Naan - An Indian Yeasted Flatbread
One event I have been enjoying cooking for has been the Bread Baking Day. Every time a theme is announced it makes me go look for some new bread I can try my hand at baking. This is my third BBD event.
The first time the theme was “filled breads”. I made a bread with onion, tomato and bell pepper filling and decoratively shaped into a herringbone pattern. Then the next month’s theme turned out to be shaped bread! So I decided to make a flat decorative Onion Fougasse. That’s when this month’s theme turns out to be flat breads! So what’s going on? Seems like I am making this month’s theme the previous month, if you get my drift.
That aside, this month’s theme is flat breads. I realized I didn’t have to venture out of India. We have a thousand kinds (well, I’m exaggerating a bit) of flatbreads made out every kind of grain flour. I decided to make a naan or “naan bread” as it seems to be known in many parts of the world.
A naan is a yeasted flat bread made from wheat flour, traditionally in Northern India but today can be found in every part of the country and has become synonymous with Punjabi food. It is found in many avatars all over Central and South Asia so it must have come into India with early travelers or invaders.
A naan is cooked in a clay oven called a “tandoor” which can reach temperatures of about 500C. The naan is wet on one side and slapped onto the sides of the tandoor to cook till done. The taste of tandoor cooked or “tandoori” naans, or rotis is next to none. But a cast iron griddle on the stove top also works. Here's how I make naans at home.
- Add the sugar and yeast to the milk. Stir and allow yeast to prove.
- In a bowl, sieve the flours, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour the yeast mixture into it. Mix well. Now add the oil and yogurt. Knead well into a soft, smooth and elastic dough. Add a little more milk if required if the dough needs it.
- I did all this in my food processor. Then I kneaded the dough a bit by hand. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cling wrap and allow the dough to double in size.
- Punch back the dough and knead till smooth (about 3 minutes). Cover and allow the dough to rise again till almost double. Divide the dough into 6 balls for big naans or 8 for slightly smaller naans. Keep all the other portions covered while working with one.
- Lightly grease your palms and and slightly flatten the dough ball. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into an oval or tear shape that is not too thin. Sprinkle with nigella seeds or sesame seeds and chopped coriander. Use the rolling pin to lightly press them into the dough.
- Now take a heavy bottom pan (I use my pressure cooker) or cast iron skillet. This is important as the pan/ skillet needs to be quite hot and thicker/ heavier iron ones heat uniformly and retain the heat.
- Heat the pan till quite hot. Turn down the heat to medium. Lift up the naan and wet (with water using your palm) the side without the seeds.
- Now place the naan on the pan wet side down and the seeded side up. If your pan is not hot enough at this point, the naan will stick to the pan and not come off later! Allow the naan to cook till it puffs up in places (about 1 -2 minutes). If you keep it longer the underside will burn.
- Now lift up the skillet and hold it upside down over the flame so that the heat cooks the seeded side. In a couple of minutes, the top will start browning in spots. Turn down the heat if necessary, else you may end up with a charred naan which has not cooked inside!
- Turn the pan right side up and slowly dislodge the naan using a flat spoon. Immediately brush with unsalted butter.
- Naan also tastes good warm without buttering it. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Serve warm with a curry of your choice.
I made 8 naans, four with nigella seeds and four with sesame seeds and coriander.
These naans can also be made in the oven but I find it more complicated to do so. Maybe this is because I have a small oven and all the manoeuvring of the naan from the oven and the grill becomes too much for me. I also find the stove top method makes soft naans whereas the ones made in the oven tend to be a bit chewy.
These naans are my contribution to BBD # 7 being hosted this month by Petra from Chili und Ciabatta