November 24, 2014


This month's choice for "We Knead To Bake" group was Sheermal/Shirmal, a Persian origin naan-like sweet, saffron-flavored flat-bread. Thank you Aparna for this unique bread recipe that I wouldn't have known/tried otherwise.

Sheermal or Shirmal is a traditional, saffron-flavored, faintly sweetened, leavened flatbread that is popular in countries like Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. It is suggested that the name sheermal comes from the Persian word "milk" which is “sheer”. In India, sheermal is predominantly popular in regions that were under Mughal influence viz Kashmir, Lucknow & Hyderabad.

Sheermal is garnished with raisins, slivered almonds, poppy seeds or sesame seeds on top and is usually eaten for breakfast with tea. It can also be served, slightly warm as part of a meal with a mutton curry called Nihari. Today, I served it with spicy dal makhani and it was a yummy combo!!

Though this version of sheermal uses yeast as leavening agent, it can also be made with baking powder. The rose water / kewra water gives this bread a unique flavor. You could also choose to skip both of them and instead add crushed cardamom for a different & fresh flavor.

Incorporating ghee slowly & evenly into the dough gives sheermal a better taste & texture. Make sure your dough is soft, elastic and well kneaded as this will make a superior sheermal. The egg gives the dough a little extra richness, texture and flavour, but you can leave it out if you do not use eggs. Some of the recipes also uses heavy cream, full fat milk powder, mawa/khoya for richness.

Traditionally, this is a bread that is cooked in a tandoor, but the oven also produces good soft sheermal.

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 1.5 hrs
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - 6 sheermal

Recipe source - My diverse kitchen

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour / bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 packed cup mawa/khoya, grated

1/2 cup + 1/8 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp active dried yeast
2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup melted ghee
1/2 cup warm milk
2 tsp rose water (or kewra water)

Large pinch of saffron strands
1/8 cup of warm milk

Soak saffron strands in 1/8 cup of warm milk. Cover and set aside.

Mix the yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water with sugar and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until frothy.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. To this, add grated khoa and mix in well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and gently pour the yeast mixture into it. Next, pour milk, melted ghee, rose water, rest of the water (1/4 + 1/8 cups) one after the other. Using a fork, slowly mix both dry & wet ingredients together working from the center. When the dough starts to come together, take it out of the bowl and start to knead the dough on the kitchen countertop / any work surface for about 8 mins until it forms a smooth & slightly sticky ball. Do not over knead.

Place the ball of dough in a bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil. Turn the dough around in the bowl so that all the sides of the dough gets coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place for the dough to rise. After an hour or so, a well fermented dough should be risen & be doubled in size.

Punch the dough down so that it deflates a bit. Divide the dough into 6 parts of 100 gms each. Cover them with a plastic wrap and let them sit in the room temperature for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F for 20 mins.

Using your fingers, press out each portion into a round of approximately 5” diameter (about 1/8” thick). Place the rounds on a parchment lined or lightly greased baking tray and using a fork, prick holes on the 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 with saffron-milk solution again. Serve warm.

- This recipe is being "Yeast-spotted"!!


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