During my two week visit to Afghanistan in 2011 I found myself obsessed with the bakeries of Kabul. As my bullet-proof US Embassy car zoomed through the streets, I'd find myself drooling at the sight of the beautifully arranged pastries in the bakery shops.
Due to threat of riots and security issues I mostly travelled in convoys or stayed in my hotel. I didn’t get to do any shopping or wander the markets as I had hoped. But, in my last hours in Kabul, I asked my cousin to take me to a bakery and the street with butchers. I had a chance to pop into a nice bakery, take some photos, chit chat with the owner and admire the beautifully displayed items.
I think it is worth noting that Afghans don’t usually eat dessert, unless it is a special occasion and in that case it is not usually baked items. Pastries are served as a snack with tea in the mid afternoon, at celebrations such as Eid or to a special guest. Flour, sugar and oil are expensive. Afghanistan being the second poorest country in the world, doesn’t allow for such luxuries to the majority of its population.
Roht is an Afghan sweet bread which is traditionally made with wheat flour. Here you'll find my post featuring a classic roht recipe. However, since many folks in my family are going gluten free, my sister Nabila came up with this recipe for roht which uses corn flour instead of wheat flour. I have to say, I find the corn roht much tastier than the traditional flour roht. I do encourage you to use finely ground corn meal; otherwise your roht will turn out coarse and crunchy.
Roht e Jowaree
Gluten Free Afghan Sweet Bread
1 cup corn meal
1 cup finely ground corn flour
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Fit your food processor with the dough blade. Put all dry ingredients in the food processor, pulse a few times until all ingredients are mixed well.
Add butter and pulse several times until mixed well. Scrape the sides of the food processor, add the eggs, and mix until the dough is formed. If your dough is dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of milk to add some more moisture. You may not need the milk at all. You might have to stop periodically to scrape the dough off the sides. After a few minutes, the dough will come together in one smooth lump and move around the food processor.
Remove the dough from the food processor and pat it into a smooth ball. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into two balls and work gently into a circular flat shape, about ½- inch thick. Poke little holes in a circular pattern on top of the dough with a fork, about 20 pokes per loaf. Sprinkle the loaves with nigella seeds. You can also divide the dough into 12 small balls and make approximately 4 inch round mini rohts.
Bake in the middle rack for 25-30 minutes until the corn roht is golden brown. Let it cool to room temperature before serving.
Cut into 6 wedges. Enjoy with a cup of tea.
Store roht in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. I find it tastes even better the next day.
*Nigella seeds are commonly used in Indian or Middle Eastern dishes. They are tiny black roasted seeds that taste like bitterness with a bitterness like mustard-seeds. They are sold at Middle Eastern or Indian markets. Check out the list of markets that we have compiled for you. If you can’t find them, use sesame seeds instead.
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