Category Archives: Bread

Barbari Flatbread

with burrata and tomatoes
I was first introduced to Barbari bread at Byblos, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant in Toronto. I have baked many different loaves of bread from all over the world, but I had never encountered Barbari. I became a little obsessed with wanting to recreate it.

Barbari bread is a type of Iranian flatbread. It is fairly thick and more commonly known as Persian Flatbread in North America. Neighbourhood bakeries in Iran bake this bread three times a day for their customers. A typical Iranian breakfast begins with hot sweet tea followed by barbari with feta or salted butter and jam. Kids are greeted with barbari, feta, walnuts and fresh herbs for their after-school snack. Beats Oreos any day of the week!

If you have never baked with yeast before, don’t be scared. I’ll walk you through what you need to know. There are 2 types of yeast commonly available at the supermarket, Rapid Rise and  Active Dry yeast (also called Traditional). Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in water before using while rapid rise yeast can be mixed right into the dough. I like to use the active dry yeast because I can see that it is indeed active when I watch it bubble up in the water. Always check the expiry date on the package.

The key is to make sure the water is at the right temperature, between 95°F -115°F. Any hotter and it will kill the yeast, and any cooler and the yeast will take a very long time to activate. Get the water to the perfect temperatureI usually stir a teaspoon of sugar into my water to give the yeast something to help activate it. Yeast uses sugar as food. It takes a few minutes for the yeast to activate.Yeast is activeThe dough comes together in a stand mixer in about 6-8 minutes. Then set the dough aside to rise for about an hour.

This recipe makes 2 flatbreads. They are easily formed by shaping the dough into two 9 inch logs and then gently stretching each into a 14×5 inch rectangle. To prevent the bread from puffing up too much in the oven, drag your fingers (or the handle of a long wooden spoon) to press five lengthwise grooves into the dough.dragging channelsBefore baking the bread is brushed with the special glaze made from flour, sugar, oil, and water. It sort of looks like wallpaper paste. This glaze, known as “roomal” is an ancient solution to “steaming” your oven. The roomal adds additional moisture directly to the surface of the bread as it bakes, allowing it to rise fully. It has the added advantage of giving the crust a satiny shine. brushing on pasteI sprinkled my first loaf with sesame seeds, nigella seeds, and salt.  sesame, nigella and saltI gave the second loaf a generous sprinkle of za’atar.  zaatarI prepared a batch of honey roasted tomatoeshoney roasted tomatoes I served the sesame and nigella flatbread with burrata cheese, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. Don’t forget a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, please.drizzling olive oilI did a more typical Iranian topping for the za’atar flatbread.  I doctored up some storebought labneh with pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds. Labneh (Middle Eastern strained yogurt) is similar to Greek yogurt but thicker in consistency, almost like soft cream cheese. It’s tangier and creamier than yogurt. If you can’t find it, it’s easy to make your own. labne, pom molasses and walnutsI spread the flatbread with labneh, scattered some toasted walnuts and fresh mint on top and finished it with an extra drizzle of pomegranate molasses. wedge with labne, pom molasses and walnuts

Click here to print recipe for Barbari Bread.



Bee Hive Challah

drizzle 1Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Last week I created an apple beehive. It was adorable and very delicious. At around 4 am this morning, a vision of a challah beehive popped into my head. If I could build a beehive made out of apples, why not challah dough? apples and honey and challahI made my regular challah dough and pressed some raisins into it. It’s not a holiday challah without raisins. All you raisin haters can leave them out. poke in the raisins The dough needs to rise to double in size. it will take about 90 minutes. before proofingafter proofing

I decided to make mini beehives so I divided my dough into 3 and then made 6 ropes, each slightly shorter than the one before it, from each piece of dough. ropesThey looked quite pretty before baking, although they were leaning slightly. I let them rise for about an hour and then I gave them a gentle brushing with egg. I decided to leave them plain, without any topping so you could see the definition of the beehive.before bakingI’m not quite sure what happened in the oven, perhaps a hurricane blew through here, but they weren’t quite so beehive shaped after baking. bee hive 2One of them was a bit straighter, but not quite a perfect beehive. Perhaps we shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature.bee hive 1With a drizzle of honey, they were delicious. Wishing you all a Shana Tova. Sweet, Healthy and Happy New Year!challah 1 with honey





Egg-in-a-hole-Avocado Toast

4 toasts 2
Egg-in-a-hole used to be one of my favourite meals as a child. I loved taking the little round piece of toast and poking it into the center of the egg, watching the runny golden yolk ooze out. I had completely forgotten about this egg dish until Tieghan Gerard, over at Half Baked Harvest, had the genius idea to turn it into a new way to eat avocado toast.

She topped hers with mashed avocado, corn, nectarines and feta cheese. We are not quite in nectarine season here, so I decided to roast some little cherry tomatoes with the corn. Mine got a topping of ricotta salata, basil and cilantro. A squirt of hot sauce or some pickled jalapeños would also be quite delicious if that’s more your jam. What you'll need

tomatoes and corn ready for roastingThe tomatoes and corn spend about 20 minutes in a hot oven, getting all golden brown and delicious. This gives you time to mash the avocados and make the egg-in-a-hole toasts.avoeggs in hole2 toasts 1This is comfort food at its finest. It would make a beautiful brunch, but I love it best for dinner. There is something a little bit indulgent about having breakfast for dinner. 1 toast

Click here to print recipe for Egg-in-hole Avocado Toast.

1 toast yolk broken 1 625 sq

Irish Soda Bread

with-teaIf you happened to have been visiting Ireland during the first week of September this year, and noticed a shortage of butter, I apologize. My bad. That was me, eating my way through Galway, Killarney and Dublin, one loaf of bread at a time, slathered with Irish butter and salt.bread-and-butterMost folks go to Ireland to drink Guinness or Irish Whiskey. When the customs officer asked us the purpose of our visit I think I shocked him when I divulged I was going for the butter.

What makes Irish butter so good? Turns out that the key to their delicious butter is grass. Over two thirds of Irish land is dedicated to farming and agriculture.  80% of this land is used to grow grass, hence the country’s nickname, “The Emerald Isle”. Irish cows graze freely on grass for 10 months a year. emerald-isleIrish butter has a deep golden colour, owing to the beta carotene in grass. Contrast that to North America, where most dairy cows are fed a diet comprised of primarily corn and soybeans. This produces a paler coloured butter, less rich and creamy than Irish butter. Creamy and sweet with a pure clean butter flavour and silky texture, Irish butter is the gold standard. The most well-known brand of Irish butter is Kerrygold. Luckily for us, it’s widely available here at home.kerrygold-vs-north-american-butterI discovered the joys of Irish soda bread and butter on our very first morning.  We landed in Dublin after flying all night and rented a car to drive to Galway, on the west coast. We stopped halfway through our 3 hour drive for our first full Irish breakfast. My plate arrived piled high with eggs, sausages, bacon, potatoes and tomatoes. All very delicious, but I quickly lost interest and abandoned it once I took my first bite of the soda bread, thickly spread with salted butter and jam.

Turns out that almost every restaurant bakes their own soda bread and the variations seemed endless. My rule for bread eating is, that unless it’s stellar, I try not to waste the calories. I was powerless to resist all that amazing bread, and it goes without saying that the butter put me in my happy place.

Irish soda bread boasts a craggy intensely crunchy crust and a dense chewy interior. There are many different versions and variations, but the traditional recipe consists of flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The power of baking soda is activated by the acid in the buttermilk. 

My version is adapted from Clodagh McKenna‘s book Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. She uses equal parts of white all-purpose and whole wheat flours. I loaded up my loaf with golden flax seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and raisins.

Irish butter, flaky sea salt and tart cherry jam make excellent accompaniments to the bread. Any leftover is delicious toasted all week long!butter-salt-and-jam

Click here to print recipe for Irish-soda-bread.




“Everything” Holiday Challah

3-challahs-on-wooden-boardI have been making the same holiday challah for at least 15 years now. Everyone in the family loves it and looks forward to it. It’s possible I risk a mutiny if I dare to bake a different recipe. Yet, when I saw this challah in Uri Scheft’s book “Breaking Breads” I was enchanted. It looked like an everything bagel! I had to make it. Since Rosh Hashanah doesn’t start until Sunday night, I decided to do a test run for Friday night dinner at my son’s house.

Uri’s dough is much leaner than mine. Mine contains more eggs and oil. One recipe uses a kilogram (7 cups) of all-purpose flour. It’s enough to make 3 small challahs. A scale will be your best friend for dividing the dough. divide-into-3Each piece of dough gets further divided into 3 pieces and rolled out into 14 inch ropes.14-inch-ropesI like to start my braid in the center and work out toward both ends. Braid loosely. if the braids begin to stick to each other, give them a light dusting of flour. Wrap the braid into a circle, with a hole in the center. I found attaching the ends a bit challenging. I just sort of squeezed them together. Cover the challahs and let them double in size.

Now comes the fun part. Get all your toppings ready. I used sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, golden flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and nigella (black onion) seeds. I finished it off with a scatter of maldon sea salt flakes. toppings Brush the braid with egg.brushing-with-eggHave fun with the toppings.looks-like-an-everything-bagelInsert a small ovenproof bowl in the center so that the hole does not get filled in when dough bakes.ready-for-ovenBake at 400°F for about 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Serve with honey in the middle for dipping.baked-with-honey-in-cernterOr serve the honey on the side for drizzling. a-drizzle-of-honeyThis challah dough is much denser than mine.A very different, but delicious challah experience. It really did remind me of an everything bagel. They are just so freaking adorable. We took a vote and decided to make both kinds of challah for our Rosh Hashanah lunch on Monday. I’ll let you know what everyone says!

Click here to print recipe for Everything-Holiday-Challah.