barbari bread got me thinking…

Been trying a new bread style this week, as well as using a non-traditional grain in a familiar type of bread.

The non-traditional grain was a pita bread made with 50% stone ground barley and 50% stone ground hard white wheat. These were astoundingly successful and the barley adds a unique and attractive character to the flavor. Real simple, the flours (100% – baker’s percents), plain yoghurt (50%), salt 2%, instant yeast 1%, water (62% – it was this high because of all the water-absorbing capability of the beta-glucan fiber in the barley). 1.5 hours bulk fermentation, round into 80 g balls, rest 20 minutes roll out to about 15 cm disks about 2 mm thick, “proof” 20 min at room temperature, they were baked at 275 deg C (about 525 F) as hot as my oven can go for about 2.5 min. Eaten fresh thet wer close to the best thing since… well much better than sliced bread.


This was the fun one…

Pictured is my second attempt at making an authentic version of an Iranian flat bread called “barbari”. I had heard that it could be formulated with soft wheat, hence our interest here with our soft wheat breeding program. But it had a few interesting twists that led me to some interesting food chemistry. An Iranian colleague that lives in the USA validated it as authentic – so here we go.


I used a formulation and process gleaned from a number of sources including books by former colleagues Ken Quail at BRI Australia in Sydney, and Jalal Qarooni.  The interesting twist is the use of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3)  in both the dough and the starch-based glaze. This is called according to Qarooni – roomal – a 10% paste of flour and water cooled to room temperature – we also added enough sodium bicarbonate to make a 0.5% w/v solution with a pH of 8.2 even with the buffering capacity of the flour.

The formulation was…

High extraction flour milled from soft white,  100%, water 65%, salt 1.5%, sodium bicarbonate 0.35%, instant yeast 1%. This was mixed to full development (“intensive mix”) and allowed to bulk ferment for 2 hours. The dough pH was 6.8 – even with the bicarb (a greater than 0.5% w/v solution in the dough’s aqueous phase – it’s not exact as we need to consider the absorption of the flour components) – the buffering capacity of the flour was more than enough to compenstate for the bicarb.

The very slack dough was divided into fairly substantial 800-900 g pieces and preshaped and rested 20 minutes and then stretched into the traditional oblong shape. This was rested on the oven peel and the roomal was applied along the docking with the fingers (the long channels in the bread that stop it puffing up like pita) and with some sesame seeds. The whole shebang was baked at 230 deg C (about 450 deg F) for 10 minutes.

Apart from the usual marvelous transformation from dough to bread, there was another at first puzzling transformation. We expected the crust with the alkaline roomal to become yellowish due to the alkaline de-glycosylation of the apigenin-C-glycosides allowing these flavone pigments to express their yellow color – we see this all the time when we make alkaline noodles, a.k.a. yellow alkaline noodles, a category of noodles familiar all through eastern Asia (Cantonese, Hokkien, Ramen [traditional, and even a little alkali (kansui) in the fried types], Bamee, Ja Ja Myung etc). The yellow color is additive to the creaminess imparted by the carotenoid pigments  (luteins) in the flour.


So we were surprised to see the interior bread crumb turn out yellow (the dough wasn’t yellow as it’s pH was still on the acidic side of neutral) and it tasted reminiscent of the type of Cantonese noodle favored in Kuala Lumpur that are made with sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). We measured to pH of the crumb – behold, it was 8.2 ? What was going on here. Turns out the bicarb is thermally converted to the carbonate with the release of water and some additional CO2 – hence the pH and color change of the dough/crumb during the baking process.

Finally some shameless self-promotion.

I got my author’s copy today of the new wheat book “Wheat Science and Trade” edited by my friend and colleague Dr Brett Carver at Oklahoma State U. My chapter, with Art Bettge of the USDA Western Wheat Quality Lab, is Chapter 20 – Passing the test on wheat end-use quality.