South Asian food is greatly influenced by the Central Asian and Persian cuisines. Many roadside eateries and small restaurants still bake Sheermal, Taftan, naan and other such Persian inspired flatbreads in clay ovens in Pakistan and India.
The bread has a light, buttery texture and taste but very rich aroma from Kewra or Rosewater and colour from saffron. It is a simple recipe that is easy to make and doesn’t require a long resting time but is quite versatile as you eat it with Kebabs and curries, vegetarian dishes, as a dessert with fresh cream or yogurt on top or simply with a cup of tea or coffee for breakfast or evening snack.
Unlike naan, roti or paratha, Sheermal isn’t meant to scoop up gravies and curries. Though it compliments a lot of sweet and savoury dishes but it has such a distinct and delicious taste that I always prefer to eat it on it’s own with a cup of tea or Persian coffee.
Some versions sprinkle sesame seeds on sheermal but I like mine with raisins and roughly chopped almonds and pistachios. For me it’s a complete treat, a bread that tells stories of its rich royal heritage with each indulgent bite.
The best thing is you can bake these ahead and store them wrapped up in fridge till you need them. Before serving, brush them a little with melted butter or ghee and warm them on a skillet on stove top or in microwave for a few seconds.
If you can’t find Kewra or Rosewater where you live, you can also use cardamom or almond essence for that touch royal and exotic.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dry fast acting yeast
1 teaspoon Kewra/pandan , Rosewater or cardamom essence
2 tablespoons Ghee or butter, melted
A few threads saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup mixed nuts and raisins
This Is What You Do:
Always check the expiry date on the yeast packet before using so that you don’t end up with a brick instead of a bread.
Add Kewra or essence of your choice to the milk. Mix flour with salt. Add to the sweetened milk. Knead for 4-5 minutes. The dough will be soft and sticky at this stage.
Cover with a damp cloth and keep aside for 30 minutes.
Add ghee or butter to the dough and knead again till the dough is elastic and silky smooth (another 4-5 minutes).
Preheat oven at 180 degrees C. Lightly grease an oven proof dish.
Divide the dough into four equal portions. Make dough balls. Place a dough ball on your palm and press to make a thick round. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Place these dough rounds on the tray. Prick the sheermal breads all over with fork for equal heating.
Brush the saffron flavoured milk over the breads. Sprinkle mixed nuts and raisins over them, press lightly with hand to make them stick.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or till the breads fluff up nicely and turn golden on top.
When ready, immediately cover with a damp cloth for ten minutes and keep covered to retain the soft texture.