The nan-e sangak (or simply, sangak) is a very unique and exquisite bread. Its look draws wonder from those who are fortunate enough to behold it: the bread is usually sold in very large and very long sheets (so humungous in fact, that you can cover a small coffee table with it), and its surface is roughly pockmarked with small, distinctive indents.
In most Persian markets you can find them wrapped in plastic and hanging lazily off a counter, but in some places, you can actually get them still hanging fresh and hot from the drying rack.
What is Sangak Bread?
How the Persian bread sangak derived its name is very interesting. The Farsi word “sang” means pebble or stone, while the word “sangak” itself means little stone. Sangak bread is traditionally cooked on small gravel stones or pebbles in an open oven, hence the aptness of the name. The stones are also responsible for the indents on the surface of the bread.
Sangak is a tangy sourdough bread. It is usually served as the main carbohydrate and accompaniment to a lot of Persian dishes, as well as kebabs and curries.
Don’t have a Persian market near you? Fret not, the ingredients for sangak bread are common kitchen staples that you can buy anywhere. While the sangak recipe itself is pretty simple, baking it requires a little bit of practice and effort on your part.
How To Make Iranian Bread: Sangak Recipe
Note: This basic recipe can make around six loaves of sangak bread.
- Two and a half cups of warm water
- Four cups sifted whole wheat flour
- One tablespoon dry yeast
- Four tablespoons sesame seeds
- Two teaspoons salt
- Peanut and cooking oil, as needed
Also, you would need to have gravel stones on hand for making sangak. While you can make sangak without cooking it on the stones, the roughness and texture created by the stones imparts a certain flavor and feel to the sangak that separates it from other kinds of leavened bread.
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the yeast and about a quarter cup of water and let it stand for five minutes. Add the salt and a cup and a half of water and let the mixture stand for another ten minutes. Then slowly add in the remaining water and the flour. Mix everything until the dough becomes smooth.
2. Coat the bottom of a larger bowl with cooking oil. Transfer the dough into this bowl and cover it with a piece of damp cloth. Let the dough rise by leaving it in a warm dark place overnight.
3. Preheat your oven to its highest setting. A wood burning oven that burns around 700 degrees is very ideal for making sangak bread. A home oven with a baking stone is great too. You would need to spread your pebbles over the stone and heat them too.
4. While the oven is heating up, you need to knead the dough thoroughly with well-oiled hands for around twenty to fifteen minutes. To prevent the dough from sticking, you can also oil your work area. Divide the dough into six pieces.
5. Flatten the dough pieces until they’re half an inch thick. You can also perforate the dough sheet randomly in a few spots to better aid in cooking. But don’t be so fussy if the dough isn’t stretched out evenly though! The inconsistent thickness makes for a better-textured sangak. Sprinkle the dough with sesame seeds.
6. Brush the pebbles, baking stone or rack with peanut oil. Transfer the dough sheet into the baking stone and cook for about a minute while pressing on it with a baker’s peel.
Flip the dough, cook it on its other side for three minutes, then flip it again, and cook for another two minutes. After this procedure has been done, remove the sangak from the baking stone using the peel, and remove any pebbles that have stuck to the bread as needed. Repeat for the other dough pieces.
7. While sangak bread is best served hot and fresh, you can keep it warm by wrapping it in clean towels before serving. You may also freeze it, and just reheat it if if you want to serve it again.
While baking it can be a bit tricky, making sangak is very rewarding. It goes well with a lot of Persian and Middle Eastern food, as well as a variety of heavily spiced dishes. If you’re tired of eating your regular old sliced white bread at home, give sangak a try.