Naan

Good morning folks,

We don’t make naan bread very often, as folks in this house prefer chapatti and naans take a little longer to produce.  However, every once in a while, I like to make a pile of naan to mix it up a little, or to have some on hand for my son’s lunches.

It’s probably the second most consumed flatbread in Punjab, where the husband unit is from and I’m quite certain I ate my weight in this bread while I lived there for 6 months.  Naan can be eaten plain, buttered, or flavoured with things like garlic, onion, and fenugreek (methi).  It can also be stuffed with a variety of vegetables and spices, like a paratha.  Anyway you take it, naan is delicious.

This is a leavened version of naan (i.e. it contains yeast and is left to rise for some time before being cooked).  You can easily find unleavened versions of naan, if you so desire.

Naan

This recipe will make about 10 – 12 naans.  We do not store our unused naan dough in the refrigerator.  We cook all the naans and then store any unused naan in rolls (see the tips below) or flat, separated by pieces of waxed paper in airtight bags in the freezer.


Ingredients

2 tsp of active dry yeast (not instant or quick rise or bread making yeast)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar (we use cane sugar around here or sometimes jaggery (a firm cane sugar) or honey)
4 cups of blended whole wheat flour (i.e. ready for bread making) or atta flour
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp curd (yogourt)
4 tbsp of flax oil, canola oil, light olive oil or other oil suitable for baking (we use canola most of the time but at our family home in India we use bran oil)

 flavouring (if desired):
   – butter for butter roti
   – 1 cup of fresh fenugreek, finely chopped or 1 cup of dried fenugreek, crushed into small pieces
   – a clove of finely chopped garlic or two cloves of crushed roasted garlic
   – 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (any variety – we like scallion)
   – flax seed oil, olive oil, canola oil or any other flavourful oil you wish


Method


In a medium bowl, add 1/2 tbsp sugar to the warm water and still until dissolved.  Add the yeast, giving it a light stir as well.  Let it bloom until it’s frothy.  This usually takes about 10 or 12 minutes.

In large bowl, mix the remaining sugar together with the flour and salt together until well blended.  If you’re using the fenugreek (or any other fresh or dried herb) or the garlic, add that to the dough as well.  When the yeast has bloomed add the curd and oil to it and stir until combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together with your hands.  When the dough begins to hold together.  Wash and dry your hands, rub a little flour between them and knead the dough lightly until it is soft, slightly sticky and holds together.

Place the dough into a large lightly-oiled bowl.  The bowl needs to be big enough for the dough to double in size.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl in a warm area away from draft until the dough doubles.  This can take up to 3 hours depending on the temperature of the room.

Lightly flour a clean, dry, flat work surface.  Put some flour on a large plate as well.  You’ll use this flour to keep the dough from sticking.  Divide the dough in half and then roll each half out into a rough cylinder.  Cut the cylinder into 5 or 6 pieces each.  Roll each piece into a ball and place the ball onto the plate of flour.  In the meantime, heat up a large, flat non-stick pan over medium-high heat until the pan is hot.

Roll each ball of dough into a rough egg or oval shape, small enough to fit into the pan and roughly 1/4″ thick.   As with the chapattis, lightly slap the dough between your palms before placing it into the pan.  Cook one naan at a time.  Do not try to crowd more than one into the pan.  Cook it for about 2 minutes until the top of the dough has air bubbles in it and the bottom is golden brown.  Flip the dough over and cook for another 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on the other side.  Overcooking the dough is going to dry it out and burn it, so pay attention to each piece as it’s cooking.  Undercooking is going to leave you with a raw chewy middle that is really unpleasant.  It’s better to turn more frequently than to risk either overcooking or undercooking the naan.

If using butter or oil, lightly brush the naan with the butter or oil after it comes out of the pan.  Stack the naans on a plate and cover with a dry cloth while cooking the remaining dough.

Tips

If your dough is too stiff, add a little water to the mixture.  If it is too sticky (it should only be very slightly sticky) add a little more flour.

Rubbing a little flour between your hands will prevent yours hands from sticking to the dough.

Adding oil to the flat plan will scorch the naan, leaving it burned on the surface and raw in the middle.

Adjust the heat as necessary to cook the naans slowly without burning.  You may need to start at a higher temperature and then reduce the heat slightly as you cook the naans.

You can substitute an all-purpose white flour for the atta flour but really you are not going to gain much flavour doing that and you’re going to lose the awesome goodness of a whole wheat or atta type flour.

Store cooked naans by rolling them up in a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper and then wrapping the rolled up package in tin foil or plastic wrap.  It will last 8 to 10 hours.  Do not refrigerate for too long unless you want a hard, stale tasting naan.  You can freeze naan for use later.  I put pieces of parchment paper between them so that they separate easily from the freezer container/bag and then wrap the whole pile in a sheet or two of paper towel before putting them in the container.

To eat with your naans in the traditional way, pull off a triangular shape from the naan and use that to pick up the food.  Don’t be afraid to get your fingers dirty!  That’s part of the goodness of eating in this way.

If you don’t like the dry naan but prefer not to use a butter or oil to moisten it, then serve the naan with a little yogourt on the side.  Dip the naan pieces into the curd (yogourt) after using it to pick up the food.  Instant, not dry naan without the concerns over butter or oil.

Most of all don’t be afraid to practice and experiment with the flavourings that you enjoy.  Some people put fennel seed, anise seed, ground black pepper, poppy seed, dried onion flakes, or a bit of crushed cumin in their naans, just to give you some ideas.

Alternatively, you can bake the naans in the oven.  Bake at 350F for 4 to 5 minutes per side, on a lightly oiled baking pan, ensuring that each naan is at least 1″ apart.  You may have to do this in batches.  Use your tongs to flip the naans before returning them to the oven to cook on the other side.

Hello?  How is yeast vegetarian or vaishno?  

I got this question more than once since I’ve become an Amritdhari Sikh.  Don’t worry about it, I had no idea what the right answer was at first.  Could not remember from high school biology either.  Though I thought yeast was a fungus or a special family of it’s own, I wasn’t sure and had to I had to look it up.  Yeast is a living, single cell organism which, when fermenting, consumes sugar and produces carbon dioxide as waste.  However, it is classified as a fungus and is not in any way an animal.  This makes yeast not only vegetarian or vaishno but 100% vegan.

We typically save the naans for special occasions or for when it was especially cold outside in our Arctic wonderland or we just need that boost of extra carbohydrates.  These traditional flatbreads are tasty, delicious and making them is (despite all the claims to the contrary) easy peasy with a little practice.  Have fun!

Let me know if you experiment with other flavours and how those turned out!

Until next time,
Peace & love,
Himmatpreet

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