by CHRIS RAWSTERN
Naan has become highly popular in the US these days. What makes this interesting is that in India naan is traditionally made in a large clay community tandoor oven, something the common household generally does not have. This means that naan is not commonly served in the home. Other types of flat breads such as puri, roti, or parathas among others, are made easily on a hot flat iron or pan in the home. Indian restaurants serve naan breads, both in India and here in the US. Naan is mainly a northern Indian bread, also found in nearby countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Naan seem to come in many and varied styles. Some are soft, thick and completely flat, while others are thin and almost crisp with large bubbles baked in place. Whatever the recipe you find, it is generally made with flour, yeast, milk or water, ghee, yogurt and salt. Other additions such as egg are possible. The yeast dough is made and allowed to rise, then formed into teardrop shaped flat breads. In a clay tandoor, the large disc of dough is placed against the side of the clay oven, sticking there to bake. This happens very quickly, as the heat is very intense.
Making these breads at home can be accomplished in various ways. Baking them on an outdoor grill is the most similar in concept, delivering the high heat needed. They can also be made in a home oven over fairly high heat, either on baking sheets or on a pizza stone allowed to heat for at least a half hour in advance.
1 packet instant rise yeast 1 pound all purpose flour, or mixed with half whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup lukewarm milk 1/2 cup yogurt 2 tablespoons ghee
Combine the first three ingredients and set aside. Mix together the wet ingredients and pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Once mixture comes together, knead for 10 minutes, and then set aside to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough and divide into 6 portions. Roll or pat out thinly into a large circle, then pull on one end to stretch to the traditional teardrop shape. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes on a pizza stone in a 475 degree oven, or on baking sheets. If making over a grill, set over high heat, close lid and check after 1 minute. If well browned, flip for 1 minute or more until done on both sides.
Once naan are baked, they can be brushed with melted ghee and left as is, or sprinkled with nigella seeds or poppy seeds. The ghee can be melted with smashed garlic to infuse the flavor and then brushed over the baked breads. Coarsely ground coriander seed can also be sprinkled over. In India, breads are the utensils for eating a savory curry dish, kebab, or other. Bits of the bread are used as a scoop for the food, without the use of a fork. However these breads are eaten, it is no wonder they have become so popular. Give them a try and find out for yourself.
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