If you like Indian food you probably love naan, the flatbread that comes in several varieties. It's often served in a wicker basket and everyone pulls off pieces to use to get every last drop of curry from the plate.
Traditionally, naan is cooked in a tandoor oven which retains a temperature of over 800 degrees. But take heart, you don't need a tandoor in order to make really delicious naan at home. You can make warm naan, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and full of flavor in your home oven on your pizza stone.
The dough is very simple and flavorful all on its own. But I like to make some naan stuffed with any number of things. This post shows naan stuffed with onion and garlic.
My measurements are pretty close but keep in mind that I do my fair share of eye-balling and simply cooking by sight, touch, taste, smell, even sound. For me, recipes are guides. But I have to say, when I make breads, I hear no complaints and the results are rarely around for long. My point is not that my methods are better but that I encourage everyone to experiment, don't be afraid of mistakes (sometimes they are really tasty) and don't be afraid to improvise.
For the dough:
2 cups all unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk, a little more than lukewarm
1 packet yeast
2 tbsp plain yogurt (I use fat-free and the results are great)
1 tbsp olive oil
For the stuffing:
Half a large onion, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
heavy tablespoon corriander seed, crushed (not ground)
2-3 green cardamom seeds (not pods), crushed
Warm the milk until it's very warm to the touch (not hot). Dissolve the yeast into the milk and add a pinch of sugar. You don't have to proof yeast before adding it to flour, but once in a while you do get a dud yeast packet. In fact, the day I made the naan in this post I got a dud.
While the yeast is foaming up, mix the salt into the flour and gather the other ingredients. When the yeast is nice and foamy, in 5-10 minutes, add it to the flour, along with the oil and yogurt and combine everything. Use your hands, it's fun. Knead the dough at least enough to form it into a nice elastic ball. It doesn't require much kneading, just a few minutes to make sure everything is together and the dough has a nice spring. I do this all in a giant bowl. Saves the mess of flour all over the counters.
This dough is slightly tacky and that's ok. Give the ball a little drizzle of olive oil to keep it moist and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for about an hour and a half.
About 45 minutes later, pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees and place your pizza stone on the second to the bottom rack. You might want to remove the other rack so you have more room to maneuver the pizza peel in and out easily. The idea is to get that stone really hot so start heating it at least 45 minutes before you start baking.
While the stone is heating, prepare the stuffing. Cook the onion and garlic slowly in a small saute pan in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. You don't want to color it but you want it soft and sweet and definitely cooked. The naan takes only a few minutes to cook and no one wants to bite into raw garlic. Season with a dash of salt and a good pinch of the corriander-cardamom mix then set aside. Save some of the corriander-cardamom mix to sprinkle on the cooked naan.
Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it into however many portions you like. I like to make a medium-sized naan and I usualy get about 5 naan from this batch. I roll out the dough right on my peel, adding a bit of flour to the board first. I roll it out into a rough oval about one third the size of the finished naan. Onto one half of the naan, spoon about two tablespoons of the onion-garlic mixture and spread it a bit. Fold the other half of dough over and seal the edges. Then carefully roll the naan into a rough triangle. Be gentle and don't smash the dough. Try to get it as thin as you can without the stuffing breaking through. You can roll out all the naan at one time or a couple at a time, whatever works for you. And I usually leave a few naan plain.
Now on to the baking. As quickly (but as safely) as you can, in order to reduce the loss of heat, open the oven door and slide the naan off the peel onto the stone and shut the door. Now just leave it to bake for a couple of minutes. Using a pair of tongs, I then flip the naan and again let it cook for at least a couple of minutes. I cook mine until they are golden brown on both sides. And feel free to cook as many as will fit on your stone.
Something I've learned from making naan and pita is that when the breads puff up in the oven, it looks cool and authentic. However, I've found that the ones that I allow to cook puffed up, come out of the oven and quickly become brittle. They have inflated with hot air, thinned out, and cooked quickly. Sure, they taste great too but it's a different bread experience. If I want soft, chewy pita or naan with a little crispiness in the crust, I have to prevent them from cooking in that puffed up state. I use the tongs to deflate them.
Once they are out of the oven brush them with a thin film of olive oil and sprinkle with more crushed corriander-cardamom and one or two cranks of black pepper. Feel free to brush with butter or ghee or nothing at all. As I cook them I keep them wrapped in a clean kitchen towel to stay warm.
You will want to eat these immediately. You will want to eat them throughout the day and the next. You will want to make them for all your friends. Do all of the above.