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Leavened Oven Bread (Naan)

(recipe, Madhur Jaffrey)


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Introduction

Naan and other similar flat leavened breads are eaten all the way from the Caucasus down through northwestern India. In India, the baking is done in very hot clay ovens or tandoors. The breads are slapped onto the inside walls and cook quite happily alongside skewered chickens. At home, where most of us do not have tandoors, naan can be baked by using both the oven and the grill.

Ingredients

  1. 5 oz. milk, warm
  2. 2 tsp. sugar
  3. 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  4. 1 lb. unbleached all-purpose flour
  5. ½ tsp. salt
  6. 1 tsp. baking powder
  7. 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus a little extra
  8. 5 oz. plain yogurt, lightly beaten
  9. 1 large egg, lightly beaten (optional)

Steps

  1. Put the milk in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the yeast. Stir to mix. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, the yeast mixture, the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, the yogurt, and the egg (if using; see Note). Mix and form a ball of dough.
  3. Empty the ball of dough onto a clean work surface and knead it for 10 minutes or more, until it is smooth and satiny. Form into a ball. Pour about ¼ teaspoon oil into a large bowl and roll the ball of dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
  4. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature. Put the heaviest baking tray you own to heat in the oven.
  5. Punch down the dough and knead it again. Divide it into 6 equal balls. Keep 5 of them covered while you work with the sixth. Roll this ball into a tear-shaped naan, about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide.
  6. Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and slap the naan onto it. Put it immediately into the oven for 3 minutes. It should puff up. Now place the baking tray and naan under the broiler, about 3 or 4 inches away from the heat, for about 30 seconds or until the top of the naan browns slightly. Remove the naan from the oven and wrap it in a clean tea towel.
  7. Make all the naan this way and serve hot.

Note

Naan can be cooked both with and without egg. If you decide not to use the egg, just increase the yogurt by about 4 tablespoons.


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