Posts from May 2008

  • Fun with Naan

    If anyone’s had good quality Indian food, they’ve probably experienced Naan, a classic Indian leavened flatbread. Pair it with a good curry and there’s just nothing like it… and, unfortunately, it’s also incredibly difficult to replicate at home. Traditionally, Naan is baked in something called a Tandoor, a vertical, clay oven heated by charcoal which can reach upwards of 900F! To bake naan, the dough is flattened into a teardrop shape and then stuck to the inside wall of the oven, where it bakes for mere minutes before coming out piping hot.

    Of course, no one is going to have a Tandoor at home, and so replicating Naan at home is basically impossible. However, you can get pretty close:

    Naan

    I got the recipe from a lovely woman named Manjula. I don’t actually know who she is, but she has a website, and apparently posts videos on youtube, including this Naan recipe. Now, obviously the key to good Naan is blazing hot temperatures, and it turns out the best way to achieve this at home is with a baking stone. If you don’t have one, get one. You’ll love it, trust me. For pizza, there’s nothing like it, and it can also be used for artisnal breads, and as it turns out, Naan, too.

    As for the recipe, it’s pretty straightforward (BTW, if you want the volumetric measurements, just check out the video):

    1 tsp active dry yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    170g warm water
    300g flour
    1 tsp salt
    pinch baking soda
    2 tbsp oil
    2 1/2 tbsp plain yogurt
    

    The following directions are my method of putting the dough together, but really, there’s no bad way. Just make sure you activate the yeast before doing anything else. Anyway, here’s how I put it together:

    1. Combine the water, sugar, and yeast, whisk, and set aside to activate.
    2. Combine the dry incredients and whisk together to combine.
    3. Dump out the dry onto the counter and make a nice, big well.
    4. Put the yeast mixture, oil, and yogurt into the well and combine with a fork.
    5. Gradually incorporate flour with a fork until it comes together as a dough.
    6. Kneed for a minute or so, just a few strokes. Note, the dough will be pretty wet, making this process a bit… messy. Manjula suggests putting a little oil on your hands.
    7. Let the dough rise 3-4 hours. Note, I usually rise an hour, degass, then rise one more hour. I’m impatient.

    To bake:

    1. Put the stone in the oven and turn it up to 500 degrees, letting it preheat for a good 30 minutes, then switch the oven to the high broiler. Note: never put a cold stone in a hot oven!
    2. Divide the dough into 4-6 pieces, rolling into balls and dusting with flour.
    3. Baking in batches, flatten the pieces to 1/4” thickness (feel free to roll, but I like to use my hands). Then for each piece, dampen your hands, toss the dough between them, and then place the piece on the stone. Optionally, prick with a fork, otherwise they tend to inflate. A lot.
    4. Bake for 2-3 minutes, until spotty brown.
    5. Once done, take them out and brush with melted butter or ghee (clarified butter).

    Look like a lot of effort? Trust me, it’s not so bad. And man… it’s worth it.