Similar to pita bread, naan bread is leavened using yeast or baking powder. It is a staple food in south and central Asian countries and comes in a huge variety of different flavours. In India, where bread is a central part of that countries cuisine, naan bread can be a meal in itself or more often than not, as a compliment to a main dish. It can be eaten plain, buttered with ghee (a type of butter), or even stuffed with mutton, as in keema naan. When done well and no matter how it is prepared, Indian naan bread is a very tasty and satisfying food.
The basic recipe calls for the mixing of white flour with salt, then cooking in a tandoor, which is a traditional Indian clay-baking oven. Yeast is usually mixed in to make the bread rise, although baking soda is sometimes used as a substitute nowadays. Once the dough has risen, it is divided, rolled and then flattened. Milk or yoghurt is sometimes added to provide more bulk.
However, that is only the starting point of a fine naan. Surrounded by subtle scents such as khus, the bread takes on some of the wonderful bouquet of that natural oil. Added extras such as raisin and nuts help raise the experience, to make a variety called Peshawari. Central to it all, however, are the outstanding spices of India that frequently make their way into good naan bread.
Having made your mouth water with expectation, here is one delicious recipe for Indian Naan Bread to satisfy your taste buds:
- 1 lb white flour
- 1/2-cup water
- 1 oz yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kanolfi seed or charnushka
- 6 tbsp plain yogurt
Dissolve the sugar by adding it to water, which has been warmed in the microwave for one minute. Then add the yeast and allow to sit during preparation, which should take no more than ten to fifteen minutes.
Pour the flour into a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle on the salt and seed. Make a small indentation in the center to hold the yeast mixture. Pour on the yeast liquid and allow the dough to soak it up for a moment.
Knead the dough into a ball. Place it into a large bowl and cover with a clean, damp cloth for two to three hours. During this time, the dough should rise because of the action of the yeast.
Now separate the larger ball into smaller versions, two to three inches in diameter.
Coat another bowl with ghee, which is a type of butter, and roll the balls around to coat them. Lay them onto a wooden cutting board.
Pre-heat the oven to 450F/230C while you perform the next step.
Now flatten the naan dough balls, making the edges a little thinner than the center. Bake for ten minutes, monitoring carefully at three-minute intervals to look for excess charring of the rims. If that happens, try covering the rim with a bit of aluminum foil the next time.
How to Serve
Indian naan bread is best served warm. It can be kept covered by a large bowl for a few minutes after baking, but avoid keeping it there too long, since this leads to excess moisture buildup and softening.