Sunday, February 14, 2010

Naan

I am a big fan of naan, and so far this is my favorite recipe. I tried using the recommended doughs in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day for both naan and pita and was disappointed in both. I don't think that cooking method alone is what makes these breads stand apart--I think that the doughs should differ from regular bread dough, too. This recipe is from The Dance of Spices by Laxmi Hiremath. All of her Indian bread recipes sound wonderful, but I haven't managed to try that many of them yet.

I don't make naan often, but it's not really that difficult. I suspect that you could make the dough and freeze it after its first rise. Most often I make it because I'm going to use it to top the Indian Vegetable Bake.

I simplify this recipe by omitting to brush the finished naan with ghee, but go ahead and do this if you like it. I also don't put any sesame, poppy or nigella seeds on the naan before baking, but I'm sure that would be tasty too. If you want to make garlic naan, she recommends mixing 2 TBSP minced garlic with salt and pepper and then putting a pinch of this mixture in the center of the dough ball before rolling it out.

It occurred to me that a fabulous use of the naan dough and that delicious stew-like concoction would be to make an Indian-inspired pasty. Roll out a standard-size piece of naan dough and put a few tablespoons of the stew into it. Then fold over and bake (I'm guessing 350 for 15 minutes as a start would be a good guess). I think it would make just about a perfect lunch.

INGREDIENTS
4 c. flour (I used half whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 c. plain yogurt (if using strained yogurt, you might need a bit of extra water)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 c. warm milk (not skim, she says, but I would guess I've used skim in the past)
6 TBSP warm water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times
  2. Add the yogurt, egg and oil and pulse until the mixture is crumbly
  3. With the food processor running, slowly add the milk and then the water through the tube
  4. Mix until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a ball
  5. Place the dough on a clean, floured surface. Coat your hands with oil and knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. For some reason, the last time I made this recipe, I really had to fight with my dough for the first 5 minutes or so and was worried that it wouldn't turn out well. Hiremath says that the dough should be neither stiff nor sticky and mine seemed to be both! I persevered, however, and the dough did become smoother and less sticky. In the end, I think it turned out just fine
  6. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise 4-6 hours or until doubled. I put mine in the fridge for an overnight rise and then let it rest for a couple of hours at room temperature
  7. Using oiled hands, lightly punch down dough and then divide it into 12 balls
  8. Place the dough balls on an oiled baking tray (or one with a silicone mat on it). Let rest for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees, preferably with a baking stone on the lower third of the oven
  9. Roll each ball of dough into a 5 inch circle or oval (approx) and then lightly pull one side to form a teardrop (I didn't do that part)
  10. Place several naan on a baking peel (I could get three on mine) and then lower carefully on the baking stone
  11. Bake 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Some of the naan might puff dramatically
  12. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter or ghee, as desired

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