Nan-e Barbari

This bread recipe comes from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez which I’ve had since it was published in 2015.

The Hot Bread Kitchen is a New York bakery that trains immigrant women and, if they want to progress, helps them set up their own businesses. I am very fond of the book: some bread books remind me of the baking olympics full of feats of endurance, imposible hydrations, longest autolyse, smallest amounts of starter, longest cold proof; this book is gentler and more nurturing. The fact that the bakery employs immigrant women from many nations and cultures is reflected in the variety of breads (and foods) in the book.

My only quibble with the book is, their sourdough loaves have had the natural leaven substituted with commercial yeast and pâte fermentée presumably so as not to scare the punters.

This particular recipe is presented as a yeasted dough which I have reformulated for sourdough.

I’ve been meaning to have a go at Nan-e Barbari for the eight years I’ve had the book – we get there in the end …
I mean it’s right there on the front cover looking golden, majestic and different.

An interesting feature is the use of roomal, a technique of applying a glaze of flour, sugar and water to the surface of the dough before it goes in the oven which is an old way of producing a good crust without the need for steam.

I used my usual methods: hand mix, 3 x 10 kneads at 5 minute intervals, 4 hours fermentation with hourly folds, 3½ hours proof.

I used my coming-to-be, go-to flour-mix of 85% bread flour, 15% bran (370g/66g) although I have to confess that the dough was so wet an additional 60g bread flour was used in the course of mixing.

At the end of the fermentation period I divided the dough in two, pressed each half into a rough rectangle and preshaped into a log shape by folding and rolling.

While the two doughs were proving I made the glaze by mixing the flour and sugar with the water and heating stiring until it was just coming to a simmer and then allowed it to cool.

The recipe calls for the oven to be preheated to 235C.

After proving, each dough has to be gently stretched and pressed out to 14″ by 5″ so you need a system for achieving this and getting it onto its final resting place, a baking sheet. I did it by part-shaping on a floured work surface, quickly lifting it onto the floured baking sheet with the aid of a scraper, and completing the shaping in situ. Might be easier to use wide strips of baking parchment.

Finally, I created five chanels along the length of each dough with my fingertips and brushed the surface with the glaze.

I found the suggested bake time of around 18 minutes too short. At this point I raised the temperature to 250C and gave it another 10 minutes.

We thought the bread so good I baked a second lot today. Everything was much better behaved. I did the first couple of kneads using a two scrapers and just used a light dusting of flour for the third.

I did resort to using baking parchment but the dough was much more prepared to cooperate with me and I could have done without.

I raised the oven temperature to 250C (in the Pico top and bottom) and increased the bake time to 30 minutes.

And, (belt and braces), I used steam for ten minutes on both bakes.

Maybe I’ll juggle a little with time and temperature next time – but that’s what baking’s all about, isn’t it?

Fabulous discovery (at my time of life …)

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