Naan is a type of flat but leavened bread of Middle Eastern (some would say Indian) origin. I like it for all purposes, but especially for dipping in oils, scooping hummus, or as a vehicle for other tapas type foods.
If you have never baked bread, this is a fun and easy place to start. I have modified it to be an overnight recipe, because I find it easier to stick straight into the refrigerator than waiting to rise, punch and rise, etc. My days are scattered and divided into tiny parcels of activity and the refrigerator method gives me a little more control over planning. But, it bakes in a matter of minutes on the grill, into a puffy, soft, hot, buttery, salty wonder. This recipe makes me very happy. It is best served with other simple fare. Things that you make in advance are particularly nice because then you can eat these fresh off the grill while the steam is still swirling out of the little brown bubbles on the crust. I’ve made this several times and have ignored and abused the dough in various ways, and found it incredibly forgiving. I even found myself holding one of these hot, salty, buttery rafts wondering at how good it would be topped with peanut butter and honey. But, then I couldn’t find the peanut butter to test out my theory. Yes, a hot peanut butter and honey naan…something to think about until next time.
A word or two about yeast and proofing. Proofing is the act by which you determine if yeast is still alive before putting it into your other ingredients. Many people consider it to be unnecessary, if you use high quality yeast that has been stored properly and isn’t expired. I like to include this step sometimes because, frankly, it is then one thing that you know is doing its job. If you know the yeast is working, you eliminate a little bit of worry about winding up 2 hours down the road with un-risen bread dough. Skip it if you choose to, but make sure you add the water (¼ cup) back into the recipe.
1 package (¼ ounce) yeast
¼ cup water
600 grams all purpose flour (approximately 4½ to 5 cups…scoop lightly and scrape with a knife)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 tablespoons 2% milk
1 cup water
4 tablespoons melted butter and kosher salt, for finishing
Proof the yeast by adding it to ¼ cup of warm water in a small bowl. Allow it to bubble and foam for about 5 minutes. If it doesn’t foam, check the expiration date on the package.
Place the flour mixture, the yeast mixture, the egg mixture, 1 additional cup water, in the bowl of a food processor, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and process until it is completely combined. This takes about 30 seconds in the food processor and about 1 minute in the mixer.
Clean and prepare the same medium glass bowl by lightly oiling the inside. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it a few times so that the dough has a film of oil all over it. Cover the bowl with a damp (but fully wrung out) cloth. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow it to rise overnight. (NOTE: If preparing for the same evening, place the dough in a warm place and let it rise for 1½ hours or until it is doubled in size.)
When you are ready to proceed, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and place the dough on a floured surface. Cut it into 8 pieces. Gently form the pieces into balls and place them on a lightly floured tray to rise. Place the tray in a warm place (or rather, just not a cold place). Allow them to rise for approximately 50 minutes.
Preheat one side of your gas grill to high and the other side to low. You will move the bread from the hot side to the low side to finish.
On a floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to flatten out the balls into ovals. Take the stack of ovals to the grill. Have tongs, a clean plate and a cloth ready so that you can remove the bread from the grill and keep it warm. Carefully drop an oval onto the hot side of the grill. Within about 2 minutes it will begin to form large bubbles on the top side. Gently peek at the underside using a spatula or the tongs. When it is nice and golden with pretty grill marks, flip the naan over to cook on the other side for about 2 minutes. Move the naan to the low fire side when it is nicely browned on the second side as well. Repeat the process with the other naan dough ovals. Once you are familiar with the timing, you can have two going on the hot side, and two finishing on the low side. Just be prepared to remove them quickly to the cooler side.
Brush the warm bread with melted butter and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Serve immediately.
Naan is especially good with Kale canapé (recipe to come), hummus, or alongside Tabbouleh. I’ve even been working on a beef dish that is really terrific piled onto this bread. You can decide how thick you want them to be. I liked for them to be about ¼” thick prior to grilling. This gives it a bready interior. But you can also roll them out more thinly for a “thin crust” naan. And, speaking of thin crust, this would also make a great grilled pizza crust. Just cook it somewhat on the less-done side, add toppings, then let the cheese melt all over, working with it on the low-temperature side of the grill.
My friends, Lori and Warren Whitlow made a huge grilled pizza meal when we were last out at their ranch near Waco. Lori was my muse for Riverbend French Toast Casserole. They bought prepared dough from Jimmy’s and tons of cheeses and pepperoni, and sausages and vegetables. It is a meal that has been looming in my head because I want to re-create it. Those who make cooking fun for kids are to be applauded. With grilled pizza, the kids can roll out the dough, and once the initial grilling is completed, they can decorate their own pizza using only the things that they really like. It makes them feel in charge of their own food and independent…and therefore, they actually eat.