Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, Barbari bread is a breakfast staple in most Iranian households. This recipe uses standard bread dough recipe but the addition of a glaze and a topping made of sesame and nigella seeds, makes this a unique flavoured bread.
What is Barbari?
Barbari is a yeast-leavened Iranian flatbread. It is one of the thickest flatbreads we have and is commonly topped with sesame and nigella seeds. The top layer of the bread is similar to a pretzel due to a glaze made of baking powder, flour and water, brushed on before baking. It is widely known as Persian flatbread.
The Turkish have a similar bread (pide), with theirs being slightly thicker. Barbari is usually 70 to 80 cm long, and 25 to 30 cm wide. It is the most common style bread baked in Iran.
Origins of Barbari
Barbari is an obsolete Persian term (meaning Easterners) for the Hazara people living in the Khorasan province, Iran. They are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and are also a significant minority group in neighbouring Pakistan. The Hazara people speak Dari, a form of Farsi (the main language of Iran). Farsi and Dari are mutually intelligible, with differences found primarily in the vocabulary and phonology.
Barbari bread was first baked by Hazaras and taken to Tehran over 200 years ago. Hazaras are no longer called barbari, but the bread is still referred to as noon-e barbari in Iran while Hazaras refer to it as nan-e tanoori (tandoor oven bread).
How to Serve Barbari
Commonly eaten at breakfast with Lighvan cheese (a ewe’s milk cheese similar to feta cheese) and preserves such as sour cherry jam and carrot jam as pictured above.
A great accompaniment to eggs in the morning – check out my Persian Eggs recipe, which is delicious with some Barbari bread. Also works well as a sandwich bread and lovely to scoop dips up with such as Mirza Ghasemi (smoked aubergine and egg dip).
How to Store Barbari
Homemade bread does not last as long a shop-bought as there are no preservatives. Keep your Barbari for longer by cutting into squares and storing in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Toast to refresh the Barbari when you want to eat it. Barbari will last a week in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
- 7 g sachet of instant yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 320 ml luke warm water
- 500 g strong white bread flour (plus extra for kneading)
- 10 g salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Glaze and Topping
- 1 tbsp strong bread flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 85 ml water
- Nigella and sesame seeds (to sprinkle on top of the bread)
Make the Barbari Dough
- Pour water into a bowl, add sugar and yeast, stir and leave to work for approximately 15 mins (bubbles will form on the surface).
- Place flour in a large bowl, add oil and then add salt and mix.
- Add yeast mixture to bowl and begin mixing the ingredients together until all the flour leaves the side of the bowl and you have a soft, rough sticky dough.
- Sprinkle a little flour onto a clean surface and sit the dough on the flour and begin to knead. Do this for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and silky - it will be a little stickier than your standard loaf dough. Once the correct consistency is achieved, place the dough into a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hrs or until it has tripled in size.
Make the Glaze
- Place a small saucepan on medium-high heat and add 85 ml water, 1 tbsp flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp olive oil and stir until it forms a shiny white paste. Remove from the heat and set aside until you are ready to glaze prior to baking.
Shape & Bake the Barbari Bread
- Once risen, place the dough onto a floured surface. Knock back a few times to remove the air but no need to knead again.
- Halve the dough and take one half and begin to shape it. Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough into an oblong shape and then hand-stretch it until it gets to approximately 40 cm in length and 20 cm in width. Place it on a grease-proof paper lined baking tray. Then take a knife and lightly score along the length of the dough about a finger-width apart. Use your fingers to push the dough between the scored lines down so you end up with small ridges.
- Repeat the step above with the remaining half of the dough. Cover the baking trays with tea-towels and leave in a warm place for 30 mins.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan) / 220°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 7.
- Take a baking tray containing one of the Barbari breads and brush with the glaze. Then top with sesame and nigella seeds. Repeat with the other Barbari bread. Place the bread in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and cooked. Slice into squares so they can be easily toasted for breakfast.