– three things I love to do. Come with!
Inspired by my experience last month with pizza on the grill, I got to thinking about other flatbreads that are cooked in the same way.
Direct contact with high heat- it’s an in-your-face way to bake, but offers so much more action than just waiting with the oven door closed.
In addition to pizza, many breads are cooked with this technique. English muffins are a yeasted dough cooked both sides on a hot griddle, then split and slathered with butter. Flammkuchen, a German bread with caramelized onions and chunks of bacon, cooks in two minutes flat in a wood-fired oven; its name literally means “cake cooked in flames.” And of course- Naan, the soft, chewy flatbread from India and Central Asia that comes from the fiery tandoor, a compact oven with temperatures close to 1000 F . In a tandoor, the naan cooks right on the vertical sides of the hot oven, like a pancake stuck to the wall. Though I don’t have a tandoor at home, a thoroughly preheated cast iron pan could somewhat approximate the hot cooking surface. The recipe looked simple enough, so I went for it. (I used a recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Best International Recipes Cookbook; see below.)
This dough isn’t fussy, and the finished product doesn’t require too much gluten formation to hold the shape of a loaf of bread. It’s the perfect homemade bread for beginners, and will give you a great feel for working with doughs and shaping pizzas.
In a tandoor, the contact with the wall cooks the bottom of the bread while the radiant heat of the air inside the oven cooks the top. However, with a cast iron skillet, I don’t have the radiant heat all around the naan. Flipping the naan to cook on both sides allows you to apply heat to the dough in a similar fashion.
If you’re thinking this looks all too simple, you’re right. The hands-on portion of the recipe takes thirty minutes, max. But the smell and taste of fresh-griddled bread, made right in your house, will last for days. Go for it!
Naan — Indian Flatbread,
makes 8 pieces
2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, sifted to remove large flakes of bran
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to grease bowl
Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of an upright mixer, mix until uniform. Add the water, yogurt and olive oil; mix with the hook attachment until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the mixer up to medium and let it run for 8 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. It should come clean off the sides of the bowl.
Shape the dough into a large ball, transfer to a well-0iled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Turn dough onto a floured work surface and portion into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set on a floured baking sheet; cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rest 10 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll each ball of dough into a six inch round.
Heat a heavy cast iron skillet over medium high heat until hot, 5 minutes. Working with one round at a time, lift the dough off the counter and stretch one more inch, then place in the hot skillet. Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface, about 30 seconds. Flip the dough and continue cooking until the bottom has deep, golden brown spots. Flip again, and finish cooking so that both sides have coloring. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. Repeat with all dough rounds.
If desired, brush the finished, still-warm naan with melted butter. Serve immediately.