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Nan-e Afghani – Afghan Bread

Afghan bread, or Nan-e Afghani (Persian:نان افغانی), is the national bread of Afghanistan. The bread is oval or rectangular and baked in a tandoor, a cylindrical oven that is the primary cooking equipment of the sub-continental region. The Afghan version of the tandoor sits above ground and is made of bricks, which are heated to cook the bread. The bread, also known as nan, is shaped and then stuck to the interior wall of the oven to bake. Black cumin or caraway seeds are often sprinkled on the bread, as much for decoration as for taste, and lengthwise lines are scored in the dough to add texture to the bread.

Afghan bread is commonly stocked at Middle Eastern grocery stores in western countries. In Afghanistan the baker still cooks the bread the traditional way by spreading the dough around the tandoor, so that it quickly puffs up and starts to colour and emit a fresh bread smell that draws the early morning throngs of people. The baker then uses two long iron tongs to pull the bread from the tandoor wall. Afghans carry the bread in cloth bags.

Similar to that in Arab countries, bread is served with most meals and is generally torn into shreds and used by those eating to envelope foods, so that they can be picked up and conveyed to the mouth, in a manner similar to a sandwich, and also to soak up liquids on the plate. Since people in Afghanistan normally use their hands to eat, the bread thus acts as both a fork and a spoon.

The bread has no firm crust and tastes similar to the Indian and Pakistani variants of naan bread. It has a dense and rich taste.

Nan-e Afghani - Afghan Bread
These small oval breads are baked in a tandoor, the stove of the region -- sometimes buried in the ground as it is in India. The Afghan oven is above ground and is made of rounded bricks, which are heated. Nan are shaped and slapped and stuck on the hot bricks for fast baking.
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 7 g packet dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • ¾ tablespoon salt
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoons of black cumin seed or caraway seeds
Instructions
  1. Mix ½ cup of warm water, yeast, and sugar together and let it proof for 10 minutes. When froth appears, sprinkle ½ teaspoon flour on top and let it continue to proof for 5 minutes more. The froth will rise quickly.
  2. Put flour in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle salt over it. Make a well in middle of flour and add oil and yeast mixture. Stir this in and add small amounts of water until you have produced a soft, moist dough that can be handled. Knead well for 5 minutes. Put dough ball back in bowl, cover with towel, and let rise for 1½ hours. Punch down dough.
  3. Divide dough into 8 equal parts and roll each part into a ball. Roll each ball into a oval shape 15 - 18 cm long and 1¼ cm thick.
  4. Draw tines of a fork in 3 lines along length of each noni for a decorative design. Paint each noni with egg mixture and sprinkle over all ½ teaspoon black cumin seeds. (This is traditional seed to use, but caraway seeds may be substituted if black cumin seed is unobtainable). Put noni on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 175°C oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The brown top will glisten.

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