Armenian “Barbary” Bread {ModBak}

The first recipe in the Breads section of The Modern Baker is Armenian “Barbary” Bread, a bread of dubious origin. It is variously claimed by Armenians, Afghans, and Iranians as their own. Whoever invented it, I baked it as part of the Modern Baker Challenge.

Although the Challenge has moved from quick breads into yeast-risen breads, this recipe still came together quickly. It has a fairly short ingredients list: AP flour, WW flour, salt, yeast, warm water, olive oil, and black sesame seeds. Although Nick Malgieri calls for active dry yeast, I used instant yeast, as that’s what I keep on hand for baking. I had some active dry yeast in the fridge, but I tested some of it, and it was dead.

I combined the dry ingredients (except for the sesame seeds) in one bowl, and the water and oil in another bowl. Then I used my dough whisk to stir the flour mixture into the liquids, one cup at a time. Once all the flour was mixed in, I had a shaggy dough, which I covered and let rest for 20 minutes.

After the dough rested, I scraped it out onto a Silpat and gave it a few stretch and folds. Then I rolled it into a boule, put it in an oiled bowl, and set it aside to ferment for about two hours.

After the dough doubled in bulk, I gently removed it from the bowl and pressed and patted the dough into shape. I halved the recipe, so I only made one loaf.

I let the dough proof for an hour, until it was well-risen.

I dimpled the dough gently with my fingertips, then sprinkled it with black sesame seeds.

I baked the bread for about 20 minutes at 425° F, until the loaf was well-browned and springy to the touch.

NM recommends eating this with Middle Eastern foods like hummus or baba ganoush. I didn’t have either of these on hand, so we ate the bread plain. It had a fairly dense, even crumb, and the crust was soft and slightly chewy. Most of the sesame seeds fell off; next time, I would brush the loaf with an egg wash before applying the seeds to help them stick better.

I found the taste good but not remarkable. I could see how it would make a good base for cheeses or spreads. My younger daughter, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of it. She ate four or five pieces the day I made it and polished it off over the next few days.

I will try this bread again when I have some hummus or feta to eat with it. And it has me looking forward to the rest of the breads in this section.


  1. July 25, 2010 at 11:45 am

    […] with the Armenian Barbary Bread, I halved the recipe so that I would end up with just one loaf of this bread. The dough is mixed […]

  2. July 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Funny, I always thought of Armenian flatbread as a cracker type of flatbread, sort of like the lavash crackers we made. These are more bread like and look great. I still have not baked a thing from Modern Baker. It is sitting on my shelf calling to me!!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      I, too, expected flatbread to be, well, flat. It had a lot of yeast in it, so I knew it was going to rise. I’m still a bit puzzled by the name, though.

      Now that you’ve finished the BBA Challenge, maybe you’ll have time to dive into The Modern Baker. We’d love for you to join us, even if for a few recipes here and there.

  3. ap269 said,

    July 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I still have some black sesame seeds – thanks for the tip with the eggwash! This looks like it starts as a rather flat bread, doesn’t it? I’m too lazy to look it up in the book right now… The oven spring is incredible! Great job!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 6, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      It is nominally a “flatbread”, but it has a bunch of yeast in it, so it puffs up in the oven.

  4. Heather said,

    July 6, 2010 at 9:09 am

    It looks delicious! And I LOVE black sesame seeds but haven’t been able to find them. Did you have to go to a specialty store? This bread looks like the perfect one for an antipasti tray. Great job! I will follow your advice and use an egg wash to make the seeds stick.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 6, 2010 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Heather. I found black sesame seeds in the grocery store. Our store has an ethnic food section, and I think that’s where they were.

  5. Renee said,

    July 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Looks good! I was going to try this one today but realized I’m out of ww flour. I did buy some hummus for the first couple of breads. I’m eager to get started. Glad the first one was a success for you.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      I think I’m going to stock up on hummus and baba before I bake the next few recipes, especially the pita bread.

  6. Kayte said,

    July 5, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Looks wonderful, inside and out. Thanks for the tip on the sesame seeds falling off…is it worth going and getting the black ones special that I may not use for a long time or would say the toasted sesame seeds that I have on hand work nicely as well? Okay, don’t answer that, if I want to be true to the recipe, it is off to the market I go. Yours looks lovely. Good thing youngest daughter and Matt don’t live in the same house or there could be bread wars on a regular basis.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks, Kayte. I had to buy the sesame seeds, too. I had never baked with black sesame seeds before. Now that I have them, I will find excuses to use them.

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