As you may know from my previous post, I have a piece on Iranian food in Saveur and I thought I would continue with the Iranian theme with a post about a very typical Iranian breakfast I had in a modest cafe in Tehran which was just perfect. The barbari, the bread that is normally served for breakfast, had just been baked in the bakery next door — often the bakery and cafe belong to the same owner. The tea was local, from Lahijan, and my Iranian friend showed me how to sip it through a sugar cube the way they all do. Later, at the sumptuous Shah Abbas hotel in Isfahan, I sipped my tea through very elegant wafer-thin saffron-flavoured caramel brittles. The super fresh eggs were half-fried, half-scrambled with tomatoes and the curd cheese had been made by a neighbour. And it all came on a large, rather beautiful metal tray. If my bed had been nearby, I could have carried the tray back to have breakfast in bed!
The breakfast was so delicious, I didn’t mind the men looking at me as if I were a curious beast. I was veiled but that didn’t make me fit in. When I finished eating, I went into the bakery to see how they made the bread. I am not sure why I didn’t film them like in the other bakeries. Perhaps they didn’t let me. Anyway, I took a few pictures. In the one above, you can see the loaves being prepared for baking. At that stage they are much smaller. Perhaps because the dough is very soft after bulk-proofing, the bakers need to shape and place it quite tightly on the work table, so they can first grease it with a little tahini (or at least it looks like tahini from the pictures) then with the tip of their fingers, to make deep indentations in regular lines all over.
While two of the bakers were greasing the dough and making the indentations, a third one lifted the loaves one by one and as he was doing this, he stretched them to get the long oval shape so typical of barbari bread then laid them on the rotating hot plate.
I didn’t count how many rotations the breads had to go through before they baked but it must have disappeared at least twice behind the screen before they were completely baked.
Once the loaves were done, the baker stood them against each other so that they didn’t weigh down and steam up. Barbari needs to be soft inside and crisp outside.
The breakfast place was across from the grand bazar where surprisingly there was hardly any food. It was fun to visit though and even there, I found bread, carried by this charming character I guess to a restaurant as he had quite a stack on his shoulders!