Monday, August 16, 2021

Naan Sangak (Persian Pebble Bread) #BBB


This month, we made a popular Iranian flat bread, naan sangak.  Lots to share for this challenge bread!  (Sometimes you learn a whole lot during recipes by going off the rails a little bit!)  Number one: it is pebble bread, not stone bread.  Somehow I got the notion that I needed larger stones, which I did find at the local garden center.  (They had smaller as well.)  Then I found out my stones had a weird coating on them and ended up wrapping them in foil thanks to Tanna's timely suggestion.  That worked fine.  I also tried using an upside down ebelskiver pan, still in mind of the large stone shape, but thinking of options for those who didn't have the time or inclination to get stones.  Then I actually watched a video of the breads being made in Iran.  Woah.  Those are little pebbles!  (Notice at the end, them picking off any little pebbles that are still stuck to the bread, wouldn't want to bite on that!)  Wait a minute, I can do that!  I'll just use my ceramic pie weights!
Description of Sangak from the above video.

The pie weights were the winner for texture in both crust and crumb.  A crispy outside and soft and chewy inside flatbread that with the ceramics is essentially like baking on a textured baking stone.  The more weights the better of course, I used all I had.  The thing about the larger stones and the cast aluminum ebelskiver pan is that the large rounded surfaces tend to stretch the dough and you end up with more uneven baking.  Still good, but smaller was better.  I did all mine in the BBQ because it is HOT again this week.  The recipe is meant to make one long traditional bread but I portioned my dough into three to try different techniques to bake them.  One with the river stones, one with the upside down cast aluminum ebelskiver pan, and one with the ceramic pie weights.  The dough was easy to make and work with, I really just eyeballed the yogurt and oil and it turned out lovely.  Slightly sticky and slack but would have been fine being even more so, considering the very slack dough in the video.
We would love for you to try these uniquely baked flat breads with us this month!  Check out Elizabeth's post to see excellent shaping pictures and instructions to participate.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.
Naan Sangak
makes one long bread
This version adapted from Elizabeth's recipe for Wild Naan, and the recipe for Persian Pebble Bread in "Taste of Persia" by Naomi Duguid
Equipment you will need:

    two rimmed cookie sheets
    enough clean small river stones to fill one of the cookie sheets (I would use the pie weights again.)
    oven or barbecue


    dessert spoonful culture (whole wheat 100% hydration starter) from the fridge (about 40 g)
    50 g (50ml) room temperature water
    50 g (100ml, or approx. 1/3 cup + 4 tsp) whole wheat flour

  The leaven may require an extra feed in hot weather, in which case:
    all of the above leaven
    15 g (15ml, or 1 Tbsp) room temperature water

    15 g (30ml, or 2 Tbsp) 'no-additives' 100% whole wheat flour

Final Dough

    320 g (2½ cups + 1 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
    5 g (2 tsp) wheat germ  (I save and keep my bran in the freezer when I sift my fresh ground flour and used that)
    180 g (180ml, or ¾ cup + ½ tsp) room temperature water
    1 dessert-spoon (about 25 g) plain yogurt (I used kefir)
    15 g (1 Tbsp) olive oil
    All of the leaven, when it is ripe (I added a pinch of yeast because I procrastinated!)
    8 g sea salt + 5 g water (1.33 tsp table salt + 1 tsp water)

  Topping, optional

    sesame seeds  (I topped my three mini breads with sesame, nigella, and za'atar)
Leaven: Late in the evening on the day before you will be making the sangak, feed a spoonful of starter with the 50 g water and 50 g whole wheat flour. Cover with a plate and put into the cold oven (if the night temperatures are cool, turn the oven light on) to leave overnight.
In the morning of the day you will be baking, particularly if the weather is warm, take a small spoonful of the leaven and see if it floats in a bowl of cool water. If the starter is quite bubbly but that little amount sinks, stir 15 g water and 15 g whole wheat flour into the bowl from the previous night. Cover with a plate and leave until about noon. If the kitchen is cool, omit this step and proceed to the next one.
Final Dough: Make sure the leaven is ripe enough to pass the float test and then proceed with making the actual dough.
Using a bowl that is large enough for the dough to triple, mix together the flour and wheat germ. Add 180 grams water, yogurt, olive oil, and all of the leaven.  Stir together to form a soft dough. Cover and leave on counter for about 20 minutes.
Add the salt and water together and knead into the dough thoroughly. Cover and set aside to rise.  Don't worry if the dough is quite slack.  Slack is good for this bread.
Proofing: Check the dough from time to time as the afternoon progresses into evening. Wet your hands or use a dough scraper and gently fold it whenever it has doubled.
Preheating the Stones: A short time before dinner on the day you will be baking the bread, put the cookie tray of stones into the barbecue on a pizza stone over direct heat, close the lid, and turn it to high, or into the oven on the middle shelf of the oven set at 450ºF.
Shaping: While the stones are preheating, use the palms of you hands to slather water over the bottom of another cookie tray. Turn the risen dough onto the tray (the dough will still be pretty slack). Wet hands again and gently guide and flatten the dough into a rectangle, making sure that one end of the rectangle is very close to the narrow side of the tray. Gently lift the bread up and down again to make sure it is not stuck to the pan. Evenly sprinkle sesame or nigella seeds (if using) on top.
Using za'atar for this one

Baking: When the stones are scorching hot, carry the tray of dough and tip it at the back edge of the tray of hot stones. DO NOT TOUCH THE STONES WITH YOUR HANDS! The dough should begin to slide off the back of the wet tray. If it does not, gently nudge any part that is sticking with a thumb or finger. Gently pull the dough tray back towards the front of the barbecue to stretch the dough onto the hot stones. Once the dough is on the stones, it WILL stick for the first part of baking. Do not attempt to rearrange the dough, it won't work so embrace where it has fallen.
Close the lid of the barbecue if using. (Use direct and indirect heat on the barbecue.)
It takes 5-10 minutes to bake the bread. (Mine took 10-12) Turn the tray around from time to time to account for uneven heat in the barbecue and oven. USE OVEN MITTS! To check for doneness, use blunt-nosed tongs to gently lift the bread from the stones. Some of the stones may stick to the bread. Don't worry about that. Enough of the stones will fall off onto the tray to let you check.
Cooling (slightly): When the bread is done, bring it inside on its tray of hot stones. Some of the stones will remain attached to the bread. Once the bread cools for about 5 minutes, the stones can be dislodged relatively easily with oven mitts or a spoon. BE CAREFUL! THE STONES ARE STILL VERY HOT! If the stones are extremely reluctant to release themselves, simply bake it a little longer and try again.

Use a pizza wheel to cut the de-stoned bread and serve it immediately with Persian stews, Indian-style curries, chili con carne, soup.... It's good with grilled vegetables too. 
Upside down ebelskiver pan (handle removed for baking)

The cast aluminum really browned the dough!
Good old pie weights!
Got a good stretch on this round.

Definitely the best result for us.

Nice texture on the back!


The rest of the Bread Baking Babes



  1. Ceramic pie weights!! Why didn't I think of that? (Our pie weights are stainless steel.)

    Eeeek!! I'm so sorry that I didn't make it clear that the stones are quite small. I'm also really sad to hear that the stones you got from the garden centre had some sort of disgusting coating on them. Quel drag!

    But, clever you, for coming through in spite of all the adversity. Your breads look great. Good idea to use zata'ar on one, nigella on another, and sesame seeds on another. (Ha. Over and over, I completely forget to add the seeds.)

    1. Not your fault I didn't pay attention, ROFL! The bag of stones will make a nice little dry creek path in the flower bed and I will get more pie weights, because you can always put more in the pie dish. Definitely got the best air bubbles in the ceramics batch, beautiful flavor on all of them and nice chew. And of course that lovely crisp and BBQ smell. Yummy!

    2. And I'll bet the SS pie weights would work fine too, just like a baking steel!

  2. Your bread looks beautifully browned. Great idea to wrap the stones in aluminum foil. I love the imprints from the pie weights.

  3. Pie weights!! Brilliant!! I love all of your experiments. My rocks were a bit large too, and I probably should have chosen the smallest ones in my giant package of rocks!

  4. Sometimes you learn a whole lot during recipes by going off the rails a little bit! I classify that as a huge understatement! Your creativity coming up with several solutions for baking this bread is inspiring! Great bread!

  5. What a fun project! With tasty results.... I love flatbreads!


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