Flat breads were the first food cooked in a tandoor (Indian oven) and for me they remain the best—especially, the light, buttery, yeasted bread known as naan. The traditional way to cook naan is on the walls of the tandoor. Virtually every residential neighborhood in northern India has a bakery (more like an open-air stall), where barefoot bakers roll and bake naan to order.
The procedure is simple enough. When you order naan, the baker takes a soft white ball of dough and rolls it into a flat bread. A few slaps from hand to hand stretch the bread into its traditional teardrop shape. The baker presses the bread onto the wall of a hot tandoor using a pillowlike holder called a gaddi (literally throne). The gaddi protects the baker’s hand—a must when you consider that the temperature of the tandoor can reach 700°F. The bread emerges from the oven puffed and blistered on top and crisp and brown on the bottom. It’s sweet and smoky, pliable and moist, and about as delicious as bread gets.
Most of us don’t have tandoors, but good results can be obtained with an American-style barbecue grill. Over the years I’ve experimented with various techniques, including placing a baking stone in the grill. The best results come with cooking the naan directly on the grate over the flames.