Naan and all things Indian, I love it!

Indian food is amazing to me. The intense heat, the complex spices and the subtle sweetness to balance it out just thrill me. I wish I could make all of the complex dishes I love at home. I confess however, that I don’t know enough about them to understand the names of dishes let alone all the necessary ingredients. In fact, I could probably count on my hands and toes the number of times I’ve actually eaten at Indian restaurants. Kansas City has one in particular that was a favorite of mine. Korma Sutra is in mid-town KC and it was there that I discovered my love of okra, roasted goat and samosas. Honestly, there isn’t an Indian dish I’ve tried that I didn’t enjoy.

I have made a few impromptu curry dishes with just the basic curry powder and coconut milk. They are good and many people I’ve served them to have complimented me on them. They are in no way authentic or do they compare with the fabulous dishes I’ve had at restaurants. The food creates a picture of India for me that makes me yearn to visit. How can food which tastes so good not come from a fascinating and beautiful country?

I have a friend from Mumbai who would tell me she thought I could handle visiting India above many of her other friends. In part because I do love the food so much but also because I am accepting of cultures and have an adventurous spirit. I hope that’s true and I hope some day to find out. After seeing the new film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and a myriad of amazing British actors, I’m certain that I could not only endure the vibrant odors, colors and culture but relish it!

So, what’s this all about? Well, yesterday I took a second stab at baking Naan (leavened flatbread). Several years ago I attempted to bake some and read the recipe wrong, adding a tablespoon of salt rather than the recommended teaspoon. This time I rigorously adhered to the recipe (well I did tweak it a bit). My efforts were successful, even if I do say so myself.

Simply beautiful!

I used a different recipe this time, one that I knew would be fabulous from Ruth Reichl’s “Gourmet Cookbook”. I have made many of the recipes from this book and every one of them is wonderful. Ruth was the editor of “Gourmet” magazine until is was shut down last year. All of the recipes in the book are the most successful recipes from the magazine.  They have been tested and used and perfected. It’s my second favorite cookbook, buy it if you can! I bought it when it was first published for over $30. You can now buy the same book at Amazon for $7 – $8. Wow.

So, anyway, here is the recipe. Keep in mind that I modified the recipe to exclude the poppy seeds.

Naan
Leavened Flatbread with Mixed Seeds

NOTE: The Indian leavened flatbread called naan doesn’t require a traditional tandoor oven; a pizza stone works well. It doesn’t need to be restricted to an Indian meal either; it’s delicious with leg of lamb or a vegetarian dish with a smidge of cumin or curry powder.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar {I used honey}
1 tablespoon warm water (105-115 degrees)
3-4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black poppy seeds {I didn’t use any}
1/2 cup warm whole milk (105-115 degrees) {I used non-fat buttermilk}
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt, at room temperature {I used Greek non-fat}
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten (room temp)
1-1/2 teaspoon mixed seeds, such as nigella seeds, sesame seeds, and/or white poppy seeds {I didn’t use any}
Kosher salt for sprinkling {I used lavender sea salt instead – If you can find it, get it! It’s the most amazing herb to cook with!}

NOTE ABOUT SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: A baker’s peel is an especially helpful tool for inserting dough onto the pizza stone. I don’t own one so it was a bit tricky getting the very pliable dough onto the extremely hot stone without burning myself but I made do with two wide spatulas.

Stir together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Sift together 2-1/2 cups flour, salt, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon black poppy seeds into a large bowl. Stir together milk, yogurt, onion and 2 tablespoons of butter in another bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture, then add yeast mixture, milk mixture, and egg and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding just enough of remaining flour to prevent dough from sticking. Form dough into a ball, transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Place pizza stone on oven floor if using a gas oven, on the lowest rack if using electric (remove other racks in either case), and preheat oven to highest setting (500-550 degrees F). Allow about one hour to preheat stone. Flour two or three baking sheets.

Once dough has doubled, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Roll out each quarter with a floured rolling pin into a 1/8-inch oval about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide. Transfer to floured baking sheets, cover with kitchen towels, and let rest for 10 minutes.

If using, stir together remaining seeds into a small bowl.

Transfer 1 dough oval to a well-floured peel. Brush top of oval with about 1/2 tablespoon of remaining butter and sprinkle with one quarter of the seeds and kosher salt. Line up far edge of peel with far edge of stone and tilt peel, jerking it gently to start dough moving. when edge of oval touches stone, quickly pull back peel to transfer loaf to stone (do not pull dough back). Bake until edges are golden brown and bread bubbles (top will be an uneven golden brown), 5 to 6 minutes. Keep naan warm, loosely covered with foil, while you bake remaining loaves, one at a time, in the same manner.

NOTE: Baking these w/out a peel is dangerous! Be careful and DON’T burn yourself, please.

Enjoy this amazing bread.  Since I didn’t have an Indian dish to serve this with I just made a goat cheese spread using my favorite curry powder. Simple, easy, and YUM-MEE!

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