Feast: Food of the Islamic World
“From the Persian word for bread, naan is found throughout South Asia, and further afield in Central Asian countries. Naan is baked in a tannur oven, but because I doubt many home cooks have access to that, I suggest baking it on a pizza stone or a preheated baking sheet in the oven or in a pan on top of the stove, then sliding it under a hot broiler to get the charred effect on the bubbling bits of bread that you would get in a tannur. The most interesting and most delicious naan I have ever had was from a baker in Hyderabad, India, who made his naans square. They were thicker than normal, and flakier, perhaps because he made his dough with both milk and yogurt. I suggest a round bread here, but you can easily make yours square by diving the dough in half, then flattening each piece into a long rectangle, which you then cut into three medium-sized squares before baking. Serve hot with curry or kebabs of your choice.” —James Beard Award nominee Anissa Helou
- 3 1/2 cups (420 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 packet (7g / 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant (fast-acting) yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) water
- Scant 1/2 cup (120 ml) room temperature organic whole milk
- Vegetable oil, to oil the bowl
- 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 g to 60 g) unsalted melted butter or ghee
Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the milk along with the water and gradually bring in the flour to create a rough dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, invert the bowl over it, and let sit for 15 minutes. Knead for 3 more minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour, or until well risen.
Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and shape each portion into a ball. Brush the balls of dough with the melted butter and let rest for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven.
Preheat the oven to 475°F (250°C). If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom rack of the oven to preheat. If you do not have a pizza stone, preheat a sturdy baking sheet. It is best to bake the naans directly on a hot surface.
Flatten one ball of dough into a round 6 to 7 inches (15 to 17.5 cm) in diameter, or you can flatten and stretch it in length to make an oblong naan, 8 to 9 inches (20 to 22.5 cm) long and 4 inches (10 cm) wide at its widest. Quickly transfer to the hot pizza stone or baking sheet and bake for 4 to 5 minutes, until it has bubbled up in parts and has gone golden brown where it has puffed up. Take out of the oven and brush with butter or ghee. Repeat with the other balls of dough until you have made all 6 naans.
Excerpted from FEAST: Food of the Islamic World (Ecco, 2018). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Kristin Perers.