Kalonji Seed Bread: Exploring Spices of the World

After we arrived in our new small town, a friendly woman brought us a loaf of fresh bread containing delicious black seeds. After puzzling over what the seeds might be, last week, I finally asked her for the recipe.

As it turns out, you can use any bread recipe, she told me; the secret is in the seeds. Kolanji seeds, also known as black caraway, hail from India, but are referred to as “seeds of blessing” in Arabic. These seeds impart an aromatic mystique to the simplest of recipes. Here is my version, which comes from my new Iraqi friend.

Recipe for Kolanji Seed Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached flour
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kolanji seeds (look for them at Arabic or Indian grocery stores)

kolanji seeds

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast and warm water; let yeast activate for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add oil and salt, followed by flour and finally kolanji seeds.  Mix together and then knead by hand until dough is smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Place in a greased mixing bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise until doubled.
  3. Punch down dough.  Divide into 2 loaves and let rise in greased bread pans or on a greased baking sheet.  Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Bake bread at 350 degrees F (180 C).

This delicious bread can be served with butter or dipped in extra virgin olive oil and za’atar spices. Za’atar was also a new-to-me spice blend. My Iraqi friend said she first encountered this delicious condiment in Jordan, and I now know why she thought za’atar was worth adding to her kitchen repertoire. It is addictively complex, mild, and versatile.

bread with za'atar

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