!

Omid

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello Omid,
Thank you for sharing the not only the history of this bread, but so many helpful details about making it.
I will come back to that mixer - it does an amazing job - so many air bubbles evident in the dough, after mixing and the 20-minute rest. After baking, your bread has the most beautifully- textured, open crumb!
I hope you don't mind a couple of questions. Do you ever take the dough's temperature after mixing?; and,
When examining the dough after mixing for extensibility and elasticity, are you looking for a moderately, or well-developed dough?
Thank you so much for what you've shared regarding this bread!
:^) breadsong

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Breadsong, in regard to your first question ("Do you ever take the dough's temperature after mixing?"), the answer is "yes", particularly under precarious circumstances. You also asked, "When examining the dough after mixing for extensibility and elasticity, are you looking for a moderately, or well-developed dough?" Under normal circumstances, I look for a moderate or a bit more attenuated degree of gluten development in the dough unless the flour type, ambient temperature, and/or other variables require a different measure. Have a great day!

Omid

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Absolutely fascinating!  

Just found this post and so glad you shared, Omid. Using 8% sourdough starter is right up my alley, long rise time and so much crust!  I just love crust!  Although I can't do this bread justice in a wood oven, I 'm certainly going to try it for it looks like a lot of fun!  (Why do I smell garlic?)  (Garlic and roasting sesame!)  

Welcome to TFL!  

Mini Oven

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Thanks for this Omid, a very comprehensive and intriguing article.  There is something so much more wholesome and satisfying in seeing and reading about the background, national relevance and cultural aspects of a bread instead of simply being presented with a recipe and photo of the finished product.  This is an excellent contribution and I trust (and hope !) there is more to come, not least a similar breakdown of the other 3 principle breads mentioned (sangak, taftan, and lavash) :-)

I'll have a go a making a home version of this as I am sure others will too.

Many thx

Omid's picture
Omid

For preparing the barbari sauce (roomāl), please see section §9 above.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Ok, having a crack at this.  Omid's explanation is very comprehensive so success lies in my ability to follow it and maintain the right dough consistency.  I've scaled down the quantities significantly as I only want to make a couple of these initially using my home oven.  The oven is going to restrict how long I can stretch them too so slightly apprehensive.  So far my dough is made and is now staring its 11 hour rest.  I've used:

366g Flour,  250g water, 7g Salt and somewhere between 0 and 1g of yeast (my scales don't do less then 1g)

Followed your method with water first then salt then yeast then flour.  Kneaded by hand for 5 mins.  Dough was sticky but not overly so.

What slightly intrigues me about this Barbari bread is that the base ingredients are the same as any other bread, flour, water, yeast and salt so what is going to make it taste significantly different?  Coating the underside in wheat bran might well be a big contributor as well as the sesame seeds on top.  The "sauce" being itself flour and water equally intrigues me.  Will the taste of this element surprise me ?

Roll on tomorrow !  :-)

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear ElPanadero, I hope you had satisfactory results in baking your loaves. Please, feel free to share pictures of your breads. Good day!

Omid

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Many thanks for all this Omid.   My Barbari's came out beautifully.  Rather than extend your excellent post here with more and more photos (which really slows down loading times), I have created my first blog with the photos.  I would welcome your views on what I produced.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/36601/omids-iranian-barbari-bread

Once again, many thanks for the comprehensive instructions and background

El Panadero

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

st

Just love this crumb.  Only made 2 Barbari's but they've already been demolished !  16 hrs+ work, gone in less than 1hr.  Will just have to make more !  :-)

 

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear El Panadero, you have done a great job as someone new to the world of barbari bread. I am truly surprised at how well you executed this. You are a fast learner! Perchance, it was your pre-established knowledge and skills that made the bread easy for you to make. I have known newbies who are still having difficulties in preparing barbari breads after months of trials. You are officially a barbarian. Welcome to the tribe!

Omid

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

It's kind of you to say but I'm no expert, just an enthusiastic amateur who will spend the rest of his life learning.  Your recipe and instructions were very comprehensive, so hard to go wrong.  That said, when you look through YouTube clips for Barbari breads there's a lot of process "dilution" and the finished breads don't have anything like your crumb.  It's all in the fermentation I reckon, and a decent flour.

My wife loved this so much she now wants me to make a version that she can take to work for sandwiches.  Slight problem there as the "grooving" of Barbari means it doesn't lend well to slicing horizontally.  However without the grooves this would balloon up into a dome with probably big air holes.  Any ideas here?   Maybe I can just form into round rolls and flatten them before baking?   Or is one of your other 3 Persian breads more suitable for a sandwich?

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Dsadowsk, you asked, “How are these loaves traditionally eaten?”

Iran is a bread culture, i.e., bread is culturally considered “necessary nourishment”, besides being a sacred symbol. Bread has been of fundamental value in the Persian culinary culture. Hence, Iranians would tell you: if there are no breads on our tables, we still feel unfulfilled after satiating our appetites with other types of foods.

Barbari bread is eaten with all sorts of comestibles: beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, vegetables, herbs, butter, cheese, yogurt, rice, cured meats, deli meats, dips, salads, soups, pasta, stews, and many more. Barbari is widely encountered on breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables, particularly in northern Iran.

Barbari finds its most routine and traditional use in what is the most classic Iranian breakfast. The breakfast is known as "noon chaie panir”, meaning, “bread, tea, cheese”. (“Noon” is a non-formal way of writing “naan”, which simply means "bread" without specifying the type.) The breakfast, in its most basic form, consists of: 

  • Freshly brewed dark tea (served hot and preferably sweetened with sugar or honey)
  • Barbari bread
  • Iranian cheese, which is identical to feta cheese (the soft/creamy type is preferable)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Optional: Jams or honey

Basically, some butter and cheese is stuffed in a piece of barbari, which you eat as you drink some tea over it. By the way, Iranian or feta cheese is the most basic type of cheese that has been produced since ancient times in various regions of West Asia, including Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey. In Iran, cheese and barbari are considered gastronomic allies.

Barbari is also used in a traditional Iranian appetizer known as “noon panir sabzi”, meaning “bread, cheese, herbs”. The appetizer consists of:

  • Barbari bread
  • Iranian/Feta cheese
  • Mint, green onion, tarragon, basil, radish
  • Walnuts
  • Optional: Iranian style yogurt (either plain or with shallots)
  • Optional: Regular or Persian cucumbers (available at Trader Joe’s, Ralphs, and Iranian supermarkets)
  • Optional: Raisons 

Basically, some cheese, herb(s), and walnut is stuffed in a piece of barbari, and I believe you can imagine the rest. Some people would limit this appetizer to only barbari, cheese, and walnuts. You may like to add some icy tequila! By the way, barbari along with Iranian/feta cheese and watermelon/cantaloupe is considered a snack in Iran. Have a great weekend!

Omid

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Mirko, you asked, “Could you please explain what you mean sourdough starter (8%)? You just used 176gr starter or sourdough fermented 12-16h?”

I am not sure if I fully understand your questions. So, let me approach them as follows. First, by “sourdough culture” (or “sourdough starter”) I mean a mixture of only water and flour in which two classes of fermentative micro-organisms are cultivated: wild yeasts (not baker’s yeast or Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and beneficial bacteria. On regular basis, I revitalize the culture by discarding a portion thereof, followed by incorporating certain amounts of water and flour to the remaining portion.

When the culture reaches a certain level of activity, I use a percentage of it (based on the weight of the flour) in order to inoculate my barbari dough. So, when I prepared the dough in my initial post above, I took 8% (176 gr.) of my sourdough culture and dissolved it in the water (1518 gr.) in which I had already dissolved the salt (44 gr.). Thereafter, I added the flour (2200 gr.) and began mixing. The resulting dough was fermented for about 10 hours in bulk plus 4 hours in balls at room temperature.

I hope the above satisfied your questions. Good day!

Omid

nahidnahidi's picture
nahidnahidi

Omid, I love your Barbaries and I am in love with your Tanoor. I am sure you enjoy your new job more than the previous one, I will do the same someday. I design Jet Engines but enjoy Bread making more, much more :).

 My first job after retirement is making a tanoor from khake ros and Horse hair :)

I have a question, I have baked Barbaries with different recipes+twists and got the taste and appearances and the texture right, or at least think did very good. However it gets tough very fast in matter of few hours. Much faster than Barbaries do in Iran.

I did not used Setareh Flour, no Iranian Store close by. I used AK bread flour,and just regular AP flour both with and without malt. I also used dry yeast. I mixed the dough as much as I do my French Bread.

Could you please let me know if the toughness is coming from mixing (or maybe overmixing)?I think more mixing more gluten development I get !!

I do not think I really need the Setareh flour, or sourdough starter. I think I got the taste right and starter does not make any difference, right,

 Have you ever baked with dry yeast and AK Bread flour, or any regular AP flour?

Before trying your method, Just wanted to check with you, could you please let me know if this method does not make a tough Barbari?

Maybe some of the answers are in your post and comments, but did not get chance to go over all of them yet.

Regards, Nahid

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Derek (Yozzause), here is some information about the torch and the torching procedure I use. I hope they are helpful. My propane torch was purchased for about $50 US dollars at Home Depot. Here is a link:

Lincoln Electric Inferno Propane Torch Kit

It is a powerful torch. Its maximum output is 500,000 BTU. Therefore, one has to be very cautious in using it. Misusing the torch may result in serious bodily injury and/or property damage, including the oven. I must point out that the builder of my oven warned me against using the torch for fear of causing damages to the oven. So, I have been using it very cautiously and attentively. So far, after about 2 years, I have not noticed any visible damages.

Since my oven is of small size (25 inches of internal floor diameter) and thermal mass (about 550 pounds), the torch has been very practical in heating up my oven. I do not know how practical it may prove to be in your oven.

The way I heat up my oven with the torch, for the purpose of baking barbari breads, is as follows. The day before I bake my breads, I preheat my oven by torching the dome—using a fraction of the output of the torch—for about 4 hours or until the inner walls of the oven reach about 800°F.

Then, I shut the chimney hole and put on the two oven doors, positioned before and after the chimney hole. By the way, when I torch my oven, I use an aluminum plate to minimize the opening of the oven door in order to minimize heat loss. The main reason I preheat the oven is to give it a chance to be saturated with the thermal energy as much as possible. As I am sure you know, thermal saturation of takes time. 

Next day, about two hours before I bake my breads, I torch the oven for about 1 or 2 hours (depending on how hot it is) until the floor reaches about 550°F. To procure good bake results, oven management is quite critical. Have a great day!

Omid

farmcook's picture
farmcook

This is a great post.  Would you mind outlining the basic process for making "Iranian/feta cheese"?  I'd like to see if it's similar to a type of cheese that I often make.

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Farmcook, unfortunately I do not know how to make the cheese. I wished I knew. As far as I know, the cheese, which is a brined cheese, can be made either out of sheep milk or caw milk. The village of Lighvan in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran is known for making it out of sheep milk. It is known as panir-e Lighvan or panir-e Tabriz. (Panir, sometimes spelled paneer, means "cheese".) There are other villages that produce the same type of cheese, but with a much softer and creamier texture, akin to fior di latte. Unfortunately, I do not remember the proper name of the product, which is usually named after the village producing it. I will inform you if I find out. Good day!

Omid

alireza's picture
alireza

Omid, this was an excellent and in-depth article. Bravo.

i have been making Iranian cheese for a few years. I'm also a bread making enthusiast. Here's a recipe for Iranian cheese. All cheese are made with rennet. Rennet naturally comes from the fourth stomach of the cow which is very powerful in solidifying milk. Now, the recipe:

1 gallon sheep, goat or whole cow's milk

2 Junket brand rennet tablets dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water. This is found in the pudding mix section of the store. You can also order animal rennet in liquid form.

1 cup cultured buttermilk that has been in room temperature for about 2 hours.

Warm the milk to 100 degrees.

Add buttermilk and stir lightly

Add the 1/2 cup water containing dissolved rennet tablets.

Stir very lightly for 1 minute - no more. (the milk will curdle - you don't want to break the curdles).

Cover the pot with a few layers of towels in a warm place for one hour.

The milk will be curdled by now.

Cut the solid milk in cubes about 1 inch in size.

Let it sit for 2-3 minutes. You will see a light yellow liquid (whey) formed among the cubes.

Place a colander on top of a pot and line the colander with cheese cloth.

Scoop up the solid milk cubes and put them in the colander lined with cheese cloth.

Let the whey drop to the pot underneath the colander.

After about 10 minutes, grab the corners of the cheese cloth and overlap them on top of each other.

Place a heavy small pot filled with water in it on top of the cheese cloth that has the milk curdles in it. This will force more of the whey out of the cheese.

Let this sit over night until all the whey is dripped out of the cheese.

In the morning, take the cheese out of the cheese cloth (it will be round and almost flat, about 2 inches in thickness).

Cut the cheese in cubes of 2-3 inches in size, separate them apart about 1/4 inch on a cutting board that's has a slight slope going into the sink (you can place a spoon under one end to create a slope.

Sprinkle rock kosher salt (not iodine salt) on top of the cheese cubes. This will draw more whey out of the cheese and it will drip down slop into the sink.

Let this continue for 6-8 hours until the cheese cubes are firm and solid.

Take the cubes and place them in salt brine (3 TBSP of salt in one quart of water).

Leave in the refrigerator.

When eating the cheese, you can wash it with water to remove the salty taste.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

Omid's picture
Omid

Yesterday, I had a bake session, trying to improve my skills in effectively shaping barbari dough into a flat rectangular plane with the grooves and bulges. As with any other bread dough that I know of, if the shaping and handling is poorly executed, then the aesthetics, texture, and taste of the bread will suffer to a lesser or greater degree.

Here are some of the details:

  • King Arthur organic all-purpose flour: 2200 gr. (datum point)
  • Water: 1540 gr. (70%)
  • Salt: 55 gr. (2.5%)
  • Sourdough culture: 110 gr. (5%)
  • Initial fermentation: About 12 hours at room temperature
  • Final fermentation: About 5 hours at room temperature

Omid's picture
Omid

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Hi Omid, you said :

"Yesterday, I had a bake session, trying to improve my skills in effectively shaping barbari dough into a flat rectangular plane with the grooves and bulges"

Having made these Barbari's following your clear instructions with a good deal of success I would make the following comment.  Typically, when we want to create a rectangular shaped piece of dough we pre-shape accordingly.  In your method you are pre-shaping your dough portions into small boules which in hindsight now seems a little odd.  A boule pre-shape lends itself to creating a flat circle or plump batard.   If I am making baguettes or say a fougasse I am looking for a rectangular shape to work with so I pre-shape accordingly.  For this I simply flatten and stretch the dough portion out into a rough rectangle and then "letter fold" left to right and again top to bottom (if the dough size and elasticity permits this).  This creates a plump loaf shape with good straight edges along all sides.  After this is left to relax it flattens easily into a rectangle.  With the Barbari's I believe you're looking for straight long edges but curved ends so perhaps for this a pre-shape with a single letter fold top to bottom would be best.

If you go back and look at the 2nd of the 2 video clips your provided (Omid's Barbari Video.wmv) you will see in the first few frames the baker is pre-shaping the dough portions.  He's doing it very quickly, making it look effortless, but I believe he is basically folding the dough underneath and producing not a boule but rather a  batard with straighter long sides and rounded ends.  It's hard to see exactly in the video but it's definitely not a boule.

Hope this helps. 

EP

p.s.  I noted also in your method that you shape the main dough mass into a boule before it gets it's 11 hr fermentation.  Is there a reason for this?  Does it aid the prooving?

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear El Panadero, I thank you for the suggestion. You brought up a point worthy of consideration in re pre-shaping leavened dough pieces into a rectangular configuration akin to pre-shaping a French baguette or batard dough. What you wrote makes perfect sense, but that is not how it is traditionally done in barbari bakeries in Iran (neither in barbari-like bakeries in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey). Iranian bakers view the French method superfluous when it comes to shaping barbari dough, for baguettes or batards are fundamentally different—structurally and texturally—than barbari breads. (I do understand that you did not mean to literally treat the barbari dough exactly like a baguette or batard dough.) If a ripened round barbari dough ball (which I believe is easier and faster to make than its French counterpart) has the right physical constitution, shaping or pre-shaping it into a quadrilateral configuration will not pose any problems at all under skillful hands. So, it is within this framework that I would like to improve my skills.

Yet, this does not mean that barbari bakeries do no pre-shape their doughs. In fact, many barbari bakeries pre-shape their leavened dough balls into a more or less quadrilateral or oval configuration after the balls have reached maturation and a while prior to applying the sauce, not when the dough balls are formed upon conclusion of the initial fermentation. And, as I mentioned above, the pre-shaping is done not the way a baguette or batard dough is pre-shaped; there is no “letter folding” because it may unduly tighten the gluten matrix and lengthen the dough maturation time. The same is also true with respect to Afghani, Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Turkish bakeries that produce barbari-like breads (such as naan-e tandoor, təndir çörəyi, bahrbahree, and pide, respectively), which are shaped into a more or less rectangular, rhombus, or oval configuration right before being baked. Sometimes, they are just round.

To further explore this subject, allow me to briefly outline the process of preparing barbari dough per standard #5809 of the Institute of Standards (ISIRI), which is, more or less, the standard operating procedure in barbari bakeries in Iran:

  • Stage 1: Barbari dough is prepared by mixing water, salt, sourdough (or commercial yeast), and flour.

  • Stage 2: After a short rest period, the dough is taken out of the mixer bowl and placed inside a proper container to undergo the initial fermentation.
  • Stage 3: The dough is cut and weighed into about 650-gram portions, and then they are formed into “chānehaye khamir gerd”, meaning, “round dough balls”.

  • Stage 4: The dough balls undergo final fermentation.
  • Stage 5: The dough balls are placed on a worktable that is covered with wheat bran. Next, one tablespoon of the sauce (roo-maal) is poured on top of each dough ball; [the sauce is smeared evenly]; and the dough balls are manually shaped and spread about 1.5 centimeter thick. (Notice that the ISIRI document is silent on quadrilateral or oval pre-shaping which is, notwithstanding, commonly done after the dough balls have reached maturation and a while prior to applying the sauce.)

The pictures used above are not part of the ISIRI document; nonetheless, I included them for the sake of illustration. The pictures were sourced from an Iranian web page that is no longer available.

Considering the above, I make the assumption that the baker, in the video you referred to in your post, performed “stage 3” in the initial frames (0:00 to 0:11); that is, he had already cut the dough mass into equal portions, and, in those frames, he formed each portion into a round dough ball. Notice that there is an old-fashion scale on the right side of the table in the pertinent part of the video. I assume that he used the scale to weigh each dough portion before balling them.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"52723","attributes":{"alt":"Sadece Sabah Kahvaltısı İçin Geleneksel Pide Ekmek Nasıl Yapılır. Ahlat - Bitlis","class":"media-image"}}]]

Out of curiosity, are you from Spain (El Panadero)? Have a great day!

Regards,

Omid

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Hi Omid.   Interesting follow up there and nice to watch those videos.  I was quite fascinated by the variations in patterns achieved by the differeing finger grooving.

I've tried pre-shaping with standard letter folds (as I seem to be making these Barbari's at least twice a week now !!!) and it has worked quite well for me.  That's mostly because I've been adapting the method for a domestic oven which of course can't cope with anything of the length of Barbari's shown in your video clips.   I've also been trying to gain a little extra height in them at the request of my wife so making them shorter tends to achieve this.

If I were a commercial baker and wanted to make these in the UK, my thoughts are that the shaping would need to be different, unless my audience was comprised of Persian oriented customers who are already used to Barbari's.  For the UK, there is something a little "wild" and unfinished about these breads, some come out longer than others, some wider and so on.  I would want to make a more finished and consistent version I think (though I appreciate that wouldn't be as traditional).   I've laterly been baking these in small rectangular baking trays so they come out the same size and shape and height and that has worked well.  A perfect round shape might also look good too, though again untraditional.   Am I on a dark path here ?  lol

Btw, no I am not Spanish, I'm English but I've been learning Spanish for the past 4 years :-)

fornographer's picture
fornographer

I thought that name looked familiar! Great to see you here, Omid! :)

Omid's picture
Omid

Good to see you, pizza comrade!

Regards

Omid

Omid's picture
Omid

Here are some interesting pictures of a barbari bakery run by father and son in Tehran, Iran. The pictures, which can silently communicate more than what words can convey, are chronologically ordered.

Omid's picture
Omid

Omid's picture
Omid

Preparing barbari breads in non-commercial environments naturally imposes many limitations. So, we home-bakers do what we can to get by.

Round barbaris are not as uncommon as one might think, although majority of Iranians prefer the traditional configuration. Some Iranian bakeries produce both round and quadrilateral barbaris. The same goes with many barbari-like bakeries in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey. I am going to post, below, some pictures of barbari-like breads of the aforementioned countries, starting with Afghanistan. Good day!

Regards,

Omid

 

Omid's picture
Omid

The picture of the Afghani baker, below, was shot by a Frenchman in 1969 in Kabul. Priceless! 

The picture below depicts three Hazara bakers in Afghanistan. (As mentioned before, they are known as "barbars" in Iran.) They bear the Mongolian physiognomy on their faces. Magnificent!

The picture below depicts another Hazara baker in Afghanistan.

Omid's picture
Omid

In Azerbaijan, the task of preparing breads is often delegated to females.

Omid's picture
Omid

Omid's picture
Omid

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

A lot of creativity there Omid, quite inspiring.

Question for you. Have you made Barbari's without using the traditional "star" flour and instead using European flours like French T55, American AP flour, std strong bread flour and so on? If so, how different is the taste? The Barbari's I made look the part but I wonder if someone from the East were to taste them, whether they would deem them "normal" ?

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear El Panadero, thank you! Please, forgive my delayed response. I have never used French T55 flour (which is difficult to find in the US); however, I have used American all-purpose flour with satisfactory results. In my assessment, not all all-purpose flours yield satisfactory results.

Also, I have used strong bread flours, which I found too strong for the purpose of making barbari breads. In terms of flavor, setareh/star flour is generally different than the all-purpose flours and bread flours that I have used so far. To me, the difference is very distinct, but I do not believe most Iranians would be able to discern that. Have a great day!

Omid

mightypizzaoven's picture
mightypizzaoven

Omid, beautiful collection of photos. 

 

Bert

Omid's picture
Omid

Dear Bert, good to see you here! I hope to see you again at the next pizza summit. Good day!

Omid

mightypizzaoven's picture
mightypizzaoven

Hi Omid, it was fun last year, it will be nice to see every one again. Have a great day

 

Bert

tea berries's picture
tea berries

I was delighted to see this bread here, and wanted to reach out to you as a Westerner who loves Iran, and owns a home with my husband in Shiraz. I have been to Tehran, and adore this bread! I do wish we had the privilege of a wonderful oven as yours to make such wonderful bread, but I think perhaps it is achievable in a conventional oven with the right conditions. Thank you for posting this - if I can pull it off, my husband will be amazed! :) Khodahafez

Omid's picture
Omid

Salam! I am delighted to see you here. I hope there is enough information here to enable you to successfully prepare barbari breads for your family. If it is no trouble, please share your results with us here, with pictures. Are there any barbari bakeries where you live? How about sangak bakeries?

Long time ago, back in early 70s, I traveled to Shiraz as a young boy. I remember it was a beautiful city with hospitable people. And, I remember the sangak bakeries there, but I do not recall seeing any barbari bakeries. To the best of your knowledge, is barbari bread popular in Shiraz? Have you or your husband seen any barbari bakeries there?

Let me know if you run into problems in making barbari breads. I do not know how experienced you are in making breads, especially when it comes to using sourdough culture. If you are a beginner, I recommend using baker's yeast (preferably fresh/cake yeast) instead of sourdough culture. Good day!

Omid

tea berries's picture
tea berries

Walaikum Asalam waramatullah wabarakatu, and merci… I sure hope I can make some of these delicious breads also! My husband was drooling at your photos. Yes, they have barbari breads in Shiraz… but more sangak breads which are cooked on the pebbles. Both are equally delicious in my opinion, though there are some differences in each of them. I do have a sourdough culture going, and will be baking with it soon. I would love to master this bread for my family, however do not have the privilege of a wonderful stone oven such as you have! It's very lovely, afarin! 

I will certainly show pictures of my bread, up until now I've only been asking questions and posting general start-up photos, no bread as of yet… but getting started and knowing your procedure is a process that I'm realizing is a bit more thoughtful than for the breads I've made in the past which had zero flavour and dense crumb. I'm learning, and excited for my results! :)

Tea

Omid's picture
Omid

Thank you!

Omid's picture
Omid

Thank you!

adri's picture
adri

They look very nice!

Just a view weeks ago I bough nigella sativa seeds (my dictionary gives me "black caraway"?) with the intention to make a similar bread. I thought I needed them before reading your posts.

But now I think I'll follow your basic recipe.

Thank you very much for sharing.

Khodadad's picture
Khodadad

Salam ostad, 

Thanks for taking to the to post such stimulating and informative content. It was truly a pleasure to read. Have you ever tried to make sangak at home? I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts. We'll probably want to start a new thread. 

Cheers,

Khody

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

This thread has become far too long with all the pictures, many of which are repeated.  Maybe consider cutting some out?  It takes ages for the thread to open (on my laptop anyway !)  :-)

le boulonger86's picture
le boulonger86

Why play around with perfection

 

tea berries's picture
tea berries

Would make for a wonderful blog along with the recipe. The thread is quite long, but I can't in good conscience ask him to delete any of the photos… it took so much work and they are very interesting! :)

honorbread's picture
honorbread

This is the most amazing post. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge. I can't wait to try it.

ealiel's picture
ealiel

This is amazing. I think it's very important to learn about history of baking. I'm going to print this amazing post! it'll have an important place in my records!


Guido

Heidi3130's picture
Heidi3130

I can't express how grateful I am to find this post.  I have been longing to find this Barberi bread for a very long time.  Wonderful memories of my mother, sister and I walking back home from weekend errands and always buying this bread at a local bakery in Sunnyside Queens.  The bread would rarely make it back to the house.  If we were lucky there would still be half!  I was very young at the time so I didn't remember the name of the place or even the type of bread it was.  My mother couldn't remember either and the bakery didn't stay open for long while we resided there.  The other day we were reminiscing about it....again lol.  I was now on a mission!  After stumbling upon Sangak bread, and a local bakery who makes it the following day my mission was complete!  One of your beautiful images popped up on my google search, and I was thrilled!!!  I finally found it:))  I have not only found a bakery somewhat nearby, but Now I have an incredible recipe, photos, videos, a wonderful history, cultural insight and more.  My search definitely resulted in much more than I expected, but I could not be happier (esp as a fellow bread enthusiast;).  Thank you!     

le boulonger86's picture
le boulonger86

This is my humble attempt at making Naan Barbari, I made these long time ago before this article by Omid hopefully I can improve lol !!

Martin from KAF's picture
Martin from KAF

Omid,

Thank you for all the incredible detail contained in the post and your comments, as well.
I am making some Barbari and have relied heavily on your information for guidance.

Now, maybe more than ever, we need to look beyond boundaries and assumptions to things which we have in common. Bread is a good start. Thank you.

Martin

Afshin's picture
Afshin

Thanks for the article. it reminded me my childhood in Mashhad when there were tens of barbari bread bakeries , not those like Tehrani ovens but in-ground tandoors. These days I doubt you can find any there.

you may have look at the below link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTKdW2grbxs

 

Afshin's picture
Afshin

Meanwhile , I have got the domain names www.barbaribread.com , and barbaribread.co.uk .

They are just names,  no website on them cos I want to follow another business , in case someone interested , I am willing to transfer both of them. If interested please reply.

Thanks

Jacek's picture
Jacek

Omid, 

Thank you for such a detailed description of this bread. I have seen many recipes but your article is very professional, interesting and inspiring. Today I will try to bake it :)

Greetings from Poland!

Jacek

Jacek's picture
Jacek

My second attempt here