(And of course I’m talking about naan the Indian flatbead, not a wise elder.)
Over the last few years I’ve developed a fondness for Indian food egged on by those lovely and endless Indian lunch buffets. (6 Flavors, formerly Priya, in Parma literally has the best Indian buffet I’ve been to so far). So when I saw this Indian vegetarian cookbook at Horizontal books I felt compelled to buy it (mostly on the encouragement of my Indian food obsessed boyfriend).
One of the staples of an Indian meal (at least for the two of us) is the buttered naan. It’s kind of like how people enjoy garlic bread with pasta. So one night when a few friends were over I took a stab at making goan egg balchao and naan. Here’s the recipe and method I use (which is slightly different from what’s in the book).
- ¾ tsp dried yeast
- 3 tsp caster sugar
- 1/3 – 1/4 cup warm water
- 4.5 cups plain flour, plus more to dust
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp melted ghee plus more for brushing
- 4 tbsp yogurt (one time I also used heavy whipping cream and water when I was out of yogurt)
- Mix the yeast, half the sugar, and four tablespoons of water. Leave to rest for ten minutes, until frothy
- Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the remaining sugar
- Make a well in the middle and add all the liquids except the oil. Using a fork, bring the dough together
- Take it out of the bowl and knead for six to seven minutes, until soft and smooth. Oil the outside of the dough and place in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for at least two to three hours (although let’s be honest, I leave mine for an hour tops while I make the other food)
- Melt some ghee in the microwave (I use a ramekin because they insult the melted butter and keep it from congealing too quickly)
- If you’re cooking alone, divide the dough into 6 sections and roll each out prettttty thin. Not paper thin, probably about 1/4″ thick or thinner. They’ll be a little elastic and shrink inwards when you roll them out. No sweat, just kind of stretch them out a little with your hands before they go into the pan.
- Use a pastry brush (or yo’ hands if you don’t have a pastry brush) to brush BOTH sides of each naan with ghee.
- Heat a thick bottomed non-stick pan to high. (I don’t do this step until I’m absolutely ready to cook the naan because once the pan is HOT you have to work pretty fast).
- Once the pan is hot throw your first naan in and just let it set for a little bit. It might puff up a little if you rolled it really thing, that’s cool. I tend to peak after about 20 seconds. If the bottom has black char marks on it it’s time to flip to the other side. Wait a little bit then check it again.
- Take your first naan out and throw in your second one. While your second one cooks, I brush even MORE ghee on both sides of the screamin’ hot naan that just finished. Repeat this dance until all 6 are finished.
Since that first night (where the “test” naan was eaten out of the trash by hungry boys) I’ve used this exact recipe to make naan about 3 or 4 more times. Each time I evaluate it to try and get closer to buffet quality naan (V and I have agreed my naan is already better than store-bough/bagged naan).
Some common problems with my naan: It usually comes out pretty dense. Perhaps it’s a side effect of not letting it proof for the full 2-3 hours, perhaps it’s the temperature at which I cook them (next time I’m going to try medium-high instead of high for a longer amount of time), perhaps it’s not kneading the dough enough, or perhaps its how thin/thick I roll each disc to.
What makes good naan? It’s a little puffy, layered in the middle, slightly charred on the outside, and oh so buttery.
I made it again last night and while it was the best batch yet, it wasn’t quite perfect (I also had to substitute cream for yogurt so next time I’ll switch back to yogurt).
But for anything that’s done repeatedly, like making naan, it’s taught me to test and refine over and over until it’s perfect and until I can replicate the results each time. I’m still in the testing and refining phase but there are so many things I do in my life that could use perfecting (too much inefficiency in my opinion). How about you? What are you trying to perfect?