Iranian Nut Bread

An excitingly different bread, Iranian Nut Bread has been made in the Middle East for centuries. It is perfect to serve with soups, salads or any Middle Eastern dish.

1-

½ oz. fresh yeast

1 tablespoon plus

½ teaspoon sugar

10 fl. oz. lukewarm milk

1 lb. flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 ½ oz. chopped unblanched almonds, lightly toasted

2 ½ oz. chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted

2-2 oz. pine nuts, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoon poppy seeds

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground fennel

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse rock salt

2 oz. Parmesan or other hard cheese, finely grated

Crumble the yeast into a small mixing bowl and mash in

½ teaspoon of the sugar with a fork. Add

1 tablespoon of the milk and cream the mixture together to form a smooth paste. Set the bowl aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the yeast mixture is puffed up and frothy.

Sift the flour, salt and remaining sugar into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the remaining luke warm milk, the oil and the yeast mixture.

Using your fingers or a spatula, mix the liquids together. Gradually draw the flour into the liquids and continue mixing until all the flour has been incorporated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a floured board or flat surface and knead it for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Rinse, dry and lightly grease the mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and sprinkle it with a little flour. Place the dough in the mixing bowl and cover it with a clean, damp cloth. Set it aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 to 1| hours, or until it has risen and almost doubled in bulk.

Turn the risen dough out on to a floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.

Line a large baking sheet with non- stick silicone paper. Place the ball of dough on the baking sheet and flatten it to form a flat circular shape.

Set the baking sheet aside while you make the topping.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, com-bine the egg yolks, chopped nuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cumin, fennel and pepper.

With a wooden spoon mix all the ingredients well together.

Put the topping on to the centre of the dough and spread it out to within 1 1/2-inches of the edge. Sprinkle the coarse salt over the topping and cover with the grated cheese.

Cover the dough with a clean, damp, cloth and set it aside in a warm place for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until it has risen and expanded across the baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to very hot 475 °F (Gas Mark 9, 240°C).

Place the dough in the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to hot 425°F (Gas Mark 7, 220°C). Place the baking sheet on the lowest shelf of the oven and bake for a further 30 to 35 minutes. After removing the bread from the oven, tip it off the baking sheet and rap the underside with your knuckles. If the bread sounds hollow, like a drum, it is cooked. If it does not sound hollow, return the loaf to the oven and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

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