Continuing my month of a culinary ‘tour’ of Asia, I decided to try my hand at baking naan, a traditional Indian flatbread. Naan is one of those things that once you’ve tried it, you are hooked. It is crispy on the outside and tender inside, traditionally cooked by slapping the dough on the inside of a hot tandoor or clay oven with a wet towel and letting it briefly bake.
I’ve long enjoyed naan for it’s versatility, using it to scoop up food, dipping into runny egg yolks, as a base for pizza and much more. For many years, I used to buy naan at a grocery store, but no longer! Until I tried baking it, I didn’t realize how easy it is to make, and now I doubt that I will ever buy naan in a store again. Plus, there is nothing like hot naan fresh out of the oven – actually any bread! I found that the only real trick to making naan is to make sure your heat source (cast iron skillet, oven or grill) is really, really hot. It is the heat which quickly forms air pockets in the naan and seals it in with a nice crisp outer shell.
Indian Flatbread (Naan)
Makes 6 flatbreads
- 1 cup warm water (around 100°F)
- 1 tsp. sugar (I like to use raw sugar)
- 1 packet active dried yeast
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil or melted ghee
- 1 Tbsp. melted ghee or butter, to coat
- Stir 1/2 cup water and sugar in a bowl, stir in yeast and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix flour and salt and make a well. In the well, add yogurt, oil, yeast mixture and mix well. Gradually add remaining water until the mixture becomes a firm, sticky dough. Remove and on a lightly floured surface, knead by hand for about 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Coat a large bowl with a light layer of oil and return ball of dough to the bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover and let sit in draught-free place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Punch the center of the ball (to knock the air out), then let it rest for 10 minutes. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 equal sized pieces. Flatten and roll each piece until it forms a round disk about 6-7 inches by 1/4 inch thick. Pick the dough up and stretch slightly to form a teardrop shape. Brush with melted ghee or butter and put on a very hot cast iron skillet (or on a grill) until it starts to bubble, about 2 minutes. Coat with ghee or butter and flip, cooking for another 2 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.
- You can also garnish the naan by sprinkling with various seeds (nigella, sesame, cumin or mustard) just before cooking.