For the Love of Bread!

For the Love of Bread!

September 28, 2016

Autumn is here, and with it our desire for warm, cozy kitchens and delicious home-cooked meals. Nothing like fresh bread coming out of the oven ready to share with family and friends. We were recently gifted Caroline Eden & Eleanor Ford's beautiful new cookbook, Samarkand: Recipes & Stories From Central Asia & the Caucasus (Kyle Books, 2016). Seriously, you take one look through this book and notice the diversity of flavors coupled with the stunning photographs and you'll want to make it all! But we were focusing on our love of bread and it just so happened to have the classic non bread of our favorites :)

Non bread is a flat, round traditional bread found all over Central Asia, Pakistan, India and China. It is a leavened bread, and traditional to Central Asia, has a central depression which has been stamped with a decoration. Samarkand has a really lovely introduction to nan breads of the region (among a myriad of other interesting reads).

We reached out to Caroline Eden and asked her a few questions:

Craftspring: When did you first visit Central Asia? What brought you there in the first place?

Caroline: 2009. My travels through India led me to Central Asia because of the beautiful Mughal architecture. The founder of the Mughal Empire was, of course, Babur, who was born in Uzbekistan and is buried in Kabul. The book covers both Central Asia and the south Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) and after I’d explored Central Asia I went on a few adventures to the Caucasus. 

Why Central Asian food? What led you to make a cookbook about the region?

Honestly, because I got fed up with guidebooks referring to all food in Central Asia as ‘survival fare’, I always say that yes, the food in tourist restaurants isn’t always great but step into people’s homes and it’s another story entirely. It’s obvious really, when you see how good the markets are - you think, surely there’s a lot more going on than dumplings and shashlik.

We love Central Asian bread and it’s unifying force throughout the region. Where does your Non Recipe come from? Have you tried it in a regular, old city oven? 

The recipe is a standard non bread recipe. My co-author and I have successfully cooked non in our regular ovens. One trick is ice cubes in the bottom of the oven to create steam. 


Read on as we follow the Samarkand nan bread recipe (reproduced with the permission of Kyle Books).

Makes 1 loaf*

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons fast-action dried yeast

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar

Sunflower oil or melted lard

1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds 

* Craftspring note: After having gone through the steps of making the dough, waiting for it to rise and heating the oven so hot, we think next time around we will double the recipe at the very least, to be more efficient with time and resources. As one loaf will not last long in a household of four, or two or even one person!!! 

1. Put the flour in a large bowl, add the dried yeast to one side, and the salt and sugar to the other. Make a well in the center, pour in 1/2 cup of cold water, and mix thoroughly. If it feels stiff, add a little more water to make a sticky dough. Turn onto an oiled surface and knead for 10 minutes until the tackiness has gone and the dough is silky soft and smooth. Form into a ball and put in an oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 2 hours, or util at least doubled in size. 

2. Knock the air out of the dough and form it into a domed round. Sit it on a floured wooden board lined with a piece of parchment paper and cover again with the kitchen towel. Let prove for another 45 minutes, or until doubled in size again. 

3. Preheat the oven to 475°F, or as hot as it will go, and put a pizza stone or baking sheet in to heat up—it needs to get really hot before you bake the non.

4. Make an indentation in the middle of the bread by pressing with the heel of your hand, leaving a doughnut-shaped ring around the edge. Pierce a pattern in the middle using a non bread stamp or the tines of a fork. Brush the top with oil or lard and sprinkle with the onion seeds. Trim the excess parchment from the sides of the bread. 

5. Put a handful of ice cubes on the bottom of the oven—this will create steam. Use the board to lift the bread to the oven and carefully slide it (still on the parchment paper) onto the preheated stone or pan. Back for 15 minutes. The top should be golden and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped underneath. 

We accidentally added the sugar and yeast together to the bowl of water. We went with it, stirred it well, let it sit for a a few minutes and then added the mixture to the flour. 

Next we kneaded the bread for 10 minutes. By the end, the dough was literally the definition of perfect. As we had never made bread before, we were in awe of how lovely the texture was!

Our dough, before and after sitting to rise for 2 hours.

We kneaded our bread for a second time and took a lovely tea break while the dough sat for another 45 mins to prove. (We didn't have any parchment paper at the house, so just floured the board). The end result was a substantially bigger ball! 

Next we used a rounded, wooden bread press we found in Uzbekistan to flatten our dough into a disk.  It was really easy to create the crust ridge and thin out the center with. 

And finally, we got to use our chekich! That is the metal decorative bread stamp traditional to the region. They come in a diverse number of shapes and sizes, and we are currently scouring the internet to see how many we can acquire! 

As we didn't have any parchment paper, we placed the dough directly on to the heated pizza stone. And voila! In and out of the oven in 15 minutes! The smell of fresh baked bread permeating our home, we were ready to eat :) 

 Samarkand is available online at Amazon or Barnes & Nobles  



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