Thursday, May 14, 2015

naan bread

It's safe to say that even with the number of paleo, gluten-free, and all around bread-a-phobics in this world, that I am doing my part to ensure that bread consumption remains at an all time high. Because bread is good. Really freaking good. I don't need some fad diet to encourage me otherwise.  

The reason why I think so many people adopt a gluten free diet is because a lot of the bread in this world is bad (I will go as far as to say awful).  It lacks flavor and texture and all of the things that I deem necessary to make a slice worth eating.  The problem lies with the fact that people buy all of their bread at the supermarkets and such loaves are filled with things that do nothing for their taste but everything for their shelf life.  Even I would go gluten free if I was forced to eat only bread that came plastic wrapped from the supermarket.   

Homemade bread on the other hand, warm from the oven, is an incredibly beautiful thing. Homemade naan is even more beautiful with its charred outside and tender flaky inside.  I like naan for a number of reasons - it's excellent vehicle for wiping your plate clean (Clean Plate Club woo!) and it's incredibly adaptable.  Sure it's an awesome accouterments to saag paneer but it also makes for one incredibly flatbread base (with ground lamb, a dollop of yogurt and a shmear of harissa).  Bread that tastes good and is adaptable to any number of food situations is a good thing to have in your repertoire (especially because grilling season is upon us and grilled naan is insane).   

Naan Bread
Recipe via the NYTimes

1 envelope (2 ½ teaspoons) dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting and rolling
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons milk (or buttermilk)
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, more for the bowl
3 tablespoons ghee (Indian-style clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees). Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place 4 1/2 cups flour, the salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade or in mixer with a dough hook. Mix to blend. Add yeast mixture, milk, yogurt, egg, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 3/4 cup warm water. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes in a processor, 5 to 8 minutes in a mixer, 8 to 10 minutes by hand. Dough should be soft but not too sticky. Add flour as needed.

Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll them into balls, place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes.

If using a tandoor, heat it to about 450 degrees. If using the oven, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack and heat oven to 450 degrees. If using a barbecue grill, set it up for direct grilling and heat to medium-high.

Roll out a dough ball on a lightly floured work surface into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Roll and stretch one end to make a teardrop shape. Brush off any excess flour. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using a tandoor, drape one piece of dough over the round cloth pillow called a gadhi. Press the bread onto the hot clay wall. Cook the naan until the top is puffed, blistered and browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a skewer, gently pry the bread off the tandoor wall, taking care not to scratch the clay. Brush the top of the bread with ghee or melted butter, then place in a cloth-lined basket for serving. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using an oven, turn on the broiler. Lay 1 or 2 pieces of dough on the pizza stone. Cook until the bottoms are browned and the tops blister, puff and are lightly toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven, brush tops with ghee or melted butter, and place in a cloth-lined basket for serving. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using the grill, brush and oil the grate. Lightly brush top of dough with butter and place butter-side down on grate a few at a time (do not crowd the grate). Grill until the bottoms are browned and the tops start to puff and blister, 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly brush the tops with a little butter. Invert bread, and grill the other side until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a cloth-lined basket, brushing tops of each with any remaining butter.

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