17 July 2012

Eats: naan

Despite my penchant for Indian cuisine, until our London trip, my Indian food experiences had largely been limited to the following:

1) A monthly evening seminar at my old institution, which frequently served takeaway Indian food to the attendees
2) The one time I met a guy from the internet at an Indian buffet for lunch and then ended up marrying him a few years later

Indian cuisine is generally tasty, whether having it at work or with the guy you’ll eventually marry. I’ve never tried something and not liked it (and fortunately, because Hindus frequently stick to vegetables, you can be adventurous without worrying about accidentally eating beating chicken hearts). And yet my favorite part of the meal is usually the naan, the pillowy fried flatbread you can use to soak up all the different, delicious sauces. When I decided to try my hand at tikka masala (with varying success, as I told you yesterday), I also decided to make homemade naan for the first time!

But don’t worry, dear readers, if you’re not into Indian food. Naan is a great flatbread for all sorts of meals – just like my favorite color palettes, its flavor is very neutral, especially compared to the flavorful Indian food it complements. And this source recipe is straightforward and not too time-consuming, perfect for all your flatbread needs!

Naan is a yeast bread, so start by dissolving two teaspoons (approximately one “packet”) of yeast in half a cup of warmish water and a teaspoon of sugar. After a few minutes to let the little yeasties wake up, stir in an egg, the remainder of that yogurt cup from yesterday (one-third cup), and a quarter-cup of oil (I used half olive, half vegetable). It will look weird.

It’s supposed to look like that. I think.

Then it’s time to add half a teaspoon of salt and some flour. You know, some.

The idea is to add a cup of flour and keep adding more until it’s... doughy. Unable to be stirred, the source says. Like this.

It ends up being about three cups of flour, so you could in theory just dump it all in at the beginning. To each his own.

Then: knead! Or give your stand mixer a workout with its dough hook.

After kneading, form the dough into a ball like so:

And return the dough to a bowl, cover, and stick it in a warmish place (yeast like warmish stuff, you see) for about an hour, until it rises to double its original size.

Once it’s risen, divvy the dough up into eight equal pieces (I did half, then fourths) and flatten into little naan-patties. I didn’t bother rolling the dough out with a rolling pin, though perhaps I should have – they were a bit thick.

Then comes the best part: FRYING! Fried bread, you guys. Yum.

If you’re counting calories as we usually do at Casa P, you can just grease a medium-hot griddle with cooking spray. If you are cooler than us, though, go for butter. Either way, you want to fry the naan until you see big bubbles under the surface:

It takes a few minutes, but still, keep your eye on them. Then flip ‘em!

My naan didn’t get the bubble-burn-marks as pretty as the source, but they still turned out pretty nice!

The only change I would have made is to roll the naan a bit thinner before frying, as directed. I avoided rolling because I wanted to fit four pieces on my griddle (not a great reason) and because I was worried I’d press out the bubbles. But it was still fairly dense anyway, so it’s best to make it thinner! Thick or thin, though, this naan was tasty with our tikka masala:

So as I said, this is an easy and quick (minus the rising time) recipe with delicious, moist results – perfect for any flatbread application! Wait, “flatbread application”? Is that even a thing? Hmm. I think I’m still a bit jet-lagged.