Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC
Persian Sangak Pebble Flatbreads
This fabulous Persian bread dates back to the 11th century. Historians maintain that Persian soldiers would carry a small sack of small river stones on their marches that they’d pile together to form portable ovens to bake sangak, their daily bread and staple. Happily, today we can make this deliciously chewy sourdough bread today in the comfort of our kitchens. This version of sangak is a sourdough, made with whole white wheat.
You will need about 7 pounds of 1 to 1 1/2 -inch river stones to line a cookie sheet in which to bake these classic flatbreads. Use an old cookie sheet here: the super-heated stones may discolor the surface of the baking sheet.
Prep time 5 minutes to mix ingredients + 2 hours warm ferment + 10 hours overnight cold ferment
Bake time about 10 minutes per flatbread
Makes four 12-inch long flatbreads
2/3 cup ripe, active whole rye or whole wheat sourdough starter
2 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons date paste from 1/3 cup dates, any variety
1 cup spring water
1½ teaspoons shiro (mild, white) miso paste
Up to 4 additional teaspoons of spring water
2 teaspoons each of seeds like nigella, poppy, sesame to decorate the tops
The day before you bake, feed your sourdough mother once or twice so that it is quite active and bubbly before you mix the sangak dough.
Wash and dry the river stones if you are using them for the first time. Toss any broken or cracked stones; they should all be perfectly smooth and oval.
To make the date paste, cover the dates with water and microwave for 2 minutes on high to rehydrate and soften the dates. Alternatively, simmer in water on the stovetop for 5 minutes. Cool and purée the dates with just enough of its soaking water to create a smooth, thick paste using a high-speed blender.
In a mixing bowl use a Danish dough whisk or a wooden spoon to dilute the date paste in 1 cup of spring water. Mix in the sourdough starter, followed by the white whole wheat flour, combining it well to hydrate the flour completely. Rest the dough, covered with a lid or plastic wrap, for 30 minutes. The dough will be sticky and too wet to knead. Instead, as you will see, we help the dough develop by stretching corners of it up and over the bowl, rotating the bowl 90 degrees and repeating, until the extensible proteins in the dough tighten up.
Mix in the miso past now by dotting the top of the dough with the miso, and stretching and folding the dough multiple times, until it is integrated, and the dough has tightened. Cover the dough and rest it for 30 minutes.
If the dough seems too dense or dry to you to stretch it, add a little water but just a teaspoon at a time. You will get a feel for this bread as you work with it and make it again in future. The dough should be soft and sticky but not so sloppy that it lacks cohesion or tears too easily.
Repeat the stretching, folding, and 30-minute rests for another two cycles. In total, the dough will have developed for 2 hours now. Stretch and fold it one more time, cover it, and refrigerate it to continue to ferment slowly in a cold environment overnight or for about 10 hours.
The next morning, bring the dough to room temp for two hours. The dough will have risen noticeably.
Preheat the oven you will bake the bread in at 550F (or 525F convection). Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with the riven stones and insert it on the middle oven shelf.
Stretch and fold the dough. Remove it again and remove half the dough and divide that in half again. Wet two dinner plates very well and place one-quarter of the dough on each wet plate. The plates need to be very wet to prevent excessive sticking. Wet your fingers well before flattening and stretching the dough on each into a thin wedge-shaped bread, up to 12 inches long and about 5 inches at its widest. Alternatively, you can bake each one at a time, or you can make a bigger single sangak using half the dough. If you choose this option, wet a longer platter on which to distend the double portion of dough.
Carefully remove the extremely hot cookie sheet and shut the oven door immediately to preserve the heat. Slide the tip of the dough onto the hot stones on one side of the cookie and slowly retract the plate down the length of the sheet so that, inch-by-inch, the rest of the dough falls onto the stones. Repeat with the other quarter of the dough, placing the dough in the opposite direction. Sprinkle on the seeds as you like and replace the cookie sheet in the oven. Lower the temperature to 525F (500F convection). Bake it for about 10 minutes. The sangak flatbreads should be firm, beautifully golden and toasted here and there.
Lift each baked sangak with a pair of tongs and transfer it quickly to a cooling rack. Allow the stones to reheat for 5 minutes. As they heat up, rewet the platter, transfer the next two quarters of dough to it, and stretch and shape it as before. Transfer them to the hot stones, sprinkle with seeds and repeat the baking process.
As each bread cools enough to handle, about 5 minutes, turn them over and carefully pluck out any stones that may have embedded in it, using a knife tip or your fingers.
Sangak flatbreads are tastiest fresh and warm. But if you have any leftover, wrap it up well in plastic wrap, refrigerate it, and reheat it for 10 minutes in a 300F oven.
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