Naan 1a, Indian Leavened Flat Bread With Yeast
Nan 1 Sadi
Naan is a popular Indian bread that is traditionally made in a hot Tandoor, an Indian clay oven (see pictures below). A Tandoor cooks food at very high temperature, which is impossible to achieve in a domestic oven. However, if you cook naans on a maximum, (300C in my oven) or under a preheated grill, or on a pre-heated, heavy bottomed pan/tava, the results are pretty good. I tend to make them on a heavy frying pan these days, not using the oven at all. I find that the pan cooked Naan are the softest.
Naans can also be used with non-Indian meals too, with soups or dips. You can either cut up a large naan into strips or make very small ones. You can also use a Naan for a quick Pizza. Left over/surplus naan dough makes a pretty good bread loaf too. Makes approximately 16.
Do not be put off by the long recipe, I have tried to describe it step by step, to make it easier
Recipe revised June 2023, please read it fully before starting.
For the dough
3 cups or 375-400 gm. plain white flour or maida.
1 cup or 125-130 gm. strong flour (bread flour). If you do not have strong flour, use all plain flour/maida.
1/2 cup or 125 ml. active natural yoghurt (dahi)
Just over 1 cup or 250 ml. hand warm water (not hot) *
(Total liquid 375 ml. approximately. Make a little extra, because different flours need slightly different amounts of water)
3-4 tbsp. ghee or cooking oil (olive oil is good)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar*
1 1/2 tsp. or one 7 gm. sachet of Instant Active dry yeast*, roughly 1/2 tsp. per cup of flour. Use less yeast if you have more time for the dough to rise naturally. Make sure that the packet is fresh. Once it is opened, the leftover yeast will not last
1/2 cup flour for dusting during rolling out
1 tbsp. ghee (optional)
2 tbsp. poppy seeds (khus-khus) or sesame seeds (til) or nigella seeds (kalonji/kalaunji)
*Instant Active Dry Yeast, does not require to be activated/proofed, it can be added directly to the flour.
*Active Dry Yeast has to be activated.
The Dough; Mix yoghurt, water, oil, sugar, 2 tbsp. flour (from measured amount) and yeast in a jug Mix/stir. Do not worry about lumps, they will disappear soon. Cover & keep aside at room temperature until frothy, approximately 15 minutes. When using Instant, Active Yeast, you can skip this step, yeast can be added directly to the flour.
Sift flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Stir the bubbling liquid mix, adding a little at a time to the flour and bring the dough together. Use enough liquid to make a soft and pliable dough. Don't be afraid to add a little more or a little less water than a bread recipe states. 65-70% liquid to flour ratio is generally required. The dough must be soft to get soft naans, as slack as you can handle. You do not need to knead the dough too much, just bring it together. Cover with a clean hand towel and leave for 10 minutes. Then give 3 quick kneads at 10 minutes interval, as below.
Turn the dough out onto an oiled surface. Stretch and flatten it out in both horizontal and vertical directions, using the heel of your oiled hand. Fold over from both directions to the centre, one edge overlapping the other. Now turn the dough over by 90 degrees and stretch it out again in both directions. Fold it again towards the centre. Cover and leave it for 10 minutes.
Repeat this process two more times at 10 minute intervals.
Now cover and leave for 45- minutes to an hour or until it doubles in size.
Knock the dough down a little. Keep it covered. It is now ready to make naans.
Rolling out a Naan; Break off one 2 to 2 1/2 inch size piece of dough and roll it into a ball. You may use a little dusting flour to help.
Dust and roll it out into a tear drop shape (approximately 20-22 cm or 8-9 inches in length). Traditionally, naans are tear shaped, with one end narrower than the other. This can be achieved by rolling down one end more than other. Round naans are fine too. If you are cooking them in an oven, roll out as many as will fit on your oven tray in one go. Roll them out quite thin, because they rise during cooking.
Sprinkle a few Nigella or sesame or poppy seeds on top. Press them in gently with a rolling pin.
Cooking; Whatever the method you use, naans need to cook quickly. Slow cooking makes them leathery.
Cooking naans on a griddle or a heavy bottomed pan or tava; Place 1-2 naans on a pre-heated griddle/tava/pan. When a few blisters appear, turn over. After about 30-40 seconds, turn over again and gently coax them to balloon up by pressing with a kitchen towel all over. Cook until a few blisters appear on the other side too. See picture. You can turn them over a couple times to get even cooking.
Cooking in a pre-heated oven; Heat oven/grill to maximum, mine heats to 300 C. Remember, a Tandoor is very, very hot! Leave the tray inside the oven so it is really hot. Naans placed on a cold tray will stick and you will get stiff/hard/leathery naans!
Place 3-4 naans at a time, as many as will fit on your on the pre-heated tray. Do this quickly; you dont want the tray to cool down. Place the tray back in the oven. You can roll out the next batch of naans while the previous batch is baking. After a few seconds, the naans will puff up. When they get a few brown blisters all over, check the underside as well and turn over if necessary. Take them out and either serve hot or keep them wrapped in a towel until served.
Cooking naans in a Tandoor-the traditional Indian oven; Heat Tandoor according to your instructions.
Traditionally they are made by slapping the oiled dough ball between the palms, while rotating and stretching it at the same time. See last picture. No rolling pin is used. Roll out You can roll out naans as above.
Place the naan on a thick roll of cloth and pull one end down to give it a traditional, tear drop shape.
Slap it to the side of the tandoor wall and let it cook until it blisters.
Take it off using a long, steel rod. It helps to have 2 rods, so you can catch the naan between the two and take it out without dropping it into the fire! Take care not to burn your hand.
Cooking under a HOT grill; Preheat grill, leaving the tray under it to heat it well.
Place naans on the hot tray and return it quickly under the grill. They will puff up within minutes.
Once a few brown blisters appear, turn the over and return under the grill for the other surface to cook. When ready, they will have a few brown blisters scattered on each surface.
Whether you brush it with ghee or not, is your personal choice. I don't.
Serve hot, with a curry and/or dal of choice.
Topping; Before cooking, you can sprinkle the top of the naan with a few 1) chopped, blanched almonds or 2) cumin seeds or 3) fennel seeds or 4) chopped green chillies or 5) broken up red chillies or 6) grated/chopped garlic and a drizzle of ghee or olive oil 7) chopped coriander leaves. Topping should be gently pressed into the naan with a rolling pin.
Stuffing choices ; Keema Nan, 2) Peshawari/Peshwari Nan, 3) Shredded tandoori or other cooked/leftover chicken. Add extra spices to the chicken, because it will be inside the unspiced bread. 4) A teaspoon of cooked and spiced spinach/fenugreek leaves. Squeeze and dry the water out completely before stuffing. 5) Spiced mashed potatoes. See Aloo Paratha recipe. 6) Grated paneer cheese, mixed with spices.
Additions to the dough; 1) Chopped mint or 2) a mix of chopped onions, green chillies, ginger, garlic or 3) other herbs of choice.
I have made a few changes to this recipe as kindly suggested by the well-known master baker Dan Lepard. My thanks to you Dan.
1. I have reduced the amount of yeast, too much yeast can overwork the dough and cause it to become heavy.
2. I have added a little strong flour (bread flour), which gives more manageable dough.
3. He also suggested I increase the water, which makes the dough lighter, as it expands in the heat and the steam bubbles add to the aeration in the crumb.
4. If you add milk to the liquid, boil the milk and cool it before using it to make dough because raw milk can make dough tough. Boiling and cooling the milk destroys a dairy protein called casein and makes the bread much lighter. Using dried milk has the same effect as it has been cooked first.
5. The shape of a Tandoor probably keeps the heat moist and slows the moisture loss from the dough as it is baked upright stuck on the oven wall (so the steam will travel through the length of the dough, rather than flat. I bake mine in a wok with a lid, sat over a moderate heat on the hob, and this (I think) helps produce a very light naan.
Kalonji (nigella/onion seeds), can be spelled as Kalowunji on some packets.
Note from reader Surfing69; Different flours will have different adsorption characteristics and will require more or less water. For a particular recipe the variation in water will probably vary +/- 2 to 4 parts to every 100 parts flour. High gluten flours normally require more water as the proteins would need more water to fully hydrate. Also the optimum amount of water to flour sits on a knife edge. Some European bakers deliberately use more water in order to produce more of a random internal structure.
A tip from reader Steve Gentis for busy/working people: “I often make large batches of dough of this recipe and freeze dough balls; at step 7, when you form the dough into balls to roll out, put individual balls in small sandwich bags and then put as many bags as will fit into a gallon ziplock bag. Then push out all of the air and freeze the bags in a more or less flat shape so they stack in the freezer. When needed, take out as many as desired for dinner. They can be defrosted carefully in the microwave, though it works best to defrost them naturally. I take as many as I need out of the freezer as soon as I come home from work, make curry, water plants, fold laundry. I have also on occasion removed them from the freezer in the morning before leaving the house and left them in the refrigerator until I get home”.