Hot Bread Kitchen: Nan-e Barbari, classic flatbread with an unusual twist

Hot Bread Kitchen, a bakery in New York City’s East Harlem, stands out from the crowd.

Not because the bakers there make outrageous cupcakes, or vie for a review in the Times, or compete to be the next Food Network star.

No, these bakers are far from being bright lights, big city. But the light the bakery creates every day shines into dark corners of urban life that many would prefer to ignore: namely, the lives of low-income immigrant women – the bakers at Hot Bread.

Allegra Ben-Amotz, spokesperson for the bakery, says, “[We’re] changing the face of the culinary industry by training immigrant and low-income women in the craft of artisan bread-baking, empowering them with the skills to succeed in the city’s top bakeries. The tasty product of this social enterprise is a line of handmade breads based on traditions from around the world, featured in some of New York City’s best restaurants, and carried in dozens of stores across the country.”

We’ve written about the bakery before; for a virtual tour of Hot Bread Kitchen, complete with striking photos, see our post Hot Bread Kitchen: Baking a World of Difference.

Today, I simply want to share with you one of the bakery’s signature breads: Nan-e Barbari, a traditional Persian flatbread known for its deep-gold crust and wonderful texture. Plus wait until you see what we do with this bread at the end…

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

Mix together the following:

1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water*
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
4 cups + 3 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

*Use the smaller amount of water in summer, or when it’s humid; the larger amount during the winter, or in a dry climate.

Knead the mixture — using your hands, a stand mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle — until you’ve made a smooth, fairly soft dough. The dough should barely clean the inside of the bowl, if you’re using a stand mixer, perhaps sticking just a bit at the bottom (top right).

Put the dough in a lightly greased large bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise until it’s nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into two pieces. Shape each piece into a rough log abut 9″ long. Tent the logs with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rest for 30 minutes.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

While the dough is resting, measure out 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon nigella (black onion) seeds. If you don’t have nigella seeds, substitute poppy, or the seeds of your choice. I decided to use our everything bagel topping.

You’re also going to make a traditional glaze called roomal. This flour/water paste will be applied to your loaves before baking, and substitutes for adding steam to the oven. The roomal keeps the top of the loaves moist, allowing them to rise fully; and also imparts a satiny sheen.

To make the roomal, stir together the following in a small saucepan:

2 teaspoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup cool water

Bring to a bare boil, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon; this should take less than a minute. Remove the glaze from the heat, and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. If you have a pizza stone, set it on the lowest rack or oven floor.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour
Once the dough has rested, gently flatten each piece.
Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

Working with one piece of dough at a time, pat/flatten it into a 14″ x 5″ rectangle. Use your fingers (or the handle of a long wooden spoon) to press five lengthwise grooves into the dough. Press firmly, but don’t cut through the bottom of the dough.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour
Spread half the glaze onto the dough, rubbing it all over. Sprinkle with half the seeds.

Slide the bread onto the stone and bake it for 15 to 18 minutes, until it’s golden brown. If you’re not using a stone, place the bread on a baking sheet and bake it on your oven’s middle rack.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour
Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour
Tear off a warm piece… heaven.
Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

Traditionally, this bread is served with feta cheese, olives, and cucumbers.

But the heck with tradition; let’s make pizza!

Instead of patting the dough into a rectangle, pat it into a 14″ circle, or 15″ x 10″ oval.

Top as you please. Hot Bread Kitchen’s Nan-e Barbari Pizza recipe calls for topping each piece of flattened dough with 1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce; 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces; and sliced marinated artichoke hearts.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

Like this.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

Bake the pizza in a preheated 500°F oven for 22 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the toppings are bubbling.

Hot Bread Kitchen via @kingarthurflour

Grip it and rip it!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Hot Bread Kitchen’s Nan-E Barbari.

Print just the recipe.

Nan-e Barbari is just one of the many tantalizing recipes in the bakery’s new cookbook, The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World. To purchase the book, and/or to support Hot Bread Kitchen’s mission and help them train more women, visit the bakery’s website, hotbreadkitchen.org.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. sandy

    I made the traditional version of this last night to go with dinner. It was very good and my husband especially liked it. It was easy and fast. I am going to make it again tonight (we only used half the dough for the two of us – put the rest in the frig). I used one tsp of the KAF Everything Bagel Topping and will at least double that tonight. I am always amazed at the variety of breads that can be made out of such simple ingrediants – flour, water, salt and yeast.

    Reply
  2. Laura Fischer

    I had seen an earlier blog posting re Hot Bread Kitchen. I’d first heard about them a couple of years ago, I believe …based on your earlier article, I ordered the book, which is wonderful. This particular bread reminded me somewhat of the Snowshoe Naan, featured in ‘Flatbreads and Flavors’ by Alford and Duguid (I think!), but that one had slightly different shaping, and was without the additional paste coating. I will definitely be doing this one! My son and grandkids would love making, AND eating this!

    Reply
  3. Andrea

    This is fantastic! It is crunchy on the outside chewy on the inside. Absolutely delicious right from the oven. It does lose some of its outside crunch when it cools. Also, I highly advise rolling out on parchment and then transferring on parchment to the pizza stone. This was not in the recipe (though in the photo). It was a mess and lost it shape even though I had rolled it out on a silicone mat. I would triple or quadruple the amount of seeds next time. Do you think this could take an overnight rise in the fridge? Thank so much for a fantastic recipe and I am now inspired to buy the book.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried the overnight chill, but it should work. Mix, let it get started on the counter, then chill it overnight. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  4. Ricardo Gonzalez- Petrópolis, R.J. Brazil

    This is an amazing bread and curious at same time. I bake here a version that asks for a mix of water, little amount of flour and baking soda as roomai. Then we brush this mixture at top of the bread and the Goden color is unique and deeply dark!

    It differs from Naan Kaf´s bread version because it don´t have sugar, eggs and another softly ingredients. I bake here Barbari but it remains little chewy, not really crunchy. My Barbari is brushed with that baking soda mixture and i think it helps to give that chewy crust….instead of crunchy crust characteristic if we use olive oil or butter at dough.

    How i´m happy! As i said in another past posts because i feel that you´re now at right path with a kind of equilibrium between bread and pastry posts and researching really new breads such this amazing Barbari. This bread is perfect to Couvert at any good restaurant, anywhere in world!!
    Congratulations!!!!!

    Reply
  5. jjmcgaffey

    Naan! Real Afghan-style naan! I’ll have to try this immediately – my family’s been jonesing for this for years. Lots of naan in California, but it’s mostly Indian-style, with oil or yogurt or eggs – tasty, but not the right stuff. I grew up in Afghanistan (my parents were diplomats) and we all got addicted. Hope it comes out right in my oven.

    Reply
    1. Karen B

      There is a great book Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It has recipes for Afghan Home-Style Naan, Afghan Snowshoe Naan, Uighur Naan (China), Hushva Nan (Iran), Nane Sheer (Persia), Chorek (Turcoman version of naan), and Nane Casoki (Kurdistan). I have not made any of the naan recipes, but I have made their recipes for Lefse and Pita, and those two recipes alone are worth the price of the book!

  6. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    What a great appetizer to share and get everyone together. Love it! What is the difference between this bread and naan? Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Na’an will be flatter and does not have a crumb with wholes. Hope this helps. Happy baking! JoAnn@KAF

    2. Michael

      There are several type of bakeries in Iran(Persia) and at least a few bakeries on each block. The most popular breads are Barbari, sangak, taftoon and lavash. Each type is used for specific meal or event. Barbari is mostly chosen for breakfast while taftoon which is the same as Indian naan is most versatile bread and purchased throughout. The difference is in flour used type of oven and looks and texture and the taste of the bread. Barbari is thicker and somewhat meatier than naan. It’s best for dipping.
      Persian taftoon , although similar to naan, it made in larger sizes at bakeries, at approximately 1X2 feet.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for supporting this great mission and helping the Hot Bread Kitchen. I think I will buy the book also! Happy baking! JoAnn@KAF

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