When anyone, anywhere, talks to me about Indian food, it is almost guaranteed that within the first two minutes of the conversation I will be asked whether or not I know how to make naan. This, of course, is understandable. Is there any Indian food more cherished than warm, soft, pillowy naan? Sure, people may love spicy sauces, savory grilled meats, and crisply seasoned vegetables, but what is the one thing that every single person—regardless of their age or fondness for Indian food—reaches for when faced with a huge spread of Indian food? Yeah. They reach for the naan. It is, in essence, soft and chewy buttered white bread, which, no matter who you are, you are almost guaranteed to love.
The interesting thing about me and my history of making Indian food is that for years I did not make naan. Call it lack of investigation or intuitiveness in regard to technique, but I always thought that making naan meant having to build your own tandoor and, come on, even I know where to draw the line when it comes to cooking fanaticism. Luckily, my interest in making naan eventually got the best of me and I started looking up ways to make naan at home without the aid of a clay oven that is required to heat up to a balmy 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because having that sort of thing at home? Yeah, that’s insane.
After years of trial and error, I believe I have come up with two fairly foolproof methods of making naan at home. The dough, for those yeast-phobes out there, is the simplest part of the process. You just mix, knead, then wait. The cooking can happen one of two ways. You can either cook each naan on top of a pizza stone that has been left to heat in your kitchen’s oven for about 30 minutes or so, or you can grill the flatbreads on an outdoor grill that has been heated as hot as it can possibly get without causing itself to melt. I favor the grill method, but either one will work beautifully.
Last Year: Meyer Lemon Whiskey Sour
Looking for something to go with this naan? Peruse the Savory Salty Sweet Indian food archives to find a selection of delicious Indian recipe.
Garlic Naan Recipe
When I make naan with children, it is great fun to have each kid roll out his or her own naan, then watch me place it on the grill, close the lid, and eventually pull out a fresh, bubbly piece of perfectly cooked flatbread. Though I have yet to convince every kid in my neighborhood (or even in my own house), that Indian food is delicious, it takes absolutely no effort at all to get kids to enjoy naan.
1 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup plain yogurt
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
optional: toasted cumin seeds, coarsely chopped cilantro
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to combine, then allow yeast to bloom and foam (this should take no more than 5 minutes). In a small bowl, combine the egg and yogurt and beat together. Set aside.
When the yeast has foamed up a bit, slowly stir in the yogurt and egg mixture. Slowly add the flour, ½ a cup at a time, until the mixture starts to come together. Add the salt.
On a well floured surface, or in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, knead dough for 5 to 7 minutes, until it forms a smooth, elastic ball. Shape dough into a tight ball, and allow to rise in a covered, well-oiled bowl for 2 to 2 ½ hours, until the dough has doubled in size and is quite soft and pillowy.
Gently punch down dough, then knead in the minced garlic. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a tight round ball, then place on a well-floured baking sheet. Cover dough balls with a lightly floured or oiled dish towel or sheet of plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise for 30 minutes.
While the dough is rising a second time, preheat your oven or grill as high as it will go (500 degrees is a good temperature for which to shoot). If using an oven, place a pizza stone in the oven to preheat.
When the dough balls have doubled in size and the oven or grill is extremely hot, roll out one ball of dough at a time into a rough oval. Right before you place the rolled dough onto the pizza stone or in the grill, use both hands to stretch the dough lengthwise just a tad. Place the dough on the baking stone or in the hot grill, close the oven or grill, and allow the dough to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is bubbly on top and golden brown beneath. Quickly and carefully flip the dough over, brush the top with melted butter, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until speckled with golden brown all over.
Place cooked naan on a large platter, then cover with a large piece of foil or a dishtowel. Continue cooking all the naan in this manner, covering each one after it has cooked. If you wish, you can sprinkle each naan with a pinch of toasted cumin seeds and chopped cilantro.
Makes 8 very large and pillowy naan.