Naan as anyone who has made a trip to an Indian restaurant knows is an Indian leavened flat bread (most Indian breads are unleavened). Given their high cost at the grocery store, I decided that I would try my hand at making these at home. I found a recipe that uses Indian whole wheat (atta) flour at a website called Monsoon Spice. While atta is technically a whole wheat flour, this variety of wheat has been bred over millennia to have very little bran and thus a relatively high glycemic index. Regular whole wheat is not a great option for naans either since it is tough-tasting and not at all delicate like a naan, typically made with all-purpose flour, is supposed to be. I had read some place that whole wheat pastry flour, which is whole wheat flour ground superfine, was a very good whole-wheat flour to use in breads, pizzas and even pastries (!) so I decided to give it a shot. I was very pleased with the naans this produced, very supple and delicate. So here is the recipe with a small number of adaptations from the original.
2½ cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour (I am guessing that this can also be substituted by whole what pastry flour)
¼ cup warm milk
¾ – 1 cup Yogurt (I used 1 cup)
1 packet Yeast
½ tbsp Sugar
¼ tsp Baking Powder
1-1½ tsp Salt
2 tbsp Oil
Warm water for kneading
Flour for dusting and rolling the naan.
Ghee/butter for frying and for brushing on top.
Toppings: anything you like. I used: Nigella seeds (kalonji), garlic & chopped cilantro.
1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk (110˚F).
2. Mix flours, baking powder and salt. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, slowly add yogurt, oil and yeast. Add little warm water as needed. Continue to knead till you get a soft pliable dough, about 7-10 min. You can also make your dough in a high-end blender or food processor or you can knead by hand.
3. Make a smooth round dough ball and coat with a thin film of oil. Cover the dough with a cheese cloth or plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place for 1½ to 2 hours till the dough doubles in size. I turn my oven on at the lowest setting for 5 min and then turn it off and let the dough rise in the oven.
4. Punch down the dough to release air and divide it into 8-12 equal sized balls.
Cooking the Naan:
There are several ways to cook the naan: in the oven, on a grill and on a griddle on a stove top. The recipes for all of these are available on various websites. I used a Lodge cast-iron griddle on the stove as follows:
1. Heat the tawa/griddle till quite hot.
2. While the griddle is heating, roll or stretch the dough into a round or tear-drop shaped flat bread about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle your toppings and gently press them into the dough using a rolling pin. I pressed a few Nigella seeds on both sides.
3. Flip the naan and sprinkle a little water and place the water side down on the heated griddle. Cook for a minute or so until you see a few bubbles form and then flip. The naan should have brown blisters/spots on the side that was down.
4. Cook the second side for a minute or so as well. If desired, smear some ghee/butter to the top of the naan before serving.
Serve with curries, pickles or any Indian meal. Naans also make a great pizza base.
Flavoring/Tempering the ghee (tadka): Optional
As an alternative to smearing ghee alone on your cooked naan, you can temper the ghee with nigella seeds, minced garlic and cilantro and smear this concoction on the naan right before serving. Simply heat 2 tbs of ghee in a small sauce pan, add the nigella seeds, minced garlic and chopped cilantro till the ghee turns aromatic, a matter of few seconds. Take the ghee off the fire and your schmear is ready.