Saturday, January 21, 2012


I love Indian food (and naan especially) almost as much as I love re-enacting the water ballet scenes from Esther Williams movies and probably as much as I love a rodgering, which is my way of saying that I eat a fucking shit-ton of Indian food. Making naan is a little intimidating the first time, but mastering is like having a superpower. You will make it for people, they will eat it, and then they will do anything to get you to make it again.

Pros: It's delicious. It goes with everything. It's like a plate and a napkin and a wonderful, savory, scrumptious bread thing all in one.

Cons: It takes a veritable fuck-ton of time to make. Flour is a bitch to clean up, but dough is worse. Much worse.

This recipe makes about 15-18 individual naan. You can be a fat shit and eat it all in one go (this happens) or cooked naan can be frozen on stored in an airtight container in the fridge (no one does this).

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water (bathwater warm- it its too hot it will kill the yeast and you're dough won't rise)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour (buy King Arthur Bread Flour- it responds the most consistently. You might not use all 4 cups, you might need a bit more, it's all in how firmly you pack the flour in.)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (the pre-chopped stuff in jars works fantastic. You live in california- I think that stuff was invented there for lazy, gourmet hippies, or something).
1/4 cup melted butter

In a large bowl, proof your yeast. What? You aren't familiar with yeast proofing? Take your yeast packet, 1 tablespoon of sugar for the 1/4 cup you already have and about 1/4 cup of the warm water. Mix together with a whisk and wait about 15 minutes. You mixture will become opaque, foamy and smelly yeasty. In other words it will look and smell like drinks awful, heathen people use to get stoned. (Go Kava!)Once the yeast is proofed (activated), add the sugar, milk, egg, and the rest of the water. Whisk this until well incorporated. Now start to add your flour, about a cup at a time. You can continue to whisk until the dough gets too thick and sticky (usually the 2 cup mark). At this point you want to the add the flour with one hand and use the other hand to work it into the dough.

A word on kneading the dough- naan has two rising and two kneading stages, which, quite frankly seems excessive for a, ah, flatbread, but they're pretty easy going kneads. This not Little House on the Prairie bread here where Ma with make a bitch knead a loaf for hours or until news makes it back to the homestead that Pa's run off with a gang of calico loving homos). So anyway- first knead can be done in the bowl. Just fold the dough in half, punch it back down to its original size and then fold in half again, punch down, repeat. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little bit of flour with each fold. Try to do this with one hand. If you use both hands clean up gets tricky and you may have to come to accept old dough covered faucet knobs as part of your modern man aesthetic.

Get a big, non-stick mixing bowl (seriously, I mean non-stick. Don't go with some rustic earthen wear bowl because you've got Irish music playing and you are feeling natural and in-touch with your roots and have this perfect rustic bowl. There's a reason the rest of the world has moved on to the metal mixing bowl. Spray the inside of the mixing bowl with cook spray. Shape your dough into a rough circle and drop it into the lubed bowl. (The cook spray will allow to actually remove your dough later). Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise someplace warm and dark. If you don't have a special dark bread-rising room than just throw a towel over the bowl. You want to let the dough to rise to about double its size. This takes 1-3 hours depending on how active your yeast was, the temperature where the bowl was and probably other shit you don't care about.

Once the dough has risen, dump it out onto a floured surface. Punch the dough down. Now its time to add the garlic. Take the dough and roll it into a cylinder- spread garlic along the surface of the cylinder and then repeat the fold-punch knead style until the garlic seems well incorporated. It the dough sticks to your fingers while doing this- add more flour. Break off golf ball sections, roll into a ball and set on a sheet for another rise. Be careful to space out the naan balls- they will ride, grow into each other and leave to grumpy and sticky-fingered as your try to pull them apart later. Let rise another 1 hour or so.

Melt the butter and set aside. Heat a large flat pan (frying pan, griddle or these can also be done on a grill proper, so long as it's hot). Spray your pan with cooking spray. While the pan heats up, take one of the naan balls, smash it flat with you hand and then use a rolling pin to flatten into a rough circle. If it seems like the edges are too thick, pick up the naan and hold it by the outside edge, pinching it between the index and thumb finger of both hands and allowing gravity to pull the bread down. Delicately stretch the area between your two fingers and then rotate the bread slightly, do this until you have stretched out the entire circle.
Toss the flattened naan onto your hot pan. Brush the upside with butter. After about 2 minutes the underside of the naan will be cooked and you may see bubbles forming the dough. Once this happens, flip naan over and immediately brush that side with melted butter. This side needs much less time to cook, usually 30 seconds or so. Transfer cooked naan to a dish that can be covered, to prevent them from getting cold and stiff.