Warm, soft, homemade naan is the no-fuss bread for the no-fuss baker

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – We know, we know, people are baking LOTS of bread these days. In my social media feed anyway, it’s lots of big crusty loaves – sourdough, no-knead and everything in between. But what if that’s not really your thing, whether due to a lack of yeast, time or interest?

Enter naan. Fans of this Indian flatbread know that it’s no consolation prize, though. Fresh, hot naan is a beautiful thing to behold, and devour, whether it’s with curry, a bowl or soup or just on its own.

I’ve played around with naan a few times in the past, with not-so-great results. Some were basically just pitas. Others bland. None came close to rivaling my convenience go-to, what I can grab in the freezer at Trader Joe’s. Now, I’m sure I’ve cracked the code, with a recipe that’s pretty simple to boot. Stir together the dough by hand, roll it and throw it in a cast-iron skillet.

My main recipe source, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer calls for using a grill or pizza stone to cook the naan. I found an oven bake led to uneven results, though, even with the pizza stone and convection fan going. So I pivoted to a method from America’s Test Kitchen. The cast-iron skillet beautifully puffs the dough and gives charred flavour like you might find in naan made in a tandoor. Finishing up the cooking with a lid over the skillet keeps the bread soft and pliable.

This is exactly the type of recipe that can satisfy both ends of the spectrum: People who are just starting to dip their toes into bread baking and want something quick and delicious, and those who want to add another genre to their vast repertoire. No matter which camp you fall into, you’re going to love it.

STOVE-TOP NAAN

Active: 40 minutes | Total: one hour 10 minutes

Six servings

Naan has to be one of the world’s greatest flatbreads, and you can make a delicious version on your stove top, no tandoor oven needed. This recipe uses baking powder instead of yeast, with buttermilk helping boost the flavour and rise.

Storage Notes: Naan is best freshly made, but it can be stored in an airtight container for one day and reheated briefly in the oven.

Ingredients

Three cups (426 grammes) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Two teaspoons baking powder

One-and-a-half teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 cup (180 millilitres) whole or low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature

About 3/4 cup warm water

Canola oil, for greasing the baking sheet

One to two tablespoons melted ghee or unsalted butter, for brushing

Steps

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the buttermilk over the flour mixture and quickly stir it in. The flour will still be fairly dry, with some wet clumps.

Pour a few tablespoons of the warm water over the flour, stirring it in with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Repeat until the flour comes together to form a soft ball. You will use about three quarter cup of the warm water in total, but it may need a little more or less depending on your exact measurements or the weather. You want the dough to be very soft, close to being slightly sticky, so if you add an extra tablespoon or so, it won’t hurt.

Using your hands, gather the ball, picking up any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, and knead it to form a smooth, soft ball of dough, one to two minutes. If it’s a little too sticky to handle, dust your hands with flour, but do not add any more flour to the dough, if possible.

Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with the canola oil. Cut the dough into six equal portions (the dough will be roughly 700 grammes, so aim for about 116 grammes each). Shape each portion into a round, cupping and tucking the edges underneath as best you can to make it smooth. (Don’t sweat this too much, as the dough is pretty forgiving and you’re going to roll it out anyway.) Place on the baking sheet.

Brush the rounds with the melted ghee or butter and cover with plastic wrap or a slightly dampened clean dish towel. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. The dough needs to rest, but will not rise or change much in appearance.

With about 10 minutes left in the dough resting time, preheat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Place one of the dough rounds on the surface and then turn it over so that both sides are floured. (Keep the remaining dough rounds covered.)

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an eight- to nine-inch circle, rotating the dough 90 degrees after each motion to create an even round. Dust the work surface and rolling pin with just enough flour to keep things from sticking; you don’t want to overdo it.

Again, don’t get too obsessed with the perfect shape. Part of the charm of naan is its rustic appearance.

When the skillet is sizzling-hot (check by sprinkling a few small drops of water; if they bounce and quickly evaporate, it’s ready), add the first portion of rolled dough.

Cook for two to three minutes, until lots of bubbles appear on the top and the bottom dries out and is freckled with brown spots.

Using tongs – or your fingers if you’re careful – flip the dough and cover the skillet with a lid or large, rimmed baking sheet if you don’t have a top that fits the pan.

Cook for another two minutes, until the dough is cooked through and there are plenty of very dark, almost charred spots on what was the top and now the bottom of the naan.

You may find you need to reduce the heat or cook time slightly as the skillet gets very hot throughout the batch. While the first naan cooks, roll out the second.

Remove the finished naan from the skillet, transfer to a baking sheet or serving platter, and brush with more of the melted ghee or butter. Cover with foil or a clean dish towel to keep warm.

Transfer the second naan to the skillet, and continue to roll and cook the remaining dough. Serve warm.