Making Naan

You know what I really love about flatbreads? They’re great low-investment laboratories for testing out dough formulations. A little more water here, a little more fat there, and suddenly you’re creating your dream…naan in this case. But the fun doesn’t stop with the formulae. You can bake flatbreads all sorts of ways: in the oven, on the stove, on the grill…you name it. So don’t take what I’ve done here as the definitive naan method. Try your own. I’ve just done what I happen to like. Use this tutorial as a starting point for further improvisations. Start by assembling your ingredients.

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, baking powder (a modern touch which gives naan a little extra body) and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle. Why do I favor a machine here? Because you can make a wetter dough more easily with one, and I like a wetter naan dough as it creates bigger bubbles, i.e. a more open crumb. How does that work? you may ask. Well, with a machine you can knead a wetter dough without the temptation to work in extra flour as you go (machines don’t get irritated when their fingers stick together).

Combine the yogurt and the milk. Plop. Use skim milk and nonfat yogurt for a leaner, more pita-like naan, whole milk and a full-fat Greek or Middle Eastern yogurt for a more tender and more flavorful end product. Some people like an egg in the wet mix for more body. If that’s you, make sure to subtract 1.75 ounces of liquid.

Add in the oil and stir it all together.

Combine the wet with the dry.

Mix until the dough starts to come together, then switch to the dough hook.

Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will stick to the bottom.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Let it rise 2-4 hours.

Until it’s like so…about doubled. Preheat your oven as high as it will go: 500 degrees Fahrenheit or 550 if your goes that high.

Divide the dough into six equal pieces (they’ll weigh about 3.3 ounces each if you’re using a scale).

Remove the balls to a lightly floured board and roll them out into ovals about 8-9 inches long.

Stretch one end to get that teardrop shape if you’re a stickler for details. Lay them out on a sheet pan. Brush or drizzle on oil and salt.

The best thing to do at this point is to slide them one by one onto a baking stone, as that will crisp the bottoms quickly. Here I just left them on the pan since I was in a hurry. I baked them for 4-6 minutes. This was the result. Not half bad but a little light on the top. Why not just keep baking until they brown all over? Because much beyond this point and the breads will dry out in the oven, creating crackers. Since I like mine a little browner on the top…

…I throw them under the broiler for about 20 seconds. That’s naan I can get excited about. It puffs and crisps instead of being merely spongy. Oh baby that’s what I like!

If this doesn’t float your dhow, by all means improvise. There’s time before dinner tonight, no? Ready…break!

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