Fun with NAAN! Garlic Naan and dessert Naan

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.

Garlic Naan cooking class
Garlic Naan cooking class
Roll out the naan into a tear drop shape
Roll out the naan into a tear drop shape
Add cilantro and garlic on raw naan
Add cilantro and garlic on raw naan
Place garlic naan in hot skillet with the garlic/cilantro side up
Place garlic naan in hot skillet with the garlic/cilantro side up
Cook until bottom is nicely browned (about a minute)
Cook until bottom is nicely browned (about a minute)
Place in preheated oven, about 6 inches away from broiler unit at top.
Place in preheated oven, about 6 inches away from broiler unit at top.
Dab the hot naan with a stick of butter
Dab the hot naan with a stick of butter
Serve hot!
Serve hot!
To make a dessert version, top with nuts, coconut and dried fruit
To make a dessert version, top with nuts, coconut and dried fruit
Drizzle with warmed honey or maple syrup
Drizzle with warmed honey or maple syrup
Serve warm with some chai
Serve warm with some chai

Here’s the recipe:

Garlic Naan

6-7 Naan

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

Butter

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. After dough has doubled, punch it down and make 6-7 equal sized balls out of dough.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Chappati – Indian whole wheat flat bread

Chappatis are a traditional Indian flat bread made out of whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat flour is known as “Atta”.   Atta  is different than whole wheat flour commonly found in U.S. groceries.  The protein content is higher and the grind of the flour is finer in “Atta”.  This makes the chapatis softer, pliable and delicious tasting.  If you get a chance to make chapatis with Atta from the Indian store, you have to try it.  Regular whole wheat flour also works, I usually use whole wheat pastry flour to compensate.  There’s nothing like fresh hot chappatis with a tiny bit of ghee added to it for flavor.  You really don’t even need anything else!

Make a well in the middle of the flour
Add water a little at a time to incorporate into the dough
Add yogurt to the dough and continue to knead
Make dough and let it rest for 15 minutes
Make seven equal portions and roll out in a circular shape

Cook over medium high heat, using a paper towel press down on the chapati so it cooks evenly.
Add a little ghee at the very end to enhance the flavor

Chapatis

Chappati – Indian whole wheat flat bread

2 cups Atta (whole wheat) flour

Approximately 1 – 1 1/4 cup water (depending on humidity)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp greek yogurt

little canola oil

Ghee (optional)

In a large bowl place flour and salt and mix together. Add water a little at a time along with yogurt, mix until a soft dough forms.  Knead for several minutes until smooth but still slightly sticky.  Put a few drops of canola oil and pat the surface of the dough.  Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  Make 7 equal balls and dip in additional flour and roll into 1/8 inch thick circles.  Heat a non stick skillet and cook chappati approximately 1-2 minutes on each side, using a paper towel to press down so it cooks evenly.  Put a 1/4 tsp or less of ghee (clarified butter) on the each side of the chappati and take off the heat, this step is optional but I think the flavor is fantastic.  Serve warm with any daal or curried dish.