By Luke Chavez
The Times 

Naan Flatbread

My Recipes| Luke Chavez

 

February 3, 2022

Luke Chavez

As we trudge through the gloomy cold days of late winter, my kitchen has been keeping us warm with a steady rotation of favorite soup recipes. With these simmering pots of comfort, I am always looking for the perfect thing to serve on the side for dipping, dunking, and sopping. Homemade fluffy focaccia, crusty bread, cornbread, and biscuits have all been tried. Naan, a flatbread from India, is a leavened option that is relatively quick to produce and cooks beautifully on the stovetop. Finished with melted garlic butter, this delightful bread holds up to the heartiest of soups and stews, making it a current obsession.

Ingredients:

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons sugar, divided

2 teaspoons dried active yeast

1-pound (about 3 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons neutral oil, plus more

¾ cup plain yogurt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup butter

3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

Flakey sea salt

Directions:

In a small saucepan, scald milk by bringing it almost to a boil, then take it off the heat, cool to lukewarm. Place warmed milk in a small bowl and add the yeast with one teaspoon of the sugar. Stir to combine, then set aside for 15 to 20 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and remaining teaspoon of sugar. To the dry ingredients add the yeast mixture, oil, yogurt, and egg. Mix well to form a ball of dough.

Turn dough out on a clean work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Form dough into a ball. Lightly oil a large bowl and roll the ball of dough around in the oil. Cover and set aside in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a small saucepan melt the butter with the garlic and a pinch of salt. Keep warm.

Uncover the dough and punch down. Turn it out on the work surface and lightly knead it again until smooth. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls and dust each with flour. Roll each ball out into an oval about 5 by 8 inches.

Lightly oil a cast-iron skillet and heat on stovetop over high heat until almost smoking. When the pan is ready, cook one naan on the first side for about 1 minute. The bread will puff and bubble while the bottom starts to brown. Flip and cook for another minute or two, until cooked through. Don't worry if it gets charred in spots. Brush top with garlic butter, sprinkle top with a flourish of flakey salt, and transfer to a tray in a warm oven. Continue to cook the remaining naan in the same manner. When they are all cooked and ready to serve, wrap naan in a clean tea towel and place it in a covered dish to keep warm on the table.

Notes:

Common throughout Central Asia, this version of naan comes from Northern India where it is served with virtually every meal, a natural accompaniment to curries and pots of spiced lentils. This chewy versatile flatbread is also wonderful to dip in an array of your favorite soups, stews, or chilies. Also, lovely for flatbread sandwiches or alongside a Mediterranean mezze platter.

The melted butter on top can be left plain with just salt, but the garlic is an added delight. Experiment with different finishing spices sprinkled on top such as cumin, nigella seeds, crushed chili flakes, or sumac.

In India this bread is traditionally cooked in a wood-fired tandoori clay oven, giving it characteristic black charred spots. The hot skillet will create these spots of dark brown to almost charred, which add to the flavor.

I recently served this bread with a rich chicken curry, garam marsala simmered vegetables, and basmati rice. An exotic meal that warmed my guests on a particularly frigid winter night. Enjoy!

 

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