Sheermal / Shirmal (Saffron Flavoured Flatbread) :We Knead To Bake #22

Finally the much awaited Bake-a-thon is here.I am joining a group of friends who are going to post more that a dozen bakes this month.I had a great time taking part in this event last year and I am sure it is going to be the same this year too.

I am starting this series with Aparna's We Knead to Bake bread that I was supposed to have posted last month. I messed up the posting dates and baked it late.Better late than never, right! So here is the Sheermal...

According to the notes given by Aparna.....

Sheermal or Shirmal is a saffron-flavored slightly sweet traditional leavened flatbread that is found in various countries on the Asian sub-continent including Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. 

Sheermal is a Naan-like milk bread, apparently of Persian origins, and it is suggested that the name comes from the Persian word for milk which is “sheer”. In India, this “milk” bread is predominantly found in Muslim neighbourhoods (another reason to suppose it came to India with the Mughals) of Kashmir, Lucknow and Hyderabad. 

You will find Sheermal being made with either baking powder or yeast as the leavening agent, and this version uses yeast. The kewra (screw pine extract) gives this bread a unique flavour which can a bit of an acquired taste. Rose water/ essence is also used, and is also somewhat of an acquired flavour. If you can neither (or don’t want ot use either), you can use crushed cardamom instead.

Incorporating the ghee into the dough slowly by adding a little at a time ensures that the fat is dispersed evenly through the dough, and gives a better texture to the Sheermal. Make sure your dough is soft, elastic and well kneaded as this will produce a superior Sheermal. The hallmark of good Sheermal is the glistening finish on the flatbread from brushing it with melted ghee or butter, so do not skimp on that, even though this flatbread is already rich as it is.

The finished flatbread and when it is served/ how it is eaten, seems to differ slightly depending on where it is made. So you will find that some Sheermal decorated with a lovely pricked rustic pattern on its surface, Lucknowi Sheermal garnished with raisins, others like to use slivered almonds, poppy seeds or sesame seeds to top their Sheermal.It is usually eaten as it is with tea for breakfast, or served slightly warm as part of a meal with a mutton curry called Nihari/ Nehari or spicy kebabs. It can also be served with  Khurma/ Qorma, vegetable curries, etc. 

Traditionally, this is a bread that is cooked in a tandoor, but the oven also produces quite good Sheermal. 

This is the first time I have come across this bread and all of us enjoyed it at home.The original recip uses eggs.The egg gives the dough a little extra richness, texture and flavour,but I have omitted it here.Also I used whole wheat flour and all purpose flour in this recipe.

This video is a film showing how Sheermal is made in smaller commercial bakeries -
This video gives a good demonstartiuon on how to make/ shape Sheermal -

Sheermal/ Shirmal (Saffron Flavoured Flatbread) 
This recipe makes 4 Sheermals of approximately 4” diameter.


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp Instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup ghee
1/2 cup milk (or more, as required for kneading)
1/2 tsp rose water

A few strands saffron soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk
Melted butter, for brushing


Put both the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the yeast ,salt,sugar and whisk well.

Add lukewarm water, ghee in two batches and mix such that it resembles crumbs.Now add as much milk[I used around3/4 cup], and finally rose water and knead until you have a very soft and slightly sticky dough.You can knead by hand / use a processor.

Transfer this to an oiled bowl, cover with a moist cloth and let the dough rise till doubled in volume-about 1 to 2 hours.

Remove the cloth and knead the dough again. Shape into a ball, lightly coat all over with a little ghee, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for about 15 to 20 minutes.Now divide the dough into 4 equal portions.

Using your fingers, press out each portion into a round of approximately 4” diameter (about 1/8” thick). You can also use your rolling pin, but it is quite easy to do with my fingers. Place the rounds on a parchment lined baking tray and using a fork, dock (prick holes) the whole surface of the dough rounds.

Brush them all over, generously, with the saffron-milk solution. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 to 15 minutes till they turn a lovely golden brown. Do not over-bake them.

Take them out of the oven, and immediately brush them lightly with melted butter or more ghee. Serve warm.

 I made 2 with milk and saffron smeared over it and another two with sesame seeds sprinkled over it.We had this with cowpea gravy.

The regular version was savored with tea...

Since I used wheat flour, I was a bit worried about the texture.But on baking, this is how it turned out and all my worries flew away .....

Bon Appetit...

Bake-a-thon 2014


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