I love Naan. The word Naan means “bread”. In fact, the name describes the type of bread, which is a leavened flat bread. So, whenever I hear people say “Naan bread”, I cringe inside. Naan is very popular not only in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh but in Afghanistan as well. There are different varieties of Naan based on the region and even individual cooks. Unlike other flat breads like chappati, roti, paratha or puri, Naan is usually cooked in a small clay oven called a Tandoor that can reach temperatures of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. It heats from all sides so it only takes minutes to cook, creating a beautiful char on the outside while keeping the inside of whatever is cooked (like Tandoor chicken, kebobs, or naan) nice and tender. Cooking Naan in the Tandoor creates wonderfully crispy yet slightly smoky edges with a soft and tender middle. I don’t own a Tandoor oven (I’d love one!) and the highest temperature my oven reaches is 500 degrees when it is set to broil. To mimic the effect of the tandoor, I have used a pizza stone in the past, which works quite well.
Not too long ago, I had to make about 30 naan and serve it fresh and hot for a party. I knew that trying to make them all on a pizza stone would take forever. The solution was fairly simple. I used a skillet and the oven. Using a skillet, especially a cast iron skillet to cook one side of the naan is a brilliant time saving idea and allows me to “half” cook several naan ahead of time when I am having a party or guests over. When everyone arrives, I just pop in the naan under the broiler to finish the cooking process. I finish off the process by dabbing a stick of cold butter on the surface of the hot naan and it’s ready to be enjoyed. When the weather turns warmer, I make naan on the grill all the time. It only takes about 2 minutes on each side. Naan is so versatile that it can be used to make naan pizza or dessert style by adding dried fruits, nuts, maple syrup, honey and even dark chocolate chunks and goat cheese. It’s really up to your creativity. This is a popular dish to make for some of the classes I teach at the University and in the community. I hope you have fun with it. By the way, a note of caution, try not to substitute the full fat yogurt with non-fat yogurt. The fat actually helps to tenderize the naan and to brown properly under the broiler.
Here’s the recipe:
3 cups all purpose flour
½ cup warm milk (I prefer whole milk)
½ cup full fat plain yogurt (room temperature)
1 tsp sugar
2 ¼ tsp yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
Garlic and chopped cilantro
- In a small bowl, mix together warm water, yeast and sugar and set aside until yeast is bubbly (3-5 minutes). In a large bowl mix flour, salt, and baking powder together. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in yogurt and milk along with the frothy yeast mixture. Begin kneading together to form a soft dough. Dough should incorporate well but be slightly sticky.
- Form the dough into a ball and rub a little oil over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.
- After dough has doubled, punch it down and make 6-7 equal sized balls out of dough.
- Adjust rack in oven to be 6 inches away from the broiler. Turn on the oven to broil (most ovens that should be 450-500 F). Take a non-stick or cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat.
- On a clean countertop, sprinkle some flour and roll out dough to an oblong or tear drop sized shape. Press in some chopped garlic and cilantro and place naan with the garlic/cilantro side up on the hot skillet until it begins to puff around the sides and gets nice dark brown color on the bottom. Do not flip over.
- Place Naan on a baking sheet. Repeat the process until the baking sheet has enough Naan. Usually 3 Naans are the maximum amount that will fit on a sheet. Place under the broiler for 1-3 minutes, keeping an eye on the bread. When the top gets nicely browned and slightly charred, take it out of the oven.
- While the Naan is still hot, brush with a little butter or use a cold butter stick with half the wrapper off and dab over the hot naan. Serve warm.
- To make dessert naan, add pistachio, almonds, coconut, dried fruits (such as apricots, golden raisins, dates), dot with butter and cook in the same fashion. Add additional butter and either warmed honey or maple syrup while still hot. It’s delicious.