Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Naan That May Be Pita

I decided to try a recipe for spiced lamb burgers (recipe coming soon), and it was suggested that they be served with flatbread instead of a regular bun, which I thought sounded mighty tasty. So I went to Kroger to look for flatbread, but what I found was disappointment. The only true flatbread to speak of was “light” and looked more like an elongated tortilla. The one brand of pita I could find is one that I know to be dry and flavorless. And those new flat sandwich buns from Orowheat just look nasty, I’m sorry. So I did what any sane woman faced with a flatbread famine would do. I decided to make my own.

Well, technically, I made Naan, not flatbread. Naan is an Indian flatbread that is quite a lot like pita, but without the pocket. Usually. As you’ll read later, my first few Naan (Naans?) had sort of an identity crisis and thought they were pita (pitas?). But by the end we had everything sorted out. I used a recipe that I found on Mel’s Kitchen Café.

3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons, melted butter

This recipe makes about twelve Naan, so I cut it in half. Start by heating your milk in the microwave (or on the stove if you’re all fancy and love to do dishes) until it’s just lukewarm. They say 110 degrees is ideal, but I’m not into measuring so I just guesstimated. Add the sugar and yeast to the milk and wait for 4-5 minutes until the mixture gets foamy. This means that the yeast is alive and well! Pour it into a large bowl and add the salt, plus about half the flour. Mix it up well until it’s combined and continue to add small amounts of flour until you have a soft ball of dough that is not sticky and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead this for just a few minutes until the dough is smooth, and then store it in a lightly greased bowl covered loosely with saran wrap, for around 2 hours. As I’ve said before, the microwave seems to be the perfect spot for this. 

Once the dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces (or 6 if you cut the recipe in half). Form those pieces into balls. Cover these with a dry towel and let them rest again for another 30 minutes. I find this is the perfect time to let yourself rest on the couch as well.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and pop in your pizza stone to heat up as well. Here’s where I think my Naan got all pita-y. Make sure you patiently wait for the oven to fully preheat. I might have jumped the gun, and I suspect that’s why my first few Naan puffed up like pita pillows, while the last few stayed down like good Naan. Roll your dough out one at a time to about 6-8 inches wide, then put it on your hot pizza stone and spritz it with water. This is my other possible culprit, as I didn’t take the spritzing seriously in the beginning. Cook your Naan for about 2-4 minutes until it starts looking nice and brown with a few bubbles. If the whole thing puffs up, don’t panic. I just let it go and when I pulled it out of the oven, I just poked a hole in it and pushed out the air. Be careful and use a hot pad since the air will be hot, hot burning steam. As you set each Naan aside, brush the outside lightly with melted butter, and stack them on top of each other. They taste best when served still warm, so eat fast!

Maybe the puffing up means this is really pita, and not Naan, and I’m sure the Naan purists out there are shaking their heads and clucking their tongues. But in the end, it tasted really darn good. And that’s all we pleasure-seeking heathens and charlatans really care about anyway.

(Click here for printable recipe)

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