Looks good Omid, please post your recipe for the dough you used and did you do to make the line marks.
Dear MightyPizza, there is a lot of information that I can communicate about this type of bread, but because of lack of time I am compelled to be brief for now.
As I mentioned above, barbari dough is comprised of only wheat flour, water, salt, and sourdough culture (or bakerís yeast). If you do an online search, you will see that 99.99% of the barbari recipes on the internet use sugar and oil. Some of them even prescribe butter, syrups, milk, yogurt, baking soda or baking powder, etc. According to the guidelines issued by the Institute of Standards, which is a governmental agency of the Republic of Iran in charge of food quality control, no other ingredients other than wheat flour, water, salt, and sourdough culture (or bakerís yeast) should be used in preparing barbari dough. Moreover, per the studies conducted on Iranian breads in 1980 by the College of Agriculture Research Center of Washington State University, barbari dough is composed of only the four aforementioned ingredients.
Since early-70s, many barbari bakeries in Iran stopped using sourdough cultures and began using bakerís yeast instead. The traditionalist bakers, which are few, still use sourdough cultures in preparing barbari dough, and the Institute of Standards gives priority to the use of sourdough over bakerís yeast. In my opinion, each has its own unique merits. (By the way, some of the sourdough cultures they use are unusually prepared and maintained. I will do a post on that when I have the time.)
The type of wheat flour used in making barbari dough in Iran is known as ard setareh
, which literally means "star flour". Typically, the flour has the following parameters:
Extraction rate: 28%
Protein (minimum amount in the dry matter): 10%
Wet gluten (minimum): 25%
Moisture (maximum): 14.2%
Ash in the dry matter (maximum): 0.058%
Insoluble ash in acid (maximum): 0.50%
The above parameters were emailed to me by the Department of Agriculture of University of Shiraz in Shiraz, Iran. I was also sent the sizes of the flour particles which I did not list above. I will do so if you are interested.
According to some professional barbari bakers in Iran, barbari dough is a straight dough
, using the double-rise
method. Nonetheless, some professional bakers do not use the straight dough method; they mix water, flour, and salt, and let the mixture sit for 3 to 6 hours before adding the fermentative agent, followed by overnight bulk fermentation and, next day, fermentation in balls. Moreover, some bakers use only a long single rise, followed by forming dough balls which rest for about 20 to 60 minutes before they are ready to be baked. There are other variations.
In my attempt to prepare barbari dough three nights ago, I used the straight dough method, double-rise, and the following formula:
Setareh flour (datum point)
Sourdough culture: 9%
After mixing all the ingredients, my dough was fermented in bulk for about 14 hours at room temperature. Next, I formed dough balls (300 grams each), placed them inside a pizza dough tray dusted with the same flour, and let them ferment for about 5 hours at room temperature until they were ripe enough to be baked.
In passing, I should mention that the barbari bakeries in Iran normally measure each dough ball at 650 to 700 grams. Then, they place all the dough balls on large wooden tables that are covered with pure wheat bran
(which you will see in the videos below). They do not use white wheat flour to dust the surface of the tables. I have been unable to find pure wheat bran here in San Diego. Many US barbari bakeries use wholewheat flour as a substitute.
So, after my dough balls were ripe enough, I took all of them out of the dough tray and placed them on a dusted table next to my wood-fired oven. Without unduly disturbing the dough balls, I carefully and partially opened/spread each dough ball in an oblong/oval fashion. Then, I covered them with a cloth and let them rest for about 20 minutes. Please, note that if the dough balls resist being spread and keep springing back to their initial shape, then they do not have the required constitution. The dough balls should be relaxed and extensible while possessing enough strength to physically uphold themselves
. Rolling pins should not be used at any stage in barbari production.
After the rest period, I poured about 1 tablespoon of a special sauce on the first dough ball. (Later, I will explain how to prepare the sauce, which is known as roo-maal
, literally meaning "rub on top".) Using my fingers, I evenly spread the sauce over the face of the dough ball and made parallel grooves (not scars) on its face by using the finger tips of my both hands. (This method is shown in the second video below.) No other tools other than the finger tips should be employed to make the grooves. When the dough has the right rheological or physical constitution, making the grooves goes smoothly, without difficulties. Making the grooves is a critical part of the operation. If they are not properly impressed on the face of the dough, the oven spring can be negatively impacted, which may have concomitant effects on the texture and flavor of the final product. If the dough loses its buoyancy after being grooved, then it does not have the right constitution. After the grooves are impressed, sesame seeds or black cumin or both are sprinkled on the dough.
At last, I fully inserted my both open-hands (palms up) under the dough, lifted it up in the air, and stretched it in opposite directions while placing it on a wooden peel. At this point, if the dough does not have the right rheology (i.e., is not relaxed enough), it can stubbornly fight back in being stretched. Almost all barbari beginners go through this frustrating experience, which can negatively impact the texture, hence the flavor, of the final product. Sometimes the opposite can happen, that is, when the dough is excessively relaxed. Consequently, the dough elasticity
need to be in the right relation to one another.
After I stretched and positioned the dough on the wooden peel, I launched the dough on the oven floor. The problem was that my oven was too hot for the dough. As a result, it baked in about 5 minutes instead of 8 to 10 minutes. The traditional brick barbari ovens in Iran maintain a temperature of about 480 to 550įF, and barbaris bake in them between 8 to 10 minutes. However, according to the Institute of Standards, the breads should bake in 15 to 20 minutes. In the old days in Iran, barbari ovens were fully fueled by firewood. Because of lack of firewood and governmental regulations, all bakeries are currently forced to use gas in order to fuel their ovens.
Below are two informative youtube videos. There used to be an hour-long documentary video, professionally made by a French baker, on barbari and sangak breads of Iran. The documentary, which was titled "Bread and Civilization" is unfortunately no longer available on Youtube. Have a great day!