I consider myself quite fearless in the kitchen arena at least. I am quite competitive by nature, so "I can't" is a phrase that usually does not have any place in my mind. That said, I've been quite fearful of the much loved Indian leavened bread called Naan. A few months back I made an attempt to make Naan, and lets just say it was great, as long as you like eating shoe leather. Dear hubby J said it was pretty decent (which means it was terrible).
The kids' school just finished a unit on India (they have been studying different countries), so the teacher and I decided it would be fun if we had an Indian Feast at school. I planned on making Basmati rice pulao, Green beans sabji, Carrot halwa, Kheema peas curry, and some bread type thingie. Chapati or paratha would be just fine, but the nut that I am, I decided I was going to try my hand at Naan again. I figured, if it turned out to be a disaster, no one would know. I'd compost the whole thing and just go ahead and make chapatis or parathas.
Not sure why I decided to resort to U Tube for a lesson on Naan making, but I stumbled upon a how-to video stream by a nice Punjabi-looking lady called Manjula. Now she looked like someone who had done this many a time, so I figured I'd check out her recipe. Pretty decent - it had all the right stuff I know one needs for Naan, so I gave it a go.
(Adapted from Manjula's Kitchen)
This recipe makes 12 naan
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp instant dry yeast (I use SAF)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 pinches baking soda
4 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup all purpose flour (for rolling out dough)
Butter or ghee (to dot on finished naan)
1. Dissolve yeast in water and let sit 5 - 10 minutes.
2. Add sugar, salt, and baking soda to flour and whisk to incorporate well. Add in oil and yogurt.
3. Add yeast/water mixture and knead gently to form a soft dough (note - dough will be quite sticky)
4. Cover the dough and leave to rest in warm place for 3-4 hours. Dough should double in volume.
5. Meanwhile preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone for at least 30 minutes so that stone preheats well. Now turn oven to high broil.
6. Knead dough for 2-3 minutes and divide into 12 equal parts. Roll each piece into classic oval shape (approx 1/4 inch thick). Dough is sticky, so use flour generously when rolling.
7. Wet your hands, pat the rolled out naan gently between both hands before placing on the stone. (I managed to only do one at a time, since the oven was blazing hot. Also, the naan only takes about 2 minutes to cook, so this goes pretty fast).
8. Add a dab of butter or ghee to Naan when it is still hot. Keep in a towel lined basket, so they stay soft.
Verdict: The Naan was FABULOUS! If I may say so myself, it was delish - chewy, pillowy, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, a generous dab of butter and it was pure heaven. I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I was. To some of you, this seems crazy, but I cannot describe the extent of joy and satisfaction I derive from culinary success. Oh! Only disaster was that I cracked my so-loved pizza stone. I have had this stone for a long time, and have cooked many a yummy pizza on it, so I was pretty bummed. Oh well. This time I'll just get some el-cheapo unglazed tile from Home Depot as Alton Brown suggests. I think the stone cracked as I had it under high-broil for over 30 minutes (sorry, but thats what the recipe called for). Only way to simulate a tandoor clay oven I guess. Anyway, small price to pay.
BTW, the 'Indian feast' was a success. It was really fun to see a group of 25 three to six year olds really enjoy the food. Simple pleasures!