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.

Aloo Naan (spicy potato stuffed naan bread)

There’s nothing like fresh hot naan.  I love all kinds of naan.  Peshwari Naan, Garlic Naan, Plain Naan, or in this case a stuffed Naan.  You  might be thinking to yourself (or not) why stuff potatoes inside a bread?  Well, why not?  Actually since this serves as the main carb for a meal, it’s perfect.  It’s great served with daal, channa dishes or one of my go to dishes Sabzi Paneer Masala.  Since I don’t own a Tandoor oven, the best way I know how to mimic one is by using a pizza stone.  A Tandoor oven heats up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.  The highest my gas oven will go is 550 degrees Fahrenheit.  In order to compensate for this temperature difference  I usually place  the pizza stone in a rack closest to the upper element.  I usually preheat the oven to the highest it will go (500 for electric or 550 for gas) with the pizza stone in it.  Then right before baking the naans, I turn the oven to the broil function.  This helps even out the heat from the top and the bottom and usually the naans turn out fantastic.  Try this one.  You’ll be the talk of the town.

Naan ingredients
Aloo filling ingredients
Proof yeast in water and sugar
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add liquid ingredients.
Make the dough and let it rest for 4-8 hours.
Cook the potatoes in the microwave, mash them and add all the spices. Make into 6 equal balls
The potato ball should be a little smaller than the naan dough ball
Roll dough into a 3" circle and place the potato ball in the middle
Pull the edges of the dough together and make a nice smooth ball
Let the dough balls with the filling inside rest for about 3-4 minutes before rolling out
Heat oven to 500 (or as high as it will go) with a pizza stone in it
Place rolled out dough onto hot pizza stone (I can usually fit up to 3 on the stone)
Cook for 2-3 minutes. Naan will usually puff up
Brush hot naan with ghee (clarified butter) or just plain butter
Enjoy your Aloo Naan!

The Aloo filling is delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

Aloo Naan

Makes 6 Naans

Plain Naan dough:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

2 tbsp plain yogurt (I like Greek)

3/4 cup warm water

Aloo Filling (potato filling):

2 medium russet potatoes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (Jeera)

1/2 tsp dry mango powder (Amchur)

1 Serrano chili, partially seeded and chopped

2 tbsp chopped Cilantro (coriander leaves or Dhania)

1/2 tsp garam masala

additional items:

2 tbsp oil (to coat hands, for the dough etc)

2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) – to brush the naans with

1/8 – 1/4 cup flour to dust rolling surface

Making the Naan:

I make the dough for this naan in the morning before going to work, it only takes a couple of minutes and it’s perfect for when I get home.  The dough works really well 6-8 hours later.  Needs at least a minimum of 4 hours, so plan accordingly.  

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let it proof for a few minutes until it bubbles up.  In a larger bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.  Make a well in the center of the flour and add in the yogurt and oil.  Mix together until you get a coarse crumbly texture.  Slowly add in the proofed yeast mixture and knead the dough.  Don’t worry if the dough is slightly sticky.  Put a few drops of oil on the dough and smooth it all over the dough ball.  Cover the bowl with the dough in it with some plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 4 hours.  I prefer about 6-8.  It doesn’t really over-rise so even if it is longer than 8 hours, it’s okay.

Aloo filling:

Wash the two potatoes and pierce the skin with a fork a few times.  Microwave about 4-5 minutes (depending on microwave) until potatoes are tender.  Don’t skin and boil these potatoes since we’re trying to reduce moisture content.  Once cooked and slightly cooled, peel the potatoes and smash them with a fork or a potato masher.  Add all the spices to the mashed potatoes and mix well.  Divide and roll into six equal balls.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 500 or 550 (as high as it will go) with the pizza stone in it.  Pre-heat for about 20 minutes because you want the stone nice and hot.

Coat hands with a little vegetable oil and knead the naan dough a few times and divide the dough into six equal parts.  Sprinkle a little flour on the rolling surface and roll out dough into 3″ circles.  Place a potato ball in the middle and wrap dough around it like a little dumpling.  Make sure to pull the edges together well.  Make all six balls the same way and let it rest for about 5 minutes (this rest period helps a lot when rolling it out).  In the meantime, turn the oven on to broil and make sure the rack with the stone is closest to the top element (be sure to wear oven mitts or you’ll get a nasty burn like me).

Roll out naans into an oval shape.  Before placing them on the stone, coat the palms of your hands with a little oil and flip each naan back and forth to lightly coat each side.  Place 3 naans on the stone (or however many will fit on your stone).  Cook for about 2 minutes, maybe 3 depending on your oven.  It should get a nice golden brown color on top and will puff up.  Take out the naan and brush with ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter.

Make sure to wait 2-3 minutes between baking batches of naan to give your oven time to get back to the maximum temperature.  Serve Naan with Sabzi Paneer Masala.