I made naan this afternoon, one of the flat, leavened breads of India. These are traditionally baked in a tandoor, a large clay oven in which the naan dough is literally stuck on to the inside wall and baked at the same time that the meat dish -- tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, and so on -- is cooking. Madhur Jaffrey, actress and food writer, offers this version to be baked in the oven. I used a large stoneware baking sheet, which worked perfectly.
Jaffrey suggests that if you don't want to use egg, increase the amount of yogurt by about 4 tablespoons.
I free-formed mine, really -- rolled them out with a mini-roller, but had more fun stretching them in my hands rather like a pizza dough. I have to say that on a rather chilly autumn day like today, the warm, yeasty smell of the rising dough was fabulous. The girls were clustering 'round the whole time -- pinching off bits of dough to nibble, asking "is it done yet?", tearing off pieces of the steaming-hot bread fresh out of the oven. Quite a success.
You can serve the naan brushed with a little melted butter, if you are feeling luxurious.
2/3 cup warm milk (not hot)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for the bowl
2/3 cup plain yogurt, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to the warm milk, and stir. Set aside for 15-20 minutes, until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture has become frothy.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, the oil, yogurt, egg, and yeast mixture, and mix well to form a ball of dough.
On a floured work surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and shiny; form it into a ball. Pour a small amount of oil into a large bowl, and roll the ball of dough in the oil. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 500° F, and place in it a large, heavy baking tray to warm.
Punch down the dough and knead it again. Divide it into 8 equal balls. Cover the pieces that you are not working with. Roll each ball into a tear-shaped piece about 1/2-inch thick. Slap 2 or 3 pieces of dough onto the hot baking sheet and return it to the oven. Bake until lightly browned, 5-8 minutes. Repeat with remaining naan.
Makes 8 naan. Active work time, about 25 minutes; total preparation time, about 1 1/2 hours.
Recipe adapted from Mahdur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking (Barron's, 1983).