Nan-e Barbari

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Nothing beats fresh-out-of-the-oven barbari. This classic Persian flatbread is common all over Iran and a staple on the breakfast table, usually served with cheese, herbs, walnuts or jam and honey. It’s a bit crispy on the outside and so fluffy on the inside. The bread's special flavor comes from the baking soda and flour glaze that's brushed on before baking. In Persian bakeries, the bread is traditionally formed into a long oval loaf and cooked in a wood-fired oven. The home baker can make a smaller oval to fit in a standard oven.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 2 hr 10 min (includes rising and resting times)
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 1 loaf (8 servings)
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Ingredients

Dough:

Glaze:

Directions

  1. For the dough: Mix the olive oil, yeast, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 cups warm water in a large bowl. Add the flour 1 cup at a time and mix using a wooden spoon until the dough is fully incorporated and there are no bits of flour visible, 5 to 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place in a draft-free spot and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  2. Uncover the dough, transfer it to a well-floured surface and dust the top with 1 tablespoon flour. Flip the dough using a bench scraper and use your hands to shape it into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for 20 minutes.  
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  
  4. For the glaze: While the oven is heating, mix the flour, baking soda and 1/2 cup water in a small pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and reaches the consistency of ketchup, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.  
  5. Transfer the dough to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spoon the glaze over the dough and use your hands to spread the dough into a roughly 12-by-16-inch oval or rectangle that's about 1 inch thick. Using your fingertips, make rows of indentations on the dough lengthwise to form lines. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and nigella seeds.  
  6. Bake until the bread is fully cooked and golden on the top, about 25 minutes. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel for 10 minutes before serving. 

Cook’s Note

This makes 1 large loaf of bread. If you prefer smaller loaves, cut the dough in half before letting it rise for 20 minutes. The baking time will remain the same. When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)