The Naan bread is a recipe you can’t miss If you plan to prepare an Indian dinner! This simple flatbread is rich in history and taste, and even if the traditional method requires a Tandoor oven, Naan will be delicious also cooked in a cast iron skillet!
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ORIGIN OF NAAN
All the time we talk about bread, the origin of the recipe roots into the oldest history of the cuisine. The Naan bread recipe is not an exception. This Asian bread is mentioned the first time on 1300 AC by the Indian poet and musician Amir Khusrow, but its origin is almost certainly older: probably since the arrive of yeast in India from Egypt. During the Moghul era, Naan was served as breakfast at noble families.
Naan in old Persian means bread, and in Iran indicate any kind of bread. The Naan bread served in all the Indian restaurant from all over the world has been likely invented between India and Pakistan. Over the centuries, Naan spread into Myanmar, Afganistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and the Chinese region of Xingjian. As a result of the migration flows, Naan also reached the Persian Gulf.
On 1799 the Western world knew the Naan, thanks to William Tooke, an English historian, and clergyman who mentioned this bread on his logs and after into his etymological Encyclopedia of Russia.
Thanks the popularity of Naan, this flatbread has become quickly a must-to-serve in the Indian restaurant in Europe, and the USA, and Canada. Currently, Naan bread is easy to find in almost all the groceries, but honestly, there is no comparison between homemade and industrial Naan!
NAAN AND OTHER ASIAN BREAD
The Naan dough is composed of flour, water, yogurt, and yeast, then traditionally cooked in the tandoor oven. As I said, Naan is world-famous, but it is just one among plenty of delicious Asian bread. Some examples are:
- Chapati: this Indian flatbread is made combining the same flour for Naan with water and salt, but without yeast.
- Paratha: is a Traditional Thai bread popular in many regions of South-East Asia. The dough is made with flour, water, and vegetable oil, then cooked in a Tawa, the Indian cast iron skillet.
- Melopan: is a Japanese sweet bread, popular in Korea and China as well, flavored with melon and filled with chocolate, or pastry cream, or caramel.
- Baozi: also called just Bao, is a Chinese white bun filled with meat or vegetables. The contemporary version of Bao is served as a Western burger, either sweet or salty.
Even if plain Naan is delicious, this bread is often stuffed with various ingredients and spices. Naan can be enriched with Nigella, or Khus, or sesame seeds, or Rose flavoring. The most famous stuffed Naan are:
- Keema Naan: with ground Mutton, Goat, or Lamb meat.
- Peshawar Naan: with a mixture of nuts and raisins.
- Kulcha Naan: with onions and potatoes.
- Paneer Naan: with Indian cheese.
Besides these traditional variations, the Western cuisines have elaborated some tasty variations like the Pizza Naan, and Burger Naan.
TANDOORI OVEN AND HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE NAAN
The traditional Naan bread recipe requires a Tandoor oven. The origin of this particular oven is very ancient, and probably descents from the Egyptian ovens. The Punjabi Tandoor is the most popular oven in India and Pakistan, and can reach temperatures of about 900° F (480° C): basically it is a clay jar dig into the soil, and fuelled with firewood. The Naan is cooked stuck against the inside wall of the oven.
Unless you have a Tandoor oven in your garden, the best way to cook Naan in your kitchen is on a cast iron skillet. Most people prefer bake Naan into the standard oven, but after some tests, I still prefer the skillet!
NAAN BREAD RECIPE
- 5 cups (610 g) all purpose flour
- 15 tbsp (230 g) low-fat yogurt plain
- 1/4 oz (7g) active dry yeast
- 5 tbsp Ghee (click here for the recipe)
- 1 cup (235 ml) warm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp table salt
- NAAN MIXTURE
Pour the warm water into a bowl, then add the yeast, and the sugar, then stir. Let the yeast activate a few minutes, then add the room temperature yogurt and stir. Now, add 4 cups of flour a little at a time, stirring and eventually the table salt and 1 tbsp of softened ghee.
- KNEADING THE DOUGH
Now, transfer the Naan dough on a cutting board and knead at least 10 minutes adding enough flour until obtaining a shiny and consistent ball. The total amount of flour depends on the humidity in the air; just add flour until the dough is still smooth, but does not stick against the cutter anymore. Finally, transfer the dough again into the bowl, wrap, and let it raise until the mixture double its size (about 1 hour).
- NAAN BREAD INTO THE SKILLET
Divide the dough into 12 balls and let them rest 15 minutes over the cutting board, covered with a cloth. After that, melt the ghee in a little pot and place the cast iron skillet over medium/high heat. If it is the first time, probably you need a few tests to set the heat correctly and calculate the cooking time. Take the first ball of dough and roll until ⅛ inch thick. Once the skillet is scorching, brush it with a little quantity of ghee and cook the first Naan. When the dough is starting to lift off, brush the upside with a little bit of ghee, then flip it and cook until done but still moist with some black bubbles and a grilled taste. Transfer the flatbread eventually on a plate, and brush with another little amount of melted ghee. Repeat the process with the rest of the balls, stacking of the already cooked Naan.
- SERVING NAAN BREAD
Serve the Naan immediately, or store in the fridge and re-heat in the oven just before eating.
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