Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Komaj - Persian Date Bread with Cumin and Turmeric - We Knead to Bake 18

I have been introduced to a few (read more than a few) breads that were unfamiliar thus far, in the past year and a half. Baking with the group though virtually, has helped me work my skills and techniques, I would have not otherwise attempted. Aparna, our guide in this group, enjoys trying breads from far and wide and we have travelled along the trail through many regions. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
This month we have here to share a bread that has originated from Persia. We baked the Komaj which has turmeric and cumin in the dough and sweet dates paired with cardamom in the filling. It is a sweet and savoury bread that is served along with tea. There is not much information about the bread other than what Greg and Lucy Malouf have to say in their book, Saraban - A Chef's Journey Through Persia. Here is what they have to say:
"This is our interpretation of a wonderful savoury-sweet bread we tasted in the oasis town of Mahan in the South East of Iran. Cumin is grown in abundance in the region and is used to flavour many of the local dishes, often in combination with turmeric."
They had cut their Komaj in heart shapes as that is how they had eaten them in Iran. However, I baked them in a rectangular shape and few in rounded shape. It just does not matter what the shape is, for you are going to be transported elsewhere with one bite into it. The heady aroma of the toasted cumin and the cardamom that flavours the dates filling and the soft texture of the bread is beyond compare.
This bread dough has three rises instead of the usual two rises. i have used the dehydrated dates that are soft and can be sliced through or chopped easily.

Komaj - Persian Dates bread with Cumin and Turmeric
Adapted from Saraban - A Chef's Journey Through Persia by Greg and Lucy Malouf

This recipe makes 10 filled buns
For the dough:
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1/8 cup warm water
3&3/4 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour)
2&1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg (optional) ( I have used extra water and milk to substitute for the egg, otherwise the dough was very stiff)
2/3 cups warm milk*
1&1/2 tablespoon olive oil

* I needed extra milk as I had omitted the egg.

For the filling:
12 to 15 dried dates, pitted and cut in chunks
25 grams unsalted butter softened and at room temperature
4 to 5 whole cardamoms - peel removed and seeds crushed coarsely
Milk/ cream for brushing the dough
Icing sugar for dusting

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and allow it to come alive, in approximately 10 minutes.
Place the flour, sugar, salt, turmeric powder and 2 teaspoons of crushed cumin in the bowl (of the processor, if using one).
Whisk/ Pulse in the processor for a couple of times to mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk the (egg if using), oil and warm milk. Add the proven yeast to this and combine them.
Add this to the flour mix and knead well until a smooth pliable dough has been achieved.
Shape the dough in a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough in oil on all sides.
Cover and allow the dough to double in volume, for an hour or so.
Once risen, deflate the dough gently and again roll in a ball shape and return it to the bowl.
Keep covered for another hour to again double in volume.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by mixing the butter and crushed cardamom to the dates chunks.
After the second rise, divide the dough in eight equal portions.
Roll one portion of the dough in a rectangular shape that is between 1/8" to 1/4" thick.
Towards one half of the rectangle, make a mark with a circular/ square cookie cutter that is about 8 centimetres at its widest. Ensure that there is enough space around the edges as you will bring the other half of the rectangle over and seal the edges.

Brush a little water on the surface to make it easier to seal later.
Place just about a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of this marked space.
Bring the other half of the dough and cover it over the filling on to the edge.
Seal well and using the cookie cutter cut out the shaped dough bun. Check that it has been sealed well.
The scraps that fall off each portion can be later rolled in one or two more buns. That is how we started with eight portions, but resultant was ten buns.
Place the shaped dough on a lightly greased baking tray.
Roll out and shape the rest of the divided dough and the scraps into buns.
Place them on the tray allowing space to swell during baking.
Cover and allow a 15 minute rise for the shaped dough.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.
Brush some milk or cooking cream over the buns and top with the rest of the 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Press them slightly over the buns so that they stay intact.
Bake the buns for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven to cool on wire racks.

These are best had warm and with tea. However, they do remain fresh for a day longer and warming them slightly before serving is recommended.

The extra from the scraps depends on how you roll the dough out. So it is not necessarily thatyou get more than the dividend eight portions.

Please do check Aparna's post here, where other members have left a link to their beautifully baked Komaj bread.


Welcome and thank you for taking time to drop by.
I appreciate your valuable comments and tips.
I sincerely hope to improve with them.
Hope we shall interact often.
Thanks once again,
Lata Raja.