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Homemade bread is a simple and fast way to always have a good authentic ingredient on your table and ideal to accompany all kinds of dishes; we go to Iraq to discover his Samoon (Arabic: صمون).
What is samoon?
It's called samoon but also samoon bahadjra (الصمون_الحجري), which means "stone samoon" because it is traditionally cooked in a stone oven, heated by a wood fire, just like traditional pizza.
Samoon is the most popular bread in Iraq along with khubz.
It is usually served with a variety of dishes such as hummus, shish kebab, or shawarma.
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It is also known in all the countries of Levante. Variants exist in Syria and Lebanon.
It can also be found in other Middle Eastern countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
What is the origin of samoon?
Samoon came to Iraq in the 1950s and his origins are Georgian. In Georgia Samoon was known as shotis puri.
It came to Iraq with the migration of many Armenians, who also made this bread, to Mesopotamia in the late 1940s.
The first person to produce samoons in Iraq was an Armenian named Simon in the Bab al-Agha region. Simon (Samoon in Arabic) gave his name to the bread, which immediately became popular throughout Iraq.
The Assyrian community in Georgia from the 6th century AD. C. has brought many customs and traditions to Iraq, and the samoon baked in a stone oven was one of the most important.
Shotis puri (burning bread) from Georgian cuisine (პური) is like samoon, made from wheat flour, and, like samoon, traditionally has the shape of a canoe, like khachapuri that comes from the word khacho which means cheese (hut) and the word puri which means bread.
How to make samoon
The main feature of the Iraqi samoon, in its most traditional form, is that it is cooked in a stone oven, the tandoor, also known as tannour, tendor tune.
Tandoor is a stone oven, usually made of clay, used in the kitchens of Iraq, Azerbaijan, India, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and almost all of the Middle East and South Asia.
Tandoor heat is traditionally generated by burning wood or charcoal at the base of the oven.
Food placed inside a tandoor is exposed to both the heat of the flame and the heat generated by the smoke. The temperature inside the oven can reach up to 900 F and it is common practice to keep it on for long periods of time to maintain the proper baking temperature.
It is used in the Middle East and India to cook typical dishes such as tandoori chicken or tikka chicken, or many varieties of breads such as naan or lavash.
The tandoor is a very important tool in most Indian restaurants around the world. Modern furnace variants use electricity or oil (LPG) instead of wood or coal to generate flames and heat.
What is the origin of the tandoor?
The earliest form of the tandoor furnace was found in the Harappa and Mohenjo-daro settlements of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, a Bronze Age civilization, although other but much more ancient furnaces similar to the tandoor date back to the dawn. of the Harappian civilization in Balakot, Pakistan and on the Makran coast located in Iran and Pakistan along the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Tandoor cuisine came to Central Asia and the Middle East with the Roma, from the tribes of the Thar desert in northwestern India and Pakistan.
In India, the tandoor is also known as bhatti, because according to other sources, the tandoor oven comes from the Bhatti tribes in the Thar desert.
However, according to the Dehkhoda dictionary, the most important Persian dictionary, the word tandoor comes from the Akkadian word tinûru, which was already mentioned in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh's epic is an epic narrative from Mesopotamia. As one of the oldest literary works of humanity, the earliest known version was written in Akkadian in Babylon between the 18th and 17th centuries BC. C.
Refractory Baking Stone
Not everyone has a tandoor in their kitchen. The best alternative is a refractory baking stone.
A fire stone, baking stone, or pizza stone is a thick, flat material used for baking. It can be square, round or rectangular and its thickness is generally ½ to 1 inch.
Baking stones are known for their ability to simulate the bottom of a wood-fired oven, dispersing heat evenly, minimizing major heat spots and allowing moisture to transpire from the dough.
The operation is very simple. The stone should be placed on the baking sheet or bottom of the oven and preheated before baking for at least 30 minutes or 1 hour if it is thicker.
When the stone heats up, it absorbs heat and holds it for a long time. The heat increases evenly, making it possible to bake pizza, bread, or certain cakes evenly.
The result will be a well-baked dish with a crispy golden crust.
Choosing a good baking stone depends on personal needs and cooking habits. Classic stone is made of clay or stone, which absorbs moisture during baking, allowing for a crispier crust.
You should make sure that the stone you buy is suitable for your oven. To do this, you will obviously need to measure the depth and width of the cooking compartment.
If you have a natural gas oven, you should plan at least a half inch on each side of the stone to ensure air circulation.
Also, if you prefer your bread to bake evenly and cleanly, choose a thicker stone, about 1 inch thick. The thicker the stone, the better the absorption and distribution of heat in the refractory stone, for optimal and uniform firing.
How to use a stone for baking?
The stone allows a homogeneous and smooth cooking of a dough. However, it does require a certain amount of preparation time:
– Place the stone in the cold oven on a rack. – Heat the oven to maximum temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. – Turn off the oven and place the bread or cooking food on the stone in a thin layer of flour to avoid sticking. – Leave the stone in the oven until it has cooled completely.
The heat stored in the stone makes it possible, for example, to bake one or two pizzas without having to restart the oven. The same technique can be used on a barbecue, although temperature management may not be as easy.
As for Samoon, in the absence of a stone or refractory stone oven, a convection oven with a cast iron skillet will be the closest thing to traditional cooking. Also, I am sharing a recipe with a convection oven.
We tried these delicious hot muffins with mutabal, labneh, hummus, falafels, all sabich ingredients on a small scale in North Africa for a zucchini ajlouk, taktouka, and harissa.
Samoon is one of the most popular breads in Iraq. Variations exist in Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
Cuisine: Iraqi, Middle Eastern, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 loaves
Author: Vera Abitbol
- 4 cups of flour
- 3 tablespoons of wheat bran
- 1.5 tablespoons of active dry yeast
- 1 spoon of sugar
- 1 cup warm water or more (at 95 F)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ cup boiling water in an ovenproof container
To brush over the bread
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and ½ cup warm water.
Let it sit for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and wheat bran.
Make a hole in the center.
In this well, add the yeast, oil, buttermilk.
Using the dough hook, knead on medium speed, gradually incorporating the remaining warm water.
Add the salt and continue kneading for 7 minutes until you obtain a smooth and homogeneous dough.
If the dough crumbles too much, add a little warm water and if it's sticky, add a little flour.
The dough should come out of the bowl walls.
Cover the dough with a cloth and let it grow in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, until it has at least doubled in volume.
On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 6 equal parts.
Cover them again with a cloth and let them rest for 15 minutes.
Roll each piece of dough into a large cylinder, and then with both palms roll both edges of the cylinder as you spread them out. The edges should be thinned keeping the center thick.
With your hands, flatten the center until you get a canoe shape (diamond).
Place the loaves, well spaced, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Cover the loaves with a light cloth and let them grow again for 30 minutes in a warm place, away from drafts.
Preheat a convection oven to 400 F (or conventional oven to 425 F).
In a bowl, beat the egg and the white vinegar.
Brush the top of each loaf with this mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Place the large bowl of boiling water on a wire rack in the lowest part of the oven.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.