On Naan (recipe)
There is something about living abroad that opens you up to new experiences. In particular, there are things we resisted in the past for whatever reason (or for no reason) but then it becomes your identity. Like someone who was good at mathematics and all of a sudden hit a wall when it came to calculus, I felt like I couldn’t get past the “yeast barrier”: “I bake, but I don’t do yeast”. Aarhus, Denmark is home to only 2 Indian restaurants (and only one of them decent enough to try), and baking homemade bread seems to be something people just do here, so I mustered up the courage to buy a cube of fresh compressed yeast to make naan. I adapted a recipe that normally uses dry active yeast to be fried on a cast iron pan:
- In a small bowl, combine 3/4 of a cube of fresh compressed yeast (37g), 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 cup of warm water. Do not fret: 1/4 cube of the yeast happens to make a delicious no knead cast iron pizza dough so nothing goes to waste. If compressed yeast is not available, use 2 teaspoon of dry active yeast. Stir to dissolve then let the mixture sit until it is frothy on top (~5 minutes). Then stir in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt and 1 large egg. Mix well.
- In a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of flour with the salt (~1/2 tsp), then pour in the wet mixture. Stir until combined: if it is a little wet, add up to another 1/3 cup of flour.
- Make the dough into a ball and place it onto a well-floured counter top. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. If the dough is sticking, add more flour. The resulting ball of dough should be smooth and soft.
- Put the dough back into the large bowl and cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Place it in a warm place (in Denmark, I light a candle to heat up the oven a little, and then stick the bowl in the oven). Let it rest for about an hour, until it has doubled in size. Take it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll them out one piece at a time. It seems better to roll them out as you go so the dough won’t dry out. Don’t worry about how thin to roll it. The dough tells you.
- Heat a cast iron pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium high. Place the stretched dough in the pan and adjust the heat. Flip when bubbles form and cook until golden brown. Brush with ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter or garlic oil.