This tender, slightly chewy, open-crumbed bread is good enough to be the centerpiece of a meal; serve it as part of a mezze platter, with pickled vegetables, olives, and cheeses. It’s also a quintessential “table bread” that’s versatile enough to go with just about anything you’re serving. The yogurt and egg wash, which is slathered onto the bread before it’s baked, contributes to the deep color, and the dimpling technique is a great excuse to get your hands dirty in the kitchen. You can tear this bread apart, slice it into strips, or go the less traditional route and cut it in half for sandwiches.
To prepare the dough:Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the all-purpose flour and cool water. Mix on low speed until combined and no dry flour remains, about 1 to 2 minutes. (Alternatively, mix with a spatula until no dry spots remain.) Cover with your favorite reusable cover and let sit for 1 hour. This mixture is known as an autolyse.
Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, add the rye flour or whole wheat flour and cover with the boiling water. Stir until combined and a thick gel forms. If the mixture still appears thin and liquidy, cover loosely and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring well after each, until it's thick and paste-like. Cover and let sit until cooled to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
Add the paste mixture, salt, and yeast to the stand mixer bowl with the autolyse. Mix on medium speed until a smooth, only moderately sticky dough forms and begins to gather around the dough hook. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl after about 8 to 10 minutes of kneading. Alternatively, mix and knead with your hands until you have a smooth, homogenous dough, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a medium bowl, cover, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
To do a bowl fold: Use your wet hand to grab a section of dough from one side. Lift it up to stretch, then press it down firmly into the middle. Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times, rotating the bowl a quarter-turn (90°) each time. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the bowl fold twice more, allowing the dough to rest 30 minutes in between.
After you’ve done the third bowl fold, your dough should be about 1 1/2 times its original volume. If not, cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest until it has reached that size, roughly 30 to 60 minutes. Once the dough has expanded to the right size, cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for 15 to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to bake, flour the top of the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured or greased surface. Divide it in half (about 460g each). Gently form the pieces into rounds, cover, and let rest seam-side down for 20 minutes.
Generously dust two lined bannetons or towel-lined large bowls with rye or whole wheat flour.
Shape the loaves into tight rounds (boules), place them seam-side up into the prepared bannetons and cover. Let rise (proof) at room temperature until puffy and about 1 1/2 times in volume. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this could take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
Forty-five minutes before baking, place a baking stone or steel on the upper-middle rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 475°F.
To make the topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg until well-combined.
Using rye or whole wheat flour, liberally dust the bottom of one loaf and the center of a 16" x 12" sheet of parchment. Invert one loaf onto the center of the parchment. Gently flatten and stretch the dough into an 11" x 7" oval, leaving the outer inch of the dough slightly thicker than the center.
To shape the bread: Place half of yogurt-egg wash (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) in the center of the oval and spread evenly over the dough with your fingertips, leaving the outer 1/4" bare.
Using your fingertips, create a furrow around the circumference of the dough, about 3/4” in from edge. Press down firmly so that your fingertips pierce the dough and make contact with the parchment beneath it.
Next, use the same technique to make a series of 4 to 6 parallel furrows running lengthwise along the oval, about 1” apart.
Rotate the parchment slightly, about 30° to 45°, and make another series of 4 evenly-spaced furrows that are diagonal to the first set. This should create a bias crosshatch pattern.
Go over all of the furrows at least twice to ensure they’re well defined.
With your fingertips in the outer furrow and working your way around the dough, gently stretch the edges away from the center to expand the oval and expose some of the perforations. (You can also reach underneath the dough with your fingers to gently expand it.) The final dimensions should be about 12" x 8".
To bake the bread: Using a pizza peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the bread to the steel or stone and bake until evenly golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer the bread to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, shape and bake the second loaf.
Serve warm or at room temperature; traditional accompaniments include olives, pickled vegetables, and Armenian string cheese.
Storage information: Matnakash is best consumed on the day it’s baked. Store leftovers, well wrapped, for several days at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.
Tips from our Bakers
For added texture and flavor, top each matnakash, after shaping and before baking, with about 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds mixed with nigella seeds or 1 tablespoon of za'atar.