When asked about a bread that typifies Muslim Northern India and Afghanistan, naan, which is also the generic word for bread in those areas, is the first one that comes to mind. It is also trendy; every Pacific Rim restaurant offers it because of it’s buttery flavor and moist texture.
The long oval breads are baked in a tandir oven, which is a deep clay floor oven. The shaped dough is placed on a gaddi (cushioned pad) and baked by slapping them onto the walls of the oven while one end hangs out over the fire, making a pretty teardrop oval about 20 inches in length. Homemade naan are easily baked in a conventional oven and made smaller for convenience.
Yogurt is a nice tangy addition, accenting the flour, since many recipes call for a fermented yogurt starter.
In India, the naan is made from white flour, but Afghan bakers use chapati flour, which is a very fine whole wheat; you can find it in an ethnic grocery. In place of the butter, use ghee, the clarified butter that is the preferred fat in India. Nigella seeds are sometimes called black sesame seeds or black onion seeds.
Naan are meant to be eaten just out of the oven. Serve with goat milk yogurt and soft goat cheese, as they are eaten all over Asia everyday, or with roasted meats and stews.
Makes 6 naan
1 1/2-and 2-pound loaves
- 2 cups bread flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil or light olive oil
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, for dusting
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
- 1 tablespoon nigella seeds or sesame seeds
- Place the flour, salt, baking soda, and yeast in the pan according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a 2-cup measure, combine the oil, yogurt, and milk; pour in the pan. Program for the Dough cycle; press Start.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. After the rising cycle ends, at the beep immediately remove the dough and place on a work surface dusted with whole wheat pastry flour; divide into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal portions to equal 6 large walnut-sized balls. Let the balls rest on the side of the work surface while you work. With a floured rolling pin, roll into a flat uneven round or teardrop shape, about 1/2 inch thick. As they are shaped, place on the baking sheet. Cover with a clean tea towel while you are rolling out the rest of the naan, letting them rest about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450º.
- Flatten each round with your palm, then stretch on one side to make an 8-x-4-1/2-inch elongated oval teardrop shape. Brush the tops of each naan with the melted butter and sprinkle lightly with nigella seeds. Bake in the center of the preheated oven, one pan at a time, without turning, until golden brown and crisp in sections, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately while warm and fresh, or wrap in a clean tea towel until serving.
Excerpted from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.