Visiting Southern California's Chef Anahita Naderi, who runs Ketrioc Cafe in Orange County, she brought me on a late night Iranian-supermarket crawl. What a delicious treat, from wonderful spices and fresh pistachios to the most amazing display of bread baking, which took place next to the cash registers.
Below is a shot of two bakers stretching wet dough, feeding it horizontally to make Iranian sangak. With rotating loafs baking before our eyes, customers lined up for stacks of speckled bread wrapped in brown paper. It was a sight and scent that stayed with me for the next few days.
Returning home to New York City, I decided to see what I could replicate in this Middle Eastern Bread. Ultimatley I used formula from my files for Barbari, a Naan-like bread that is a bit like Turkish Ramadan breads in Turkey.
Rome the empire that built roads and conquered lands, also harvested and sowed their grain to feed a growing empire and army. As a bread basket of grain from far off lands, Rome incorporated new crops; rye, buckwheat, einkorn(emmer), and farro (spelt) - the last hybridized with other wheat which became our modern variety.
The British Museum's exhibit on Pompei recently had a viral video that featured a Roman bread that survived in an oven from the cataclysmic volcanic eruption that covered it. The site also offers a recipe for this loaf from a 79 AD oven. Marie Claude of MC Farine saw problems with it, pointing out that we would not have access to the same flours. Not quite convinced, I mixed my own version, with wheat, barley, millet, rye, buckwheat, farro and durum - all part of the greater Empire's grain supply. Mine is all sourdough, no gluten or commercial yeast need apply!
Simit are twisted ring breads from Turkey. Made with sesame crumb and crust, they are addictive. I first ate them while on a ferry outside Istanbul, visiting my friend Dilara. The lovely tastes and memories lingered. So I wanted to make a batch at home. Here they are.
Kamel Saci is a baker who grew up in Toulouse, but now lives and works in New York City, baking at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. Among many things for which to admire him, I love his doughs for pizza and focaccia. Basic and simple, he's posted the recipe on his website.
His focaccia fino is particularly interesting, a no-shape loaf of bread that is imbibed in olive oil and cut straight from a slab of airy dough, then baked directly to a golden sweet finish. Given my penchant for sourdough, I adapted it. There's an amazing shelf life and sweetness to this dough. Here is what I got from a mixed hybrid adaption as I ran low of yeast!
Landbrot is the quintissential country loaf, often with rye, and wheat combinations. Add in some Sauerkraut, landbrot is a hardy, moist bread for sandwiches. My latest adaption of sauerkraut bread, was switching kimchee for sauerkraut, confusion, hmm, maybe, but it's got some umami. Spicy and fermented, some barley replacing rye to add a certain Korean taste and harmony. Taste, smokey, and so moist!
I did a bread collaboration with Sara De Bellis of Abbotegga restaurant this week, incorporating regional Italian breads into a wine and food pairing. Sort of an aperetivo style mix, it included Ligurian onion focaccia, Piadina flat breat from Emilia Romana, and semolina bread for pane cunzatu from Sicily.
Old Mother. That's the name of a favorite bread from my friend Teresa Greenway, a loaf that's certainly easy to love. It combines old sourdough, which literally rots in the fridge, which is then added to the dough along with a well fed levain. Google Teresa, as she's written blogs and ebooks and is a gem. Here's my rendition of this gem of a loaf, benefit of Teresa.