Barbari Bread

Reyna explains: 

“I always had an easy time remembering the name of this bread. That is because, the second I tried it, I said to myself (in my Spanish-speaking brain) “Que barbaro!” – which means, ‘How cool!’  Little did I know that Barbaro (which means Berber) is exactly the name of the people who created this bread. In any case, this bread is served for breakfast on the Persian table, along with delicious Bulgarian feta cheese, honeydew melon, walnuts, scrambled eggs and hot sweet chai (tea). Barbari bread is shaped into a long rectangle and is about 1 inch thick. It is best served warm or toasted!

“This recipe calls for ziadune seeds (nigella seeds), also known as onion seeds or cumin seeds. These are available in many Persian or Indian grocery shops (in Hindu they are called Kalongi) and are incredible little sesame seedlike kernels with a deep black color and a sharp flavor. Not only do ziadune seeds give this bread an incredible taste, but they also emit a tantalizing aroma. In fact, these little seeds deserve much more credit than they get. 

“I was flabbergasted to find out even Tutankhamen (the Egyptian Pharaoh) made sure to be buried with some ziadune so his slaves could make his favorite dishes in the afterlife. If that is not impressive enough, you should know ziadune is also used to cure gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, such as asthma!” 

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Yeast mixture

½ cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)


1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water

3¼ cups white flour, divided

canola oil spray

Glaze and garnish

1 teaspoon flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup water

¼ cup black sesame seeds or ziadune (nigella) seeds or onion seeds (optional)


Make the dough: In a medium bowl, combine the water and yeast. Cover and set aside for five  minutes to proof the yeast. Line two 17-by-12-inch baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together baking powder, salt, warm water and 2 cups of flour until smooth. Add yeast mixture and remaining flour (1¼  cups) and knead for about five minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add 1   tablespoon more of flour.

Spray the dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for one hour or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the glaze: Combine the flour, baking soda and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Punch down the dough and divide into two equal parts. Shape each half into a large ball and transfer to a baking sheet. Flatten the balls with a rolling pin and shape into a rectangle. Flatten the top of the rectangle with your fingertips, making several long dents or trenches in the dough. Stretch the dough, pulling it from each short end until it becomes a 17-by-12-by-½-inch rectangle with grooves along its top.

Brush the bread with the glaze and sprinkle with black sesame seeds or ziadune (nigella) or onion seeds, if using. Let stand for five minutes before placing into preheated oven. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Yield: 2 loaves