Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I will let you in on a little secret: I hate leavened flatbread. To be clear, I don't hate the taste - I love bread and giving it up has, at times, been difficult. I hate making it. Kneading, waiting for it to rise, then shaping and baking, usually one (or two if you're lucky) bread at a time. So much effort for something with a just a bit of fluff, yet still very much flat.

I am sure if I had a clay oven like ones traditionally used to cook naan - or any other similarly leavened and baked flatbread - it wouldn't be so much of a hassle, but how many home cooks do know with one? Maybe those with homes and backgrounds. I bet a clay oven would be great alongside a grill. Anyway, lacking the special oven I have to do it the hard way, which is keeping a pan of water in the oven so the dough won't dry out; shaping each bread right before it goes in the oven; baking, flipping, then baking some more, before moving on to the next bread. See why I prefer chapatis?

 But naan was on my November cooking list, so here it is. The bread came out better than I had expected, though I forgot to add salt to the dough. The recipe I used called for kalonj (nigella) seeds but you should consider them optional. I also spread butter over each freshly baked bread after Seth tasted the first and remarked, "This would taste really good with some butter." Who am I to object?

The Food of India, only slightly different from the one at Indian Food Forever

4cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4cups milk
2tsp dried yeast
2tsp kalonji (nigella) seeds, optional
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
2tbsp oil or ghee
3/4cup thick plain yogurt

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Warm the milk to approximately 100F.

2. Add yeast, kalonji, baking powder and salt to the flour. In another bowl, mix the egg, oil and yogurt. Pour into the flour with 1 cup of the milk and mix to form a soft dough. If the dough seems too dry add remaining milk. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Put in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to double in size. (This will take several hours.)

3. Preheat oven to 400F. Place a roasting pan half0filled with water at the bottom of the oven.

4. Press down dough, knead briefly and divide into 10 portions. Using the tips of your fingers, spread out one portion of dough to the shape of a naan bread. They are traditionally tear-dropped in shape, so pull the dough on one end. Put the naan on a greased baking sheet. Bake on the top shelf for 7 minutes, then turn naan over and cook for another 5 minutes. While the first naan is cooking, shape the next one. (You should be able to fir two or three on a baking sheet.) Remove the cooked naan from the oven and cover with a cloth to keep it warm and soft.

5. Repeat until all dough is cooked. Be sure to use the top shelf because the naan will not cook properly on the middle shelf. Spread cooked naan with butter, if desired.
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