Naan Bread

The 'Naan' is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. It is one of the most popular varieties of South Asian breads and is particularly popular in northern India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
Originally, naan is a generic term for various flat-breads from different parts of the world. In Turkic languages, such as Uzbek, Kazakh and Uyghur, the flat-breads are known as nan. The name stems from (New) Persian . In Burmese, flat-breads are known as nan bya. It is known to the Chinese as nĂ¡ng.
The most familiar and readily available varieties of "naan" in UK (and other Western countries)are the South-Asian ones. The Naan is cooked in a 'tandoor' - or clay oven, from which 'tandoori' cooking takes its name. This distinguishes it from the roti which is usually cooked on a flat or slightly concave iron griddle called a 'tava'.
Typically, the naan will be served hot and brushed with ghee or butter. It can be used to scoop other foods, or served stuffed with a filling. Possible seasonings in the dough include cumin and nigella seeds. Raisins and spices can be added to the bread to add to the flavour. Naan can also be covered with various toppings of meat, vegetables, and/or cheese. This version is sometimes prepared as fast food. It can also be dipped into such "soups" as 'dal' and goes well with veggies
Naan is also a popular breakfast choice, buttered and served usually with tea or coffee.

All my life, I thought that making Naans would be a difficult and tedious procedure, which couldn't be accomplished without a 'tandoor' clay oven. But recently, I came across a recipe, that explained how to make the bread in a regular oven, with no special equipment or ingredients other than active dry yeast. It seemed deceptively simple, and I sceptically set out to try it for myself. Imagine my pleasure and amazement when my endeavour yielded wonderfully soft and tasty naan bread, at the fraction of the cost, and very little effort. Warning! Your family may just crave for it every day :) .....Try it for yourself and be sure to let me know how yours turns out....

Makes approx 6-7 naans.

2 cups All purpose flour
2 tsp Instant active dry yeast or 1 tsp baking powder
1 cup water OR 1 cup milk
4 tbsp yoghurt (optional)
1 tsp Oil
1 tsp Salt or to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 egg (optional)
6 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
a handful of cilantro (optional)

Sieve the flour into a bowl. In a small cup, add 1 cup warm water to dry yeast, along with 1 tsp of sugar to activate the yeast, and set aside until it foams. Add oil and salt to the flour, and mix well with yeast and water. Now add a water little at a time to make a very soft dough. The dough should be slightly sticky - definitely not dry.
If the dough sticks to hand too much, then use rub a little oil on your hand and punch into dough.
To make the naans, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and set it to broil. Make six - seven balls from the dough, and with the help of a rolling pin, and some flour, roll them out into oval shapes. If you are using garlic/cilantro or some other topping, sprinkle the topping onto the naans. Change the oven setting to bake, and place the bread on a cookie sheet, and into the oven. Flip each of the naans in 2 min. When the other side is golden,(approx 45 secs)brush with butter and serve immediately.

Authors notes:
The yoghurt/milk/eggs are optional, but if used, they make richer, softer naans. I usually make do with yoghurts and skip the milk and eggs and get great results. Use your imagination and sprinkle any topping you desire - cumin, nigella seeds, parsley, onions, chilli flakes etc. This will ensure a different taste each time! If you have a pizza stone, use it instead of the cookie sheet, and your naans will puff up nicely, and become lighter.
Naan bread can be used as a pizza crust! Slather on your sauce and toppings, and it tastes wonderful and is lighter than regular pizza crust. Alternately, it makes a good wrap for sandwich. However you try it - you are going to fall for this bread!

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