Barbari is a chewy, soft Persian flatbread, and clearly a beautiful Persian bread as well! Use this recipe and video to make them at home to serve with any meal of the day!
Flatbreads are a staple food in many of the countries along the Ancient Silk Road.
Although the base flatbread ingredients are usually similar, each country's recipe has a unique spin on the shape of the loaf or the way it's served.
From the simplest lavash and khubz to stuffed flatbreads like naan and gozleme, making flatbread recipes from different countries isn’t just fun, it’s also a delicious experience!
Barbari bread is one of several types of yeast-risen Persian flatbread. The texture is soft and chewy, and it has a wonderful flavor. Of all the Iranian flatbreads, barbari loaves are the thickest and longest.
The top of the unbaked dough is rubbed with a cooked flour paste to give it a golden crust. Just before baking, long ridges are formed by hand into the dough, along with a sprinkling of white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or black caraway seeds.
How it's eaten
For breakfast, Iranians typically enjoy it with feta cheese or butter and jam. Other toppings can include walnuts, cucumbers and tomatoes. A piece of warm barbari bread makes a fantastic dipper for a creamy hummus or eggplant dip, too.
When it's eaten with soupy dishes, it makes the perfect substitute for a spoon, both transporting the food and sopping up any gravy from the bowl!
Components of this Persian Bread
In bread baking, a starter consists of a simple mixture of wheat flour, water, and a leavening agent, typically yeast or a sourdough starter. It is often known as a "sponge" due to what it looks like; a bubbled mixture of flour, water and a touch of yeast.
A poolish is a fairly wet sponge, typically made with a 1:1 ratio by weight of water and flour. After creating the mixture, it goes through a 7-day fermentation process.
It's this fermentation process that lends an incredible flavor to the barbari bread.
Roomal (Bread Glaze)
The roomal (flour paste) glaze applies moisture directly to the surface of the bread as it bakes. This allows it to rise fully and also gives the crust a satiny shine. This is an ancient solution to "steaming" your oven.
People often ask how to get toppings to stick to the top of bread. For most traditional bread recipes, the loaf is brushed with an egg wash which holds the toppings to the dough.
In a barbari bread recipe, the roomal flour paste does the job.
Although you can certainly leave the tops of your Persian flatbread plain, a sprinkling of white sesame seeds, caraway seeds, or black poppy seeds is the norm. It makes the loaf even more beautiful.
Barbari Bread Recipe Video
Scroll down to the bottom of the recipe card to watch the video of us making the bread!
Recipe Notes and Tips
- A stand mixer makes the job easier.
Although some people find kneading bread by hand to be therapeutic, I think it's more enjoyable to make bread when the kneading is made easier.
If you'll be using a stand mixer, you'll need to use a dough hook attachment for kneading the bread.
- The dough is very sticky!
I can't stress enough how loose and sticky barbari bread dough is. Expect to use a lot of flour on your work surface, and be sure to have a bench scraper to help you transfer the sticky dough to the baking pans or baking stone.
Before proofing, I typically use an extra ½ cup of bread flour for kneading and forming the ball of dough.
- Shaping the dough
Don't be afraid to pull and stretch the dough. If it tears, you can simply press the dough back together; it's pretty forgiving.
This recipe will give you 4 large, long flatbreads, 8 medium size, or 16 individual pieces.
- Storing Persian bread
Like any other homemade bread, the flavor and texture are always best when it's fresh from the oven. Is there anything better than a slice of warm, freshly baked bread? NO, there isn't!
Wrap any leftovers well and keep them at room temperature for several days, or freeze for longer storage.
Barbari Bread (Persian Flatbread) + Video
- 3 cups lukewarm water divided
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast divided
- 2 cups bread flour
- 4 cups all-purpose flour divided
- 4 tsp salt
- 1 cup wheat bran or AP flour for work station
- 2 tsp all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup cool water
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon nigella black onion seeds
- Place 1 cup of lukewarm water in a large bowl. Add ¼ tsp of yeast and stir. Add 1 cup of all purpose flour and stir to make a batter. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside on a counter for 16-24 hours. This is called a "poolish". It will ferment and then be added to the remaining ingredients.
Make the dough:
- Stir the poolish into bowl of a stand mixer and add 2 cups of lukewarm water, 2 teaspoons yeast, 2 cups bread flour, 2 cups all purpose flour, and salt. Mix using dough hook. A smooth batter will form, then add remaining 1 cup all purpose flour and knead in stand mixer for 10 minutes.
- This is a sticky dough and it will stick to bottom of bowl. Use a scraper to transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and use your floured hands to knead dough, adding more bread flour as needed to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes (See note 1). Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until it's nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- On a work surface sprinkled with flour, turn the dough out. Fold the dough over a couple of times. Next, cut the dough in half, then each half into 4 or 8 equal pieces, depending on how large you want your barbari bread loaves to be (See Note 2).
- Shape each piece of dough into a ball by rolling on surface under your palm, or use both hands. Transfer dough balls to a baking sheet, keeping them 2 inches apart. Tent the balls with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 500°F. If you have a pizza stone, set it on the lowest rack or oven floor. If you'll be using an upside down sheet pan, position on rack in the center of the oven.
Prepare the bread glaze:
- Combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, oil, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
Form the dough:
- Sprinkle wheat bran over your work surface (or use all purpose flour). Working with one piece at a time, gently press and stretch each dough ball into 9x4 inch oval pillow shapes. Do not use a rolling pin, it will deflate the dough. Press and pull using your fingers. Let flatbreads rest uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Brush half the glaze on top of the dough. Dip your fingers into a small bowl of water. Using your fingers (excluding thumbs) press continuous, lengthwise grooves into the dough. Press firmly, but don't break through the bottom of the dough. Repeat making several parallel indentations on top. Sprinkle with half the sesame or poppy seeds.
Bake the dough:
- Carefully lift and stretch each loaf of dough lengthwise before placing it onto the baking stone, keeping them 4 inches apart. Repeat with as much dough as you can fit on baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. If you're not using a stone, place the bread on the upside down baking sheet and bake it on your oven's middle rack. Remove the bread, and cool it on a wire rack.
- Repeat the shaping and baking process for remaining dough.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Traditional accompaniments are olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese or honey served with hot mint tea.
- This is a loose, sticky dough and before proofing I typically will use another ½ cup of bread flour to knead and form into a ball to proof.
- This recipe can make 4 large, long flatbreads, 8 medium or 16 individual pieces.
- Store leftovers, well wrapped, for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.