This is a very tasty Uzbek bread whose name resembles the northern Indian bread naan. I made this to go with Non Puju, an Uzbek dish in which a Chinese-style beef stew is served over bread. This version is adapted from Caroline Eden’s Red Sands, which I am reading in preparation for a VMFA trip to Central Asia, which was rescheduled from October 2020 to October 2021. Let’s hope it happens. This bread takes about 3-1/2 hours start to finish and makes one small loaf, which can serve 3-4 people.
The distinctive shape of the bread comes from creating a depression in the center and docking the depression right before the loaf goes in the oven. Uzbeks would use a decorative docking tool called a chekish. I used the tines of a fork to make two circles and a cross.
Per the original recipe, I kneaded this by hand, but it would work well in a stand mixer with a dough hook.
250 g. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. yeast
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
¾ cup tepid water
2 tsp. sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the flour and the salt and sugar on the other. Slowly add the water and mix well with a dough hook. Lightly oil a work surface such as a wooden cutting board. Knead the dough until smooth, 5-10 minutes, using a push, fold, and turn technique and assisted with a bench scraper. The dough will be sticky at first. When smooth, put it in a greased doubling container for two hours.
After the dough has doubled, knead it a few times to degas it, and then form it into a 9 inch round. Place the round on a sheet of baking parchment and cover it with a clean kitchen towel for 45 minutes for a second rising. While it is rising, place a baking steel or stone in the middle of the oven and a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven and heat it to 475 degrees.
When the dough is ready to bake, make a depression in the center of the round with the heel of your hand, and dock the depression so it will not rise. Brush the surface of the dough with the oil. Generously sprinkle sesame seeds over the dough. Boil a cup or so of water
Put the dough in the oven on the baking steel and pour the boiling water into the skillet at the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door to generate and trap steam to help the bread rise and form a nice crust. Be careful to avoid being scalded by the burst of steam.
Bake about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve.