Turn your oven up to 11: Garlic naan

Garlic naan

Continuing the Indian food theme, last night I made dal makhani and garlic naan. First things first: dal makhani. You might have heard of murgh makhani, better known as butter chicken. Dal makhani shares flavour elements with murgh makhani — particularly in the liberal use of butter and cream — but it is a distinct dish and by no means a 'vegetarian' butter chicken. This creamy, aromatic stew of pulses could take your butter chicken any day of the week. I used a recipe from A Life (Time) of Cooking, and in my opinion the recipe is flawless.

But I digress. This post is about naan, the second most delicious of Indian yeast breads (well-made Battura tops the list). This was the first time I've made naan — I could never be bothered making a yeast bread from scratch, measuring and mixing and kneading and rising and rolling and rising, just to serve as a side dish. I'm here to tell you that it's not a hassle. And if it were a hassle, it would be well worth it. Indian curries will often require you to wait for lentils to soften or meat to tenderise, and that's the perfect time to make naan. You could even make the dough in this recipe and freeze it for quick, fresh naan later on.

This recipe was adapted from Stef's at the Cupcake Project. I've made some minor modifications: these are flavoured with garlic, it's a half recipe with measurements by weight, and mine are cooked in an oven. Naan are traditionally cooked against the scorching walls of a tandoor oven, an appliance most Western homes don't have. However, by turning my oven to its hottest setting and preheating it with a cast iron pan inside, I managed to create a furnace that was off the scale of my oven thermometer and cooked these babies in less than 3 minutes. Next time I plan to turn the grill (broiler) on at the same time to boost the heat even further.

Oh yeah, the recipe...

Garlic naan

N.B. Originally I wrote that the recipe called for 2 3/4 cups of flour. That was a typo, it should be 1 3/4 cups. The weight, 230 g, is still correct.

Ingredients (makes 6 naan breads):

  • 3/4 cup of warm milk
  • 1.7g (1/2 tsp) rapid-rise yeast
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) sugar
  • 230 g (1 3/4 cups) strong/baker's/bread/high-protein flour
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 2 tbsp of ghee
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • Pinch of salt

1. Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm milk, and let it stand for 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour and salt with the milk mixture, then when it comes together turn the dough out onto a floured bench and knead for 5-10 minutes until shiny and elastic. Let the dough sit in a warm place, covered, for 40 minutes or until risen1.

Naan dough, risen

3. Put a cast iron pan or baking stone in your oven and preheat for at least 30 minutes at its highest temperature. Meanwhile, knead the dough quickly to degas then separate it into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out to 3-5 mm thickness, dust liberally with flour, and place on top of each other2. Cover and rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. When sufficiently rested they will have lost some of their elasticity.
4. While the naan are resting, cook the garlic in the ghee over a low-medium heat for 5 minutes to soften without coloring. Add a pinch of salt.
5. Lay the uncooked breads on the heated pan/baking stone (no need for oil) in the oven, and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side depending on how crispy you like your naan. They will puff up — this is a good thing.

Naan, cooking

6. Brush the cooked naan with the garlic ghee and serve.

(1) "Until risen" is such a nebulous phrase. Some say the dough should double in size, but that's difficult to judge. The simplest test is to prod it with your finger (push in about an inch): if the dough springs back it's not ready, if a finger-shaped hole remains it is ready.
(2) You can freeze them at this point. Separate each uncooked naan on a tray and place in the freezer. After 1-2 hours when the outside is frozen enough to prevent sticking together, you can throw them all in a freezer bag and store.

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