Friday, August 1, 2008

Naan (Indian Flatbread)

Generally speaking, I like to prepare things that my husband will enjoy eating. The kids, after all, are at that stage where they don't really care about food enjoyment--if it's not candy, it's only good to sustain life. (Unless we're talking about McNuggets, which is a different story.) Anyway, I happen to know that one of my husband's all-time favorite sandwiches is a Chicken Pesto sandwich from a local restaurant. I've had the sandwich, and it's good, but it's basic--nothing that couldn't be re-created at home. So this week, I sought out to do that very thing.

The sandwich consists of grilled chicken, pesto, salad greens, and diced tomatoes (which my husband skips), all sandwiched between two pieces of flatbread. Well, grilled chicken is easy enough. Salad greens? Just snip some from the garden. As for pesto? Well, see this other post. I added thin slices of fresh mozzarella, and sliced tomatoes (for me and for the kids), because you can't go wrong with the mozzarella/tomato/pesto combination. That left the flatbread.

I didn't want to purchase flatbread because HELLO, have you seen the prices on that sort of thing? Besides, how hard can it be to make? I remembered a recipe I had tried back in the day from a very old Fleischman's Yeast promotional recipe booklet--called "Arab Bread," it was the nearest thing I've ever had to a flatbread I ate while on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic in high school. It was good, but I thought that it might be a bit too thick and dense for a sandwich. Then I thought of Naan. I'd seen it in the grocery store, and I knew that it is traditionally served with Indian cuisine (which I don't like). It looked thin, but substantial enough to hold together for a sandwich--in short, perfect for this application. The main drawback, again, was that it was so blooming expensive, I couldn't justify purchasing it. I'd have to try to make it.

I went online to Allrecipes.com, my go-to for recipe basics, and sorted Naan recipes by rating. The recipe I chose to try was the highest rated recipe, which even readers from Naan-eating countries deemed closest to the real thing. I made the dough on Tuesday for Grilled Pizza and liked it so much, I made it again on Thursday for my Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwiches. The long and the short of it is this: Abe actually thought this sandwich was better than its restaurant-originated counterpart, due in large part to the bread. As a matter of fact, as I was finishing up this post, Abe came home from work, rummaged furiously through the fridge and asked, "Do we have any more of that bread??"

I do not take a compliment from Abe very lightly. This recipe is a keeper! It's also EASY, even if you don't have a mixer suitable for making bread--the dough is very soft and pliable, very easy to work with. And the cooking time is brief--the bread cooks on the stove top, so there's no need to heat your oven or your house. For me, this is a big plus in summertime! So there you have it. I don't like Indian food, except for Naan. Please give this wonderful flatbread a try! It's super for sandwiches, for grilled pizza, or just for eating with spreads like hummus, if you like that sort of thing. Go forth with confidence.

Note: I've just looked over the instructions, and man, am I WORDY. But read through it, and you'll see that even though I used a lot of words to describe the process, it's still really simple. Don't be put off my my inability to self-edit.

Naan
adapted from Allrecipes.com

1 pkg. yeast (approx. 2 1/4 tsp)
1 c. warm water
1/4 c. sugar, divided (1 Tbsp. and 3 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
approx. 4 1/2 c. bread flour*
melted butter
1 tsp. garlic powder

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the warm water and the sugar. Sprinkle yeast over surface of water to moisten, and wait about 5-10 minutes for it to "proof," or get foamy. If it doesn't get foamy, try again--this means your yeast has DIED. RIP.

In the meantime, whisk together the milk and the egg. Combine the remaining 3 Tbsp. sugar, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. When the yeast is done proofing, dump in the milk mixture and combine, then dump in the sugar mixture, and stir to combine. Then begin adding flour. *I don't even measure the flour at this point, because the important thing is just to add in flour until the mixture forms a dough and pulls away from the side of the bowl. I seriously doubt I use 4 1/2 cups, as the recipe calls for, but you'll want to have this much on hand just in case, I suppose.

When you've stirred in as much flour as it will incorporate, knead the dough a few times on the counter just to get it smooth and not sticky. Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn to coat (or just brush it with a little oil). Let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until it's doubled in size. [I like to fill a 2 c. measuring cup with water and bring it to a boil in the microwave, then put the dough into the micro. with the hot water, and let it rise there--using this method, I only let it rise 45 minutes, and it's already doubled]

After it has doubled, turn it out on a floured countertop and flatten it, then divide it into 6-8 pieces (depending on how large you want your bread). Shape the pieces into balls, spray with a bit of oil or non-stick spray, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

Right before you're ready to cook the bread, melt the butter and mix in the garlic powder.

Now, the fun part: heat up a griddle or a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Stretch your dough into flatbreads--make them very thin, because they'll puff up quite a bit! Toss the bread right onto the griddle or pan, cook for about 2-3 minutes, then flip, and cook for 2-3 more. Most of the dough will still be very light in color, but it will have darker spots where it bubbled and had contact with the pan. Remove from the pan and brush with the butter. Repeat as needed.

NOW. Last night, I only used half the dough, used the grill side of my griddle pan, and made four nearly dinner plate-sized breads, which I folded in half for the sandwiches. It took all of 10 minutes to cook the bread, and we served it warm. If you're using it for a crowd or for pizza, go ahead and use all the dough--even when I only used 3/4 of the recipe, it made 3 large pizzas. But it's so yummy, you may want to make it all, because then you can snack on it. It's that good.

5 comments:

Jaci said...

Hey Cori! I found your blog through the note you wrote to Katie on Facebook! OK...so if I use this flatbread recipe for grilled pizza. How do you do that? Do you bake the bread first or put the dough right on the grill? Can you tell I've never made grilled pizza before? How long does it take to cook?

Charis & Judah's Mom said...

Okay, let me be the first to admit that I am NO expert at the whole grilled pizza thing--in fact, this was my first time! But I built a two-level fire in our grill--one side screaming hot, one side much much less hot--and placed the raw, stretched-out dough right on the grill on the hot side. After just a couple of minutes, I moved it to the cooler side, brushed it with some garlic olive oil, and topped it with all the stuff. Then I put the lid down and let the dough continue to bake and the cheese melt, about 4 minutes. Then I removed it with a pizza peel--a side-less cookie sheet would work fine for this, too. I built the fire a bit too hot, so some edges of our pizza were a bit too charred for my tastes. I imagine it would be easier on a gas grill, where you could regulate the fire by turning a dial, but alas--we don't have one of those. :) If you do try to grill it, make sure you've got all of your stuff ready to pile on--this process moves SERIOUSLY fast! Also, if you have any toppings you want to be soft--like onions or peppers, etc.--you might want to grill them first (or sautee, whatever) because the pizza grilling time is too short to soften them. Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

Gregg said...

Indian food is not my fave, but I like some of it...naan is always my favorite part, but we've never tried making it at home.

I e-mailed this post to Allison...I'm subtle like that.

April said...

I'd like to try this. It might redeem Indian food for me. A couple of years ago Jon went to India on a missions trip. We went to an Indian restaurant before he left and I ordered some sort of flatbread and when it came out of the kitchen it was rolled up like a scroll and so long that it hung out over both ends of the table by about 6 inches. Somehow I managed to order the most embarassing thing on the menu. The lassi was pretty good though. You should find a recipe for that.

Wendy said...

Does all purpose flour work or does it have to be bread flour? What is the difference?