By Catherine, May, 2021. Photo, right, from Vedic Healing (6)
When I lived in Portland OR, there were several restaurants I loved that served SW Asian foods (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.), but I’d never had Afghani roht, which is a type of sweet bread.
I first learned of this interesting food on a new TV series, “The United States of Al.” I decided I had to give it a try. I found two recipes that seemed authentic: Afghan Culture Unveiled (2) and Kitchen Recipes (3), which I’ve used to create my own adaptation here. I have not yet tested this recipe.
Roht is related to India’s Naan bread, but sweeter.
- For flour: The original recipes use all purpose white flour or a mix of whole grain and white flour, but I much refer to use sprouted spelt or sprouted pastry flour. Note: if using sprouted spelt, you may need less water or more flour for the right texture.
During the time when Afghanis first made roht – centuries prior to the late 1800s – all flour was from sprouted grain because humankind did not have a combine (to cut and separate the grain from the stem), and had not yet figured out how to separate the whole wheat kernel into its three components: bran, germ, and endosperm (which becomes white flour). Instead, after cutting the sheaves from the roots, they were arranged in “shocks” (as in photo, left) to weather for several weeks, during which they would sprout with the aid of morning dew. See my article Sprouted Grain & Sprouted Grain Flour (About) for more.
Measuring flour: some recipes use cups, others use grams. For an easy conversion, see a chart on Jenae Lawson’s website (5). For the kinds of flour (not sprouted) used in the original recipe:
- all purpose white flour: 125 g = 1 cup
- whole wheat or spelt flour: 115 g = 1 cup
- For rise: One of the interesting things about roht is that it uses both baking soda and bakers’ yeast to produce a rise. NOTE: “Equivalence of bulk yeast vs packet yeast: 2¼ teaspoons of bulk yeast are the same as one packet of Active dry yeast.” (1)
- For liquid: some recipes on the web use milk (melk in Afghani), while others use plain, unsweetened yogurt and water; I believe yogurt and water is more historically authentic, and is the one I use.
- For fat: most recipes use butter, but some use “oil” (I would use coconut oil for such recipes).
- Eggs vs yogurt: Those recipes that use eggs also use milk; others use yogurt instead of milk and eggs. Yogurt is my preference, tho I may try a combo of yogurt and eggs for a later testing.
- For garnish: The recipes use “nigella seeds”* to grace the top of the bread. They are also known as “black cumin seeds” (not the same as “cumin” seeds, tho they are a good substitute). According to Authority Health Magazine (4), the best whole-seed substitute is celery seeds; other alternatives are cumin (can be quite bitter) or black sesame seeds (sweeter than nigella or celery seeds).
‘* Nigella seeds are a spice commonly used in Indian or Middle Eastern dishes. They are tiny black roasted seeds that taste like oregano and have bitterness to them like mustard-seeds. They are sold at Middle Eastern or Indian markets. (2)
Cat’s Roht Recipe:
I’ve adapted my own version of this sweet bread from two recipes online: Afghan Culture Unveiled (2) and Afghan Kitchen Recipes (3). The latter uses grams rather than cups.
I’ve chosen to try my adaptation of the first recipe (2), as I believe it is more authentic. But I’ve included a list of ingredients for the second recipe source (3), converting from grams to cups or Tbsp; see “Alternative Recipe” after this recipe.
Makes two round, slightly flat loaves.
Ingredients & Equipment:
Note: I’ve not yet tested this adaptation.
- 3 cups sprouted spelt or sprouted pastry flour (or 2 cups whole wheat plus 1 cup all-purpose flour)
- 1 packet rapid rise yeast (or 2¼ tsp bulk yeast)
- 1 cup Rapadura sugar (or ½ tsp stevia powder plus 2 tsp Rapadura or brown sugar)
- 1 – 1½ tsp (to taste) ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
- pinch of unrefined sea salt
- 1 ½ sticks (¾ cup) farm-fresh real butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp. full-fat plain yogurt, unsweetened
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tsp nigella seeds, or substitute (see Ingredients, above)
- large bowl
- food processor or stand mixer fitted with a dough blade
- 2 dishcloths or towels to cover the bowl during rise large baking sheet
- parchment paper
- fork (for punching holes before baking)
copy from online:
- Melt butter over low heat (I use my gas stove’s pilot light), then mix with yogurt in small bowl.
- Measure an combine in a large bowl: sprouted flour (or other flour), yeast, cardamom and salt. Transfer half of the mix to a food processor or stand mixer fitted with a dough blade (note: an alternative is to remove half of the mix to another bowl, then mix the half in the large bowl well with a wooden spoon).
- Add butter/yogurt mix to the first half and process/mix until well combined, scraping any that stick to the sides of the bowl/processor, so it too is mixed.
- Add remaining flour mix, slowly dribbling in the water until the dough comes together. As needed, stop mixing to scrape dough off the sides, then resume.
- Remove dough from processor/mixer and pat it into a smooth ball. Set in large bowl, cover and keep in a warm place for 2 hours (I set it in my pilot lit oven, with oven set to “off”). If you don’t have a pilot lit oven, simply turn on the oven light to warm the oven.
- Remove from oven but keep covered.
- Bake: Preheat oven to 425°F; cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Divide dough into two equal balls, and work gentry into a circular flat shape, about ½- inch thick. Using a fork, poke tiny holes in a circular pattern on top of dough; about 20 pokes per loaf. Sprinkle loaves with nigella (or substitute) seeds.
- Place baking sheet on middle rack of oven to bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until roht is golden brown. Remove and let it cool to room temp before cutting and serving.
- To serve: cut loaf like a pizza into 8 triangular sections. Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.
- To store: Leftover roht should be stored in airtight container or ziplock bag.
This uses milk and eggs (3), converted from grams to cups (note: baked in a round cake pan, this alternative recipe makes twice as much bread as above recipe, based on amount of flour or yeast):
- 1000 g (8 cups) self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- 2 sachet fast-acting yeast (or 2½ tsp regular yeast)
- 500 g (2½ cups) sugar [or ¾ tsp stevia powder plus 2 – 4 Tbsp Rapadura or brown sugar, to taste]
- cardamom, ground [no amount was given; based on above recipe, I’d use 1 – 2 tsp, to taste]
- 500 g (2.20 cups or 3 cups plus 3 Tbsp and 1 tsp) unsalted butter , softened
- 5 Tbs ‘melk’ [I assume this is milk, as it is in Norwegian, but it could be sour milk]
- 4 eggs
- nigella seeds (to taste)
See original recipe (3) for instructions
- Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baker%27s_yeast
- Wheat shocks image: used with permission from Marnie Forbes at Bigfork Museum of Art and History (now Bigfork Art and Cultural Center)
- Cardamom image: vedichealing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/cardamom-11.jpg