Mughal Bread: Flat Bread fit for an Emperor

The Mughal Empire was founded in 1529 and at its height reached from Kabul (Afghanistan) to Kanyakumari (in the state of Tamil Nadu, in southernmost India). The Mughals were Persian and their cooks borrowed from Persian and Indian cuisine, leaving us with such beloved dishes as pulau, paneer, and biryani.

This bread recipe is from the 16th century book, Ain i Akbari by Abul Fazl. This translation is by David Friedman.

This recipe produced two tasty results. There’s no yeast. Some people get nervous about yeast, so this is a good beginner bread recipe. It’s pretty easy to make, although it does require some rolling and the cooking can be time consuming.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups flour [I used all purpose]
  • 3/8 – 1/2 cup ghee or butter [I used the entire half cup of ghee]
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

1. Melt the ghee (use butter if you don’t have ghee).

2. Add the ghee to the flour in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Use a fork to mix the two together until there are only small lumps. (These are still medium-size lumps in the photo below.)

A picture of ghee and flour.
Mixing the ghee and flour

3. Add the milk and salt.

Ingredieants in a mixing bowl.
Adding the milk and salt.

4. Once the ingredients have been mixed thoroughly, knead the dough briefly.

A person's hand kneading some dough.
Forming the dough

5. Cover with a damp cloth (I used a clean kitchen towel) and let the dough rest for at least an hour.

6. Once the dough has rested, knead it until it is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is too sticky; add more milk if it is too crumbly.

7. Take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Roll it into a flat circle.

A ball of dough.
Ready to roll
A rolled out helping of dough with a rolling pin.
Nice and flat

Or “circle,” in my case. I rolled the dough on a piece of plastic wrap because I wasn’t sure if my counter was clean enough.

Rolled out dough, on a plate, waiting to cook.
Ready to cook

8. From here, the bread can be prepared two ways: baked or fried.

To fry:

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Flick water into the oil to test its readiness; when the oil sizzles, it is hot enough. I used vegetable oil. I bet the ghee would have been a good choice for this, too.

Place a piece of the bread into the pan and let it cook for 2 minutes. It will start to puff up. Flip it over and let it cook for 2 more minutes, then flip one more time and cook for 2 minutes. Both sides should be golden brown and puffy.

Dough in a frying pan.
Method 1: Frying

To bake:

Place a baking sheet into the oven and preheat to 450º Fahrenheit. When the oven is preheated, add the bread to the baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. (I did not add oil or cooking spray or anything to the sheet.)

Two pieces of dough on a pan going into the oven.
Method 2: Baking

After the 6 minutes is up, flip the bread and cook for 4 more minutes. It should be brown and puffy.

Two pieces of dough on a pan to be flipped over.
Ready to flip over
Two pieces of cooked bread.
All done
Side by side comparison of baked vs. fried bread.
Side by side comparison

The above picture shows both types of bread. The picture below shows fried bread.

Close up of fried bread
Close up of fried bread

Taste

The two methods produced two different tastes, though both were excellent.

The baked bread was hard and cracker-like. I think I might use it in the future for pizza or something like that. It reminded me very much of lavash.

The fried bread was softer and very tender. It tasted like pastry (perhaps from a pot pie) or a biscuit.

I tried both kinds plain, with butter, and with honey. Delicious every way. I will definitely make this in the future for “normal” meals. While the cooking is a bit time consuming, it’s an easy recipe overall.

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on Mirous Worlds.

Published by

Natasha

History. Hindi cinema. Hugging cats.

2 thoughts on “Mughal Bread: Flat Bread fit for an Emperor”

  1. This looks awesome, and like it would be a cool replacement for biscuits. I wonder how well the dough would freeze, since there’s no yeast involved?

    Ever since I watched that one Mythbusters episode ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmLh2CM03y0 ), the idea of putting water into hot oil (even tiny bits) freaks me out, so I usually use a tiny bit of dough or flour to check the temperature of my oil. Just, you know, in case anybody else watched that episode and also lives with a slightly irrational fear of hot oil and water.

Leave a Reply