24 novembre 2014

Sheermal/Shirmal, Saffron Flavoured Bread


la ricetta in italiano qui


For this month's challenge of We Knead To Bake group th choice went to Sheermal (or Shirmal).
I didn't know this bread, but Aparna always give enough info about anything she chooses to bake:

Sheermal or Shirmal is a saffron-flavored slightly sweet traditional leavened flatbread that is found in various countries on the Asian sub-continent including Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
Sheermal is a Naan-like milk bread, apparently of Persian origins, and it is suggested that the name comes from the Persian word for milk which is sheer. In India, this milk bread is predominantly found in Muslim neighbourhoods (another reason to suppose it came to India with the Mughals) of Kashmir, Lucknow and Hyderabad.
The finished flatbread and when it is served/ how it is eaten, seems to differ slightly depending on where it is made. So you will find that some Sheermal decorated with a lovely pricked rustic pattern on its surface, Lucknowi Sheermal garnished with raisins, others like to use slivered almonds, poppy seeds or sesame seeds to top their Sheermal.
Sheermal is usually eaten as it is with tea for breakfast, or served slightly warm as part of a meal with a mutton curry called Nihari/ Nehari or spicy kebabs. It can also be served with Khurma/ Korma/ Qorma, vegetable curries, etc.






Sheermal can be made with either baking powder or yeast as the leavening agent, and this version uses yeast. The kewra (screw pine extract) gives a unique flavour, as well as rose water/essence. 
I couldn't find any of them and just used crushed cardamom instead.
Pay attention to add the ghee a little at a time so to amalgamate evenly and give a better texture.
The dough should come out soft, elastic and well kneaded as this will produce a superior Sheermal. The hallmark of good Sheermal is the glistening finish on the flatbread from brushing it with melted ghee or butter, so do not skimp on that, even though this flatbread is already rich as it is.
The egg gives extra richness, texture and flavour to the dough, but you can leave it out if you don’t use eggs.
Traditionally, this is a bread that is cooked in a tandoor, but the oven also produces quite good Sheermal.


My Sheermals were puffier and softer as I did not use a rolling pin and did not pressed them too much, but will try them again thinner as shown in the videos.






Serving 4 Sheermals:

1 tsp active dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 cup milk 
(or more, as required for kneading)
1 tsp kewra water (screw pine essence) or rose water
(or crushed cardamom seeds)
a few strands saffron soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk or water
melted butter, for brushing








Mix the yeast into the warm water with sugar and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes till it is frothy. You may knead by hand or with a machine. Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the yeast mixture and the beaten egg and run the processor a couple of times to mix well. Then add the ghee in two lots to this and again pulse a couple of times till it looks like fine crumbs.
Now add as much milk, and finally the kewra (or rose water) and knead until you have a very soft and slightly sticky dough. Transfer this to an oiled bowl, cover with a moist cloth and let the dough rise till doubled in volume (about 1 to 2 hours). Remove the cloth and knead the dough again. Shape into a ball, lightly coat all over with a little ghee, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for about 15 to 20 minutes. 
Now divide the dough into 4 equal portions and using your fingers, press out each portion into a round of approximately 4” diameter (about 1/8” thick). You can also use your rolling pin, or hust do with your fingers. 
Place the rounds on a parchment lined or lightly greased baking tray and using a fork, dock (prick holes) the whole surface of the dough rounds. Brush them all over, generously, with the saffron-milk solution. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 to 15 minutes till they turn a lovely golden brown. Do not over-bake them.
Take them out of the oven, and immediately brush them lightly with melted butter or more ghee. Serve warm.



This recipe also goes to Susan's weekly YeastSpotting.

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