Naan

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    2

    large breads

Appears in

Making Bread at Home

Making Bread at Home

By Tom Jaine

Published 2005

  • About

There are a host of breads from India, some leavened like this naan, others not, like chapatis and parathas. Naan is the white bread of the Muslim north-west, of Punjab and Kashmir and, beyond that, Afghanistan and central Asia. The large breads in restaurants are cooked in tandoors - beehive domes arching over a charcoal brazier on the floor of the oven, with food being introduced through an opening at the top. When making bread, the cook slaps the sheet of dough on to the side wall. It hangs down over the flame in the pit, one end stuck to the wall, the rest forming a huge tear shape below. Households, even in India, do not usually have tandoors, so home produced naans are then cooked in a conventional oven, under a grill, or over charcoal

The writer Helen Saberi, who lived and cooked in Afghanistan, has eloquently described naans made for her. While most recipes suggest a simple yeast dough, or sometimes a yoghurt fermentation, she noticed that many Afghan naans were made with a sourdough, or at least a fermentation based on a piece of dough saved from the previous day’s baking. This gives the bread an excellent sharp flavour which brings out the best of the taste of the flour. While Indian breads are often made with fine white flour (Indian wheat is quite strong and suitable for breadmaking), Afghani baking is usually done with finely ground wholemeal, similar to chapati flour, which could be used in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 175 g/6 oz of the previous day’s dough, kept back, covered, in the cool
  • 175 ml/6 fl oz plain yoghurt, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 g/¼ oz fresh yeast
  • 225 g/8 oz unbleached white bread flour

Method

  1. Put the previous day’s dough in a bowl with the yoghurt, salt and yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon until entirely smooth. Add the flour gradually, mixing vigorously until it is a moist and supple dough. Turn it out on to a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (24°C/75°F) for between 2 and 3 hours, until tripled in size.
  2. Turn the dough out on to the lightly floured work surface and knock back lightly. Divide it into two or four pieces, form into balls and leave them to rest on the side of the work surface. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8 (or hotter, if possible) and warm some greased baking sheets.
  3. Roll out each ball to an oval about 5 mm/¼ inch thick: if making two larger breads, the ovals will measure about 50 × 20 cm/20 × 8 inches. You may need to rest each piece in the middle of rolling out so as to relax the gluten and lessen the resistance to the rolling pin.
  4. Transfer the naan to the baking sheets as soon as rolling is completed, and bake, without turning, for approximately 5-8 minutes. They should have taken colour and they may be crisp in parts. Once cooked, wrap in a cloth until needed, but eat them warm and fresh.

Variations

The naan can be brushed with ghee or clarified butter for an extra touch of luxury, and this may be enhanced with a sprinkling of spice or seed as well.

If you would rather cook the bread under a conventional salamander grill, you may find the smaller size more convenient to handle. Turn the breads halfway through the cooking unless you have a heavy grill pan which can be preheated.