Naan (Leavened oven-baked flat bread)

Naan

As is the case with lentils (being the core in an Indian staple diet), Bread(s) also enjoy the same status. Indians enjoy a variety of bread as part of their daily routine, most of the usual ones being – Roti/Chapati, Tandoori Roti, Naan, and Parantha. My previous posts have covered couple of Paranthas (Aloo Parantha, Spinach Parantha, Broccoli Parantha). Today I am covering Naan in this post. Naan is also a very popular leavened oven-baked flat bread with origins in Persia (Iran) but extremely popular in the Indian cuisine.

The main ingredients of a Naan are white flour, yeast, yogurt, oil/butter, sugar and salt; and it is cooked in clay oven (tandoor). However white flour is not considered that great good for our health; hence I have tried to prepare in an healthy way by using whole wheat flour and white flour (all-purpose flour/maida) in the same ratio. This was my 1st time that I have made Naan at home, and I have been really pleased with the results – the Naan came out very soft and puffed up, light from inside and, with a slightly crispy exterior.

For all my friends who are not afraid of experimenting, Naan can be made in many different ways:

  • by using different variations of the flour – you can use only all-purpose flour, or use only whole wheat flour, or a mix of the two flours in ratios like 1:1/2:1/3:1.
  • by using different leavened agents like baking soda and baking powder instead of yeast.
  • by making Naan in the simple home oven or on the gas top.
  • by using different fillings/flavours (e.g., garlic for Garlic Naan, minced meat mixture for Mutton Naan, mixture of nuts and raisins for Peshawari Naan)

I personally love to see the Naan getting puffed up in the oven (a sheer sense of satisfaction and happiness 🙂 ). I believe that the key to this is to roll the Naan evenly without any breaks and to not top it up with any seeds/herbs.

Naan

Having said all of this, let’s roll our sleeves to make the lovely Naan bread in the oven.

The ingredients for making Naan are :
1. Whole Wheat Flour : 1 cup
2. All-Purpose Flour : 1 cup
3. Sugar : 1 tsp
4. Yeast : 1 tsp
5. Salt : 1 tsp
6. Yogurt : 4 tsp
7. Water : 1/2 cup
8. Oil : 2 Tbsp

Method :

Firstly you need to proof (activate) the yeast. Take warm water in a bowl. Add sugar and stir it; then add yeast and again stir it well. Now keep this bowl aside for 12-15 minutes at room temperature (in a warm place) to activate the yeast. When you see the froth, it means that the yeast has been activated.

Now take a big bowl and add whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yogurt, salt, oil, and the frothy yeast solution. Mix well and knead it to make a soft dough. Rub some oil or water all over the dough and cover it with a damp muslin cloth or lid and let the dough leaven (rise) for 1.5-2 hours. Remember to place the dough in a warm place for leavening.

Once the dough has risen, make medium size balls (I have made 6 balls) from it. Cover and keep the balls aside for 20-30 minutes. These dough balls will double up in the size.

Preheat the oven on 250°C for 15-20 minutes.

Take one dough ball, dust it with some flour and roll out (using a rolling pin) into a tear-drop shape or in any shape of your choice. If needed, sprinkle some flour while rolling the Naan. Use the remaining dough balls to make Naan’s in the same manner.

Now place two rolled Naan’s on a greased baking tray and place this baking tray on the top rack of the oven. Bake these Naan’s for 6-8 minutes on 250°C till they puff-up well and brown spots appear on their top.

Take out the Naan’s from the oven. You may brush some butter/clarified butter on the Naan if you want. Serve these healthy soft, puffy hot Naan’s with Dal Makhani, Malai Kofta, Paneer masala or any other curry of choice and, simply relish !

To cook Naan on a Gas Top :

There are two methods to cook the Naan on gas:

  1. Heat the skillet, and place the raw rolled Naan on it. You will see bubbles on the Naan after a few seconds; check if the Naan has been cooked and have got brown spots. Now flip the Naan. Next cover the skillet with a lid; check in between to see if the Naan has puffed up / got brown spots on both sides (it took less then 1 minute for me).
  2. Heat the skillet. Take the raw rolled Naan and brush some water on one of its side (the water on the Naan will help it to stick to the skillet). Place the wet side of the Naan on the skillet and cook the Naan. Now remove the skillet from the gas top and flip it over to cook the Naan directly on the gas flame till it gets cooked. Or you may remove the Naan from the skillet and cook it directly on the gas flame with the help of a tong.

Insider Tips / Finer Points :

  • For proofing the yeast, water should not be very hot (as it will kill the yeast) or very cold (yeast will not get activated). Water must just be warm to activate the yeast properly. Activation of yeast is important as this defines whether the dough rises well or not.
  • For leavening (rise) the dough, you should keep the dough in a warm place.
  • Oven must be heated well for baking the Naan (so always make the Naan on the maximum temperature).
  • If you like, you may also add Nigella seeds (Kalonji in Hindi) on top of the Naan while rolling; and then bake. (Nigella seeds will stop the naan to puff but naan would still be soft)
  • Feel free to grease the baked Naan with garlic-butter or any flavoured butter of your choice.
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