No Yeast Naan Recipe

Naan is a light and bubbly flatbread well-known in India, and best when made in a tandoor oven.  I happen to own a tandoor because I fell in love with naan on my first trip to southern India.  On the beach in Goa there were tents with delicious naan baking in make-shift tandoor ovens.  I watched young men making it for hours, and knew I had to do it myself.  This recipe is a good one, and can certainly be cooked on a hot griddle or cast iron skillet.

Main ingredients:
600g of plain bakers or bread flour (not standard plain flour)
100 g of natural thick set yogurt (about 80 ml)
100 ml egg (typically about 2 eggs)
10 g sugar (about 1 tablespoon)
15 g salt (about 1 tablespoon)
2.5 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
200 ml water
(1 teaspoon of kalonji (nigella) seeds - optional)

Extra ingredients:
2-3 tablespoons of butter or ghee (for basting the cooked naan breads)
1-2 garlic cloves crushed into the butter or ghee (if you don’t like garlic leave this out)

Method:
First sift (to help mix) flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl (then add kalonji/nigella seeds - if used) to form the “dry mixture”. Mix in a separate container the remaining ingredients to form the “wet mixture”. Introduce the wet mixture to the dry mixture and combine with hands or a wooden spoon. Once combined, turn out mixture onto the bench and knead for about 10-15 minutes.

The dough will be quite sticky to knead - this is normal and ok. If you happen to have a bread machine, you can skip the steps above and instead add all ingredients except the flour to the mixing bowl. Then add the flour (and seeds if used).

Set the machine to the dough setting and complete the cycle. We have found this approach is the simplest. After kneading (by hand or machine), the dough can be a bit sticky this is normal and ok. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and place in refrigerator for 6-8 hours (overnight is possible). This resting period in the refrigerator is important to get the correct dough texture and it will also reduce the stickiness of the dough a little bit. If you skip the resting in the refrigerator step the naan will not develop a good chewy texture.

Remove from the refrigerator and divide into about 80-100 gram balls. If you want the naan smaller simply reduce the amount used. If the dough is a too sticky to roll into balls, simply dust with a little flour and then roll. You can then form the naan by using a rolling pin and/or by stretching out the dough with your hands, again using a little flour as and if required. The more you work the dough the stickier it can become, so try and limit handling. Try also minimise the flour used or the dough will become too dry. Experiment with the thickness of the dough, the thinner the dough, the more crispy the naan will be.

To start with, try rolling it (a 100g ball) out into a circle having a diameter of about 20-25cm. The rolled dough sheets can be stacked ready for use, but you will need a layer of cling wrap, baking or wax paper between each sheet to prevent them sticking. Alternatively, the dough can be frozen in balls for future use. Just allow it to defrost naturally before use. Best results are obtained with fresh dough. The dough is now ready for cooking. The naan dough is cooked on the wall of the Tandoor.

For this recipe, the Tandoor should be at about 260-290oC. You can experiment with a hotter temperature if desired. First place the flattened dough onto to the gaddi (cushion) provided. Make sure the gaddi has been fully wetted with water to prevent the dough form sticking to it. Then grab the gaddi with a glove and “slap” the naan on the Tandoor wall about 3/4 of way up. The glove is important as the Tandoor will be very hot! Don’t worry if you loose a few doughs in the coals, you will soon get the hang of the slapping process. However, if you are loosing quite a few to the coals, you may have used too much flour when rolling out the dough. If so, cut back on the amount of flour used. However, to save wasting the dough, you may wish to simply flip the naan dough on the gaddi and the new slapping side should have picked up a little moisture from the wetted gaddi. This will help it stick. If you wet the surface of the dough too much you will find the naan can get quite hard to remove from the tandoor wall.

Once applied to the Tandoor wall, the naan dough will soon begin to blister as it cooks. Depending on the temperature, the naan should be cooked in under 1 minute. You can speed up the cooking process by putting the lid on the Tandoor, this also helps the naan cook more evenly (remember to use a glove to pick up the lid - it will be very hot!). You can slap several naans on the wall of the Tandoor to cook at the same time. If the dough cooks for too long, the moisture will evaporate from it and the nann will become too crispy. The nann will be cooked when a few parts of it begin to brown on the outside (see pictures below). Even a few dark brown/ black patches on the naan will be ok.

Once cooked, use the naan rods to remove the bread. Use the flat rod to scrape off the naan form the wall of the Tandoor, while at the same time pushing the hook rod into the naan so that when it drops of the wall the hook catches it and stops it falling into the coals. The naan should be quite easy to scrape off the wall of the Tandoor. Naan that is difficult to remove suggests that the naan dough surface was too damp when it was slapped. Don’t worry if at first you drop a few into the coals, you will soon master the naan rods!

The naan can be eaten plain, brushed with butter or ghee, or garlic butter or ghee. Enjoy!

SidesEvan Wei-Haas