I was heading out to buy some naan bread at the grocery store to go with the amazingly delicious Chicken Kafta Masala I was about to make when it occurred to me, why don’t I try to make it myself? I’m so glad that I did because this was one of the most fun and gratifying bread baking experiences I’ve had, and that’s saying a lot! Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flat-bread. It is traditionally served hot and brushed with ghee (basically clarified butter), regular butter or olive oil. It can be stuffed with herbs, cheese or even minced meat. Seasonings such as garlic can even be worked into the dough itself. It is can be used as a wrap as well. I like it best brushed with ghee and served along side a curry dish where this is lots of sauce, rice and meat that can be scooped onto the naan and eaten with it.
The dough is super easy to make, especially if you use instant yeast because you don’t even have to bloom it. You let it rise once until it’s doubled in size, punch down and pinch off portions of the dough, roll them into balls, let them rise briefly again, roll them out thin and cook them on a hot pizza stone. You can make them as thin as you like, brush them with ghee, season them with whatever you want and even stuff them with cheese! I think I had the technique down pretty good by the end so your first few might be a bit rough (my first few were too thick) but still quite delicious! When they are cooking they will puff up and look like footballs almost but don’t worry, there’s just a ton of air in there that will deflate out after they come out of the oven. The key to getting the slightly charred and bubbled surface without an actual tandoori oven is cranking your oven as hot as it will go (mine goes to 550 degrees F) and preheating a pizza stone in there for at least a half hour to get it sizzling.
This bread also keeps well, especially if you only brush the dough that you plan on serving that day with butter or ghee. You can then top the plain bread on the day you are ready to use it or just eat it plain.
I have included instructions for making ghee which is what I used to brush the tops of my naan with. It is a simple process but don’t overcook it or you will have to start over. I learned this the hard way! But now I know how to easily make clarified butter
Ghee (Clarified Butter)
- ½ pound unsalted butter
- Fine kosher salt, optional
- Place a sauce pan over medium-high with the butter inside
- Allow butter to melt and bring to a boil. This should take only about 2-3 minutes
- Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium
- A foam will form on the top and then disappear
- A second foam will form and when that foam starts to disappear and the butter has just turned golden brown, the ghee is done. Don’t overcook- remove from heat when just golden brown.
- Remove from heat and pour the butter through a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel positioned in a colander or sieve over a heat proof bowl. This will filter out the brown bits which are the butter solids
- Ghee will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 month without refrigeration.
- You may add salt to the ghee if desired
- 2 tsp. instant yeast (or one package of active dry yeast)
- 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar
- 3 tbsp. warm milk OR yogurt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tsp. fine kosher or sea salt
- 1/8 tsp. baking soda
- 4 cups bread flour, plus additional for dusting
- Canola or vegetable oil for greasing bowl
- Ghee for brushing on bread
- Kosher salt and/or herbs to season
- Queso fresco or farmer’s cheese, crumbled, for filling (optional)
- If making the dough with instant yeast: combine yeast, water, sugar, milk, egg, 2 tsp. salt, baking soda and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the flour gradually, as you may need a bit less or a bit more- enough to bring ingredients together into a soft dough.
- If using dry active yeast you will need to bloom it first: mix the first three ingredients together and let sit until frothy (5-15 minutes), then mix the bloomed yeast mixture in with the rest of ingredients as directed for instant yeast
- Dump out of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is too dry (you added too much flour) you can sprinkle a tsp. of room temperature water over the dough and knead it in.
- Place dough ball into a well-oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1-2 hours or until the dough is doubled in volume
- Punch down the dough
- Pinch off small handfuls of dough to the size you desire, ~golf ball sized
- Roll into balls and place on a tray, cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes
- While dough is rising, preheat oven to 500 or 550 degrees (or your oven’s highest setting if lower) with a pizza stone or steel inside
- Roll out one ball at a time into a thin circle or rectangle (shape doesn’t matter, as long as it’s thin- it should be a bit rustic). Should be ¼ inch thick or less.
- If you want to make cheese stuffed naan, sprinkle crumbled cheese onto half of the rolled out piece of dough, fold it in half and roll out again, pressing the cheese between the layers of dough as proceed as stated
- Place one or two pieces onto pizza stone at a time (depending upon size of your stone) and cook for about 2 minutes. Flip with thongs and cook for 2 more minutes or until it is a bit charred and puffy. Much of the bread will still be quite pale- this is ok. It is very thin which means it cooks very quickly
- Remove from oven to a platter or plate and brush with ghee and sprinkle with desired seasonings. Leave naan bread plain if planning on storing it for a later day.
- Naan will be puffy and bubbly when removed from oven but will deflate a bit as it sits
If you’ve never tried naan you really should! It’s quite delicious and very versitile. So easy to make too! I will be doing this often and now feeling inspired to try making pita bread as well (which I can only assume must be fairly similar). Enjoy