Sunday, May 3, 2009

Stovetop Naan

This is quite possibly the best bread in existence, and I don't think I'm the only one who would say that; I have yet to meet a person who will not happily devour a slice (or two, or three, or six) of hot tandoor-fresh naan.

Of course, most of us don't have tandoors in our homes, and many naan recipes I found were quite pessimistic about the results of making naan in a regular oven. I'm not sure how naan would turn out if you baked them, but I cooked these in a griddle and they were really fantastically scrumptious. Perhaps not quite as good as the naan you'd get from using a tandoor, but pretty darn close!

The recipe I used was pretty simple, but you can certainly play around with this, substituting baking soda for the yeast (or using both, which I saw in some recipes), using more or less water, adding oil or ghee or butter, etc. You could also try making whole wheat naan, which is next on my list of exciting breads to make.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 naan):
100 g. bread flour
100 ml whole milk, at room temperature
1 small spoonful of salt
1 spoonful of sugar
Dry active yeast (about 1/3 of a package)
A couple spoonfuls of warmish water
Olive oil/ghee (for serving)
A couple spoonfuls of nigella seeds*

*Nigella seeds are an Indian spice that are often sprinkled on naan. They may be difficult to find, so if you can't find them you can simply eliminate them, or use black sesame seeds, which do not have the same flavor but also work well.

Add the yeast and the sugar to the water and let sit until a thin film develops on top (about 10 minutes). Sift the flour into a bowl and form a well in it. Sprinkle the salt around the edges of the flour.

Pour the yeast mixture into the center of the well, and stir from the inside out to combine. As you stir, pour in the milk a bit at a time, until everything is mixed together and you have a sticky ball of dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and resistant.

Place the ball of dough in a bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm non-drafty place for 2-3 hours to rise.

After the dough has risen, place a cast-iron griddle on the stove and turn the heat under it to high. Take out the dough and divide it into small balls, about the size of golf balls. Prepare for the naan-baking by having ready a bowl of water (for brushing over the naan), a pastry brush, and the bowl of nigella seeds with a spoon. Also, it's a good idea to have a plate ready with a clean towel to put over the naan so that you can keep the first ones hot while you bake the later ones.

Roll out the balls into discs - technically, naan are supposed to be in sort of tear-drop shapes because they are traditionally made by slapping the dough against the walls of a hot tandoor, so they sort of fall down the wall a bit to form that shape, but you can make whatever shape you want to here. I just sort of let them form whatever shape they wanted, but if presentation is important, you can take more time to work on this.

Take the first naan and brush one side of it with water. Place it in the hot griddle, water side down. After a couple minutes, brush the other side (the top) with water and flip the naan over. Brush the top (which was the bottom) with water again and sprinkle with nigella seeds. After another minute or so, remove the naan from the griddle and place on the plate. Cover with the towel and repeat for all remaining naan.

Serve immediately. While these are great as an accompaniment to other foods, they are also really fantastic just by themselves with a generous dose of olive oil and salt sprinkled on top. Mmmmm...


Katie Thacher said...

This looks delicious. I've tried naan in the oven and never had good results, so this looks like a great idea. I'll be trying it tonight!

Zoe said...

Hope it went well for you! I love making naan on the stovetop - it's so easy, and it really tastes like the real thing =)