Afghan Bread

Afghan BreadThis recipe calls for chapatti or ata flour, available at Indian groceries but bread flour (a high gluten flour available in most grocery stores) may be substituted. The bread dough must be quite soft, and the amount of water you use will depend on the type of flour and humidity in the air. Adjust the quantity of water suggested in the recipe as necessary. To "freshen up" the bread after it has gone cold or been removed from the freezer, sprinkle it with a little water on both sides and quickly warm it up under a hot broiler. Sia donna, or nigella seeds, have a nutty, peppery flavor, and are used in India and the Middle East to flavor vegetables, legumes, and bread. You can find them at Indian groceries.

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups chapatti or ata flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) quick-rising yeast
  • 4 to 5 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • Sia donna (nigella seeds), poppy seeds, sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add the yeast, and mix to combine the dry ingredients. Mix in the oil, and rub in with the hands. Gradually add the warm water to flour mixture and mix with the hands until a smooth, round, soft dough is formed. Knead for another 7 to 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth, essentially the same as ordinary bread dough. Form into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and let rest in a moderately warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place in the oven to get hot.
  3. When the dough has risen, punch down and divide into four equal size balls. Shape or roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into oval shapes of about 1/2 inch thickness. After shaping the dough, wet your hand and use your finger or thumb to form deep grooves down the center of each loaf. Sprinkle with the sia donna (or poppy or sesame seeds), if desired. Press the seeds lightly into the dough.
  4. Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and place dough on it, leaving a couple of inches between the dough pieces. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. The bread should be fairly crisp and hard on the outside. Repeat the process with the remaining balls of dough.
  5. When removed from the oven, the bread should be wrapped in a clean tea towel or aluminum foil to prevent drying.
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