Easy method for deliciously versatile flatbreads!
Naan is a leavened bread that is popular in many global cuisines including those of India, Western and Central Asia, Indonesia, the Caribbean and more. What sets it apart from some other flatbreads in terms of preparation and flavour is the inclusion of yogurt or milk, to produce a softer dough. Naan are great as an accompaniment to curries (where they are often torn into pieces and used as scoops), spread with toppings and baked pizza-style, or used to make wraps. As the recipe below explains, after you’ve prepared the dough and let it rise once, you can shape it into small balls and freeze to bake at a later date if you prefer. One of the advantages of this method is that you can cook up just a few naan at a time rather than committing to a whole batch. I like my naan ‘as is’ or with a lick of melted butter and a sprinkle of parsley, but feel free to swipe some melted garlic butter across its pillowy soft surface if you prefer. If you love the idea of preparing bread products in advance for future baking, check out these terrific mashed potato dinner rolls.
- 1 cup (250 mL) warm water (about 110-115F)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey
- 1 (0.25 ounce/7 g) package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 3 1/2 cups (507 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (61 g) plain yogurt
- 2 teaspoons (11 g) fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup (56 g) melted butter or garlic butter and minced parsley, to garnish (optional)
- Stir together the warm water and honey in a large mixing bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one). Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and stir gently, then let the mixture rest for until the yeast is foamy (about 5 minutes)
- Add the flour, yogurt, salt, baking powder and egg to the yeast mixture and combine using a large spoon (or the dough hook of your stand mixer). With stand mixer, continue to mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes until a smooth, slightly sticky dough ball forms. It should no longer stick to the bowl; if it does, add a bit more flour, a teaspoon at a time. If mixing by hand, stir until all ingredients are incorporated then knead on a lightly floured work surface for 2-3 minutes until a smooth, slightly sticky dough ball has formed, adding a bit more flour if needed.
- Remove dough from the mixing bowl and shape it into a ball. Lightly grease a bowl about twice the size of the dough ball with vegetable oil, then place the dough in the prepared bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm location (I use the ‘proof’ feature of my oven; you can heat yours to 170F then turn it off) and let rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has nearly doubled in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a floured work surface. Flatten and shape it into a rectangle with your hands, then use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces. Use your hands to form each portion of dough into a ball, tucking the edges under to make the top surface smooth.
- Place the dough balls, about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, on a parchment-lined baking tray. If baking soon, skip over the next two steps to freeze and thaw the dough.
- At this point, you can place the tray in the freezer for about 2 hours, until dough is solidly frozen. Transfer the frozen dough balls to an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- When ready to bake from frozen, remove the desired number of dough balls from the freezer and place on a parchment-lined baking tray. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let thaw and rise 4 – 5 hours at room temperature, until no longer cold. Speed up the rising by placing in a barely-warm oven.
- If you aren’t freezing the dough balls because you intend to cook the naan within the next 60-90 minutes, cover and let rise a second time at room temperature.
- When ready to cook the dough balls which have risen a second time, you’ll need to flatten and roll them out as thinly as possible (aim for 1/4 inch or .6 cm). I find it easiest to do this by placing each dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper and then using a rolling pin to flatten and spread them into a circle or oval. Because the cooking process is so fast, I prefer to roll out all the dough balls I am intending to cook before I turn on the stove; I keep each one on a piece of parchment until ready to flip it into the pan.
- To cook, heat a very large, heavy-duty skillet (cast iron is great) over medium-high heat until it is hot (water droplets should sizzle ferociously in the pan). Working with one piece of rolled-out dough at a time, cook for about 1 minute, or until the top of the dough begins to bubble and the bottom turns lightly golden. Flip the dough and cook on the second side for 30-60 seconds, or until the bottom is golden as well, then transfer the dough to a clean plate. Cover with a clean towel to keep warm.
- Repeat with remaining dough until all of the naan is cooked, adjusting the heat of the pan if needed to keep it hot (but not overly-hot so that it burns the bread).
- Brush with butter and sprinkle with parsley, if desired, then serve.
Makes 8 naan (approximately 7-8 inches / 17.5-20 cm) in diameter). Recipe can easily be doubled.