Thursday, March 08, 2007

a favourite flatbread

one of my favourite flatbreads has to be naan. there's good reason why this bread is always the most ordered item in many a restaurant. with its smoky flavour only a tandoor oven can achieve, this bread is generously brushed with rich clarified butter [ghee]. i mean, who can resist? since i obviously don't have a tandoor oven, i either have to settle for take-out or the at-home version. of course, if you must have one, you can always build one yourself as did this guy in england! quite amazing. [look here, too].

having tried countless recipes over several years, i think the following one from m. jaffrey [a recipe she got from someone else] is pretty decent for a "made-at-home" kind. what's even better is that it's quickly cooked on the stovetop in a very hot pan, cast iron if possible. this particular recipe uses a combination of baking powder and baking soda instead of the traditional yeast. the dough will last at least 24 hours refrigerated with no significant deterioration in flavour or texture. i don't suggest letting it go beyond that as the baking powder just doesn't hold up for that long [this comes from experimentation]. another good thing about them is that they can be cooked and refrigerated until needed; a reheating in the oven well-covered in tin foil or a quick zap in the microwave brings them back to life. of course, freshly made is always best.

the dough, once formed will feel silky soft and is extremely supple. if you have prior bread making experience, you'll see it is a bit different in that it is a tacky dough. don't be tempted to add more than the called for amount of flour or you'll end up with a heavy end result.

naan bread नान نان


scant 5 c. all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp yogurt
1 c. milk
1 c. water
1 egg
1 tbsp butter, melted
vegetable oil

kalonji ["onion" (nigella)] seeds
sesame seeds
extra melted butter
salt, if using unsalted butter


mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. set aside.

in another bowl, mix the sugar and yogurt well with a whisk.

add the milk and water.

add 2 c. of flour and beat well until smooth. do not undermix as you want to develop the gluten at this point.

add the egg and mix well.

add the melted butter and blend.

add another 2 c. of flour and mix very well.

finally add the final cup of flour in three additions. you may not need all of them.

knead the dough well for about 5 minutes until it is completely smooth. the dough feels really nice at this point! take note that the dough is somewhat "tacky" and not like a regular bread dough. do not go beyond the 5 cups of flour.

scale the dough into 8 equal portions.

take a pyrex and place a very thin layer of oil on the bottom of it. shape the dough into hockey puck shapes and place them in the pyrex. turn them over so that both sides are coated with oil. do not skip this step or a skin will form.

i tend to make half right away and then the other half the next day. i like to place them in an oiled ziploc type bag and store them in the fridge overnight.

let the dough rest for a minimum of 1 hour before shaping.

to shape the naan, take one of the pieces of dough out and place it on your work surface. do not flour the surface. the oil will prevent the dough from sticking.

with both hands, hold the dough and gently stretch it out lengthwise. then at one end, elongate it so that it is wider on one end. this will give the traditional shape of the naan (sort of like a teardrop). pull it so that it is quite thin, approximately 10 to 12 inches. just make sure it will fit into your frypan!!

once well stretched, brush the top with melted butter.

heat up your [cast iron] skillet over medium heat. do not oil it. make sure it is well heated before you add the naan or it won't cook properly. the pan should be hot.

melt some extra butter and set it aside with a brush.

sprinkle the elongated bread with both the sesame and nigella seeds (kalonji). i sprinkle salt on top, too but that is optional; i find it tastes better lightly salted. i also like to take my hand and press down on them to make sure everything sticks. i suggest doing this or the seeds will fall off when you transfer the naan.

place the naan by lifting both ends into the fry pan and let it cook until you see bubbles form on top of the bread. it will seem weird as these bubbles form like when you blow bubbles with chewing gum. the surface of the naan will also change colour and start to look cooked. once you have these, take a spatula and flip the bread over; it should be browned by now. cook on the other side for about 2 minutes or so. both sides should be lightly browned.

if you want to see what the real deal looks like in terms of bubbles when made at the proper high temperature in a tandoor, look here.

you can brush melted butter on top either during the cooking or afterwards.

wrap the naan in tin foil while you cook the rest.



ServesYouRight said...

BB - You've outdone yourself - fabulous!

Btw I'm looking for a crispy flatbread recipe. Sorta like a pita chip. Mine are flavored okay but they don't harden like chips. Got suggestions? All advice welcome :-)


burekaboy — said...

hi smita - thanks for the comment :)

with regard to your question, try taking the pita and separating it around the circumference so you have two rounds. on the exterior surface (smooth outside one), coat it with olive oil and then add the spices you like. place these either in the oven to dry at 300F for about 15 - 20 minutes or do it in the microwave. as for how long in the microwave, it depends on how strong it is. i would suggest doing it for 30 second lengths, probably twice. it will harden like chips once it cools. you can either cut them into triangles after you oil and spice them or make it as a whole and break them up after they've cooked.

hope that's what you're talking about. if not, let me know.

ServesYouRight said...

Many thanks- will try it and keep you posted. Also, may I just say how useful your step-by-step pictures are. Totally takes the fear out of trying something new... from naan to cookies.

You da BEST :-)


burekaboy — said...

smita - glad i could help :D the pita chips are really a no brainer once you figure out how long to nuke them or bake them in the oven. it's also a great way to use up the extra pita you have. you should really try making a fattoush salad (see the recipe for pita) as it uses pita chips in it, sort of like an italian panzanella salad; i put a link to a recipe for it).

happy to hear that you like the the step by step photos and that they are helpful. i was wondering if they were useful or not :/

i really can't stand following recipes (usually foods/dishes i am not familiar with) and having no idea of how things things should look at various stages or even just the end result.