16 June 2010

very happy stranded whales

Finally. Naan at last!

This must have been the single longest quest for a recipe / method that I've ever completed.

See, both my wife and I love Indian food. My wife especially loves naan, the fluffy, crispy, butter-soaked flatbread that's served as a side dish instead of rice.

So naturally, learning how to make naan was high up on my list of things to learn. Yet unlike most of the things my family has put there, naan seemed to be especially difficult to replicate in a home oven. At least, to replicate in a way that my lovely wife would find good enough, that is. (I think I already mentioned once or twice that she is rather discerning and open-voiced about her food... Bless ya, Honey!)

Anyway, these little rascals eluded my culinary grasp for at least two years. Two years, can you believe it?
But a few weeks ago, emboldened by my successes with Anis Bouabsa's baguettes, I tried them again, with a recipe I cobbled together as a median from all those I've tried over the years.

And believe it or not, they turned out perfect!

Crisp on the outside, feathery light and chewy inside, soaked with ghee but far from soggy. Perfectly delicious, and almost a shame to serve merely as a side.

We had them last Sunday with a bowl of nice, hot chicken curry, and we stuffed ourselves to the point that we felt like stranded whales afterwards. More precisely, we felt like very happy stranded whales, lying on our bed, holding hands and watching Germany play their first match in the world soccer championship and win. What a great end to a great weekend.

Naan is a traditional Indian staple, yet I make no claim of authenticity. I've never eaten proper naan in India, nor would I know if any of those I have eaten are 'the real thing'. What I can claim, though, is that these are perfectly authentic Indian naan as served in British restaurants as perceived by a German tourist couple. Though that's probably not even worth the time needed to write that sentence.

Anyway - try them, they're plain delicious and a great alternative to rice in many menus. And I really, really do not take any responsibility if you overstuff yourselves in the process.

(makes four medium pieces, as sides for two people)

200g high-gluten flour (German type 550)
50g whole wheat flour (German type 1050)
1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8g salt
150ml milk
50g unpasteurized yoghurt

2 teaspoons clarified butter (ghee)

On the morning of baking:
For the dough, combine all the ingredients except the ghee and mix for about a minute. Leave to rest for about an hour at room temperature.
The dough will be very wet right now, with hardly any elasticity, but that's okay.

After the rest, knead the dough again for about a minute, then leave to rest for another 30 minutes.

When the dough has rested, transfer into a lightly oiled, shallow bowl and give a set of 'stretch and folds'. Leave to rest for another 30 minutes.

After this rest, give the dough another set of 'stretch and folds'. Rest and repeat two more times, until the dough becomes smooth and stops sticking to your fingers.
Maybe you'll need one more set of 'stretch and folds' than I do, maybe one less. The dough is ready once it is elastic enough that you can lift it out of the bowl in one piece.

Leave to rest, covered at room temperature, until needed, two hours at least.

an hour before serving:
Preheat your oven with baking stone as high as you can. Mine tops out at 250°C.
I wouldn't suggest trying this without a baking stone. Maybe a heavy cast-iron skillet or an upturned dutch oven will work as well, but I really don't know.

Twenty minutes before serving, quarter the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into an oval- or tear-shape, not thicker than your little finger. Cover with a dishcloth and leave to proof for fifteen minutes.

Five minutes before serving, pick up the naans and transfer onto the baking stone as swiftly as you can, trying to let as little heat escape as possible.

The naan will only need a few minutes in the oven. They will puff up mightily and start getting golden freckles. Once the first freckles start going from golden to hazel, they're ready.
Take a look at the naan in the picture above, they're a pretty decent guidance. And of course, they're ready when they look ready to you. 

Immediately take the naan out of the oven. Put onto a large plate and flatten gently, if necessary. Divide the ghee between the four pieces and brush them with the melting butter. Serve instantly.

Naan only tastes good fresh out of the oven and doesn't keep at all.
Naan goes perfectly with all kinds of hot and spicy dishes and anything with a decent gravy. Watch out, you might eat way more than you should.

P.S.: This post will be sent to the YeastSpotting section of Susan's formidable blog Wild Yeast, a home baker's resource I can hardly recommend too much.


Elizabeth said...

Mmmm, naan! Yours look delicious.

Thank you for the reminder to make naan again soon (to go with Palak Paneer and butter chicken....) so we too can be happy stranded whales.

And because it's summer, we'll bake them on the barbecue. (Preheat the barbecue and place the shaped naan directly on the grill; close the lid. It takes virtually no time at all for them to puff up.)


(came across your post via Susan's Yeastspotting)

Wesley's Girl said...

YUM!!! I am so happy I found your blog! I love all these pictures and the idea of homemade naan is something I want to try!

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@Elisabeth - Oh I've never had the idea of putting naan onto the grill directly, but I'll definitely try the next time we make tandoori chicken. Thanks so much for the idea!

@Wesley's Girl - Thanks a ton for the compliments, and what a lovely picture of you in your icon!

mrsjohn said...

Really like this website, this really helps and very usefulMmmm, naan! Yours look delicious
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