My love of Indian food began in the mid-90s. The colors, the aromas, the flavors…. How could you not be mesmerized by this delicious cuisine? I thought eating with naan was genius, and fun. I didn’t often make Indian at home because I felt intimidated and because I couldn’t make—or buy—naan anywhere. And while there are many options for companions for Indian curries, naan is my favorite.Jump to Recipe
This was a time when computer technology was just emerging … forget YouTube videos and food blogs and online recipe apps…. You were edgy if you owned a PC (extra cool points if it had a portable drive that held almost 1 MB!) and a dot matrix printer. I knew you needed a tandoor (a type of clay or metal oven) to make naan, and had no easy way to find other options. Years passed. I remember the first time I saw naan for purchase at a store … I was so excited. It worked better than no naan, but it was not the same as fresh-made naan.
It Wasn’t All Bad
The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, some not so happy. For me, one bright spot will be making naan at home for the first time, thanks to that artisan bread dough I’ve raved about all spring. Most non-tandoor methods involve using an oven or cooking over a gas burner. I have an electric stovetop. It’s a slight sore point with me, because the entire house was plumbed for most gas-capable appliances … except the stove! I was excited to try this new method, which works for electric burners.
Since I keep artisan dough around almost constantly these days, it’s a ready ingredient, and I’m going to call this naan recipe qualifier for the “simple” challenge of cooking items made of four or fewer ingredients. What else is simple? It takes me about 15 minutes to make a few pieces of naan. I usually make them while I’m cooking rice and it works out perfectly. I use this method to make tortillas for soft tacos, too. It’s not authentic, but it’s easier … because I already have that dough on hand. I also used this same technique with a little butter to make fry bread—yummy!
I add nigella seeds to my naan (you can use cracked chia seeds if you can’t get nigella) and sometimes add garlic or coconut into the dough ball to add flavor. You can either roll with a floured rolling pin or flatten into shape with your hands. I’ve done both and am satisfied with either way, although I prefer using my hands as it sometimes goes faster. (I tend to roll it too thin.) You may need to add considerable amounts of flour to the dough to improve handling.
If you think about the traditional process of adding a steam source to bake artisan bread, the process developed by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg makes sense for cooking naan from this dough. You simply cook the bread on both sides in a covered cast-iron skillet. No more than 3 minutes to naan. I’m limiting butter intake, so I don’t usually brush with ghee (clarified butter) afterward. If you do, your naan will glisten, soften a little and be a bit more flavorful. I find I don’ t miss it, given the wonderful flavors of the Indian dishes I eat with it.
I’ve made naan about once a week since April. I highly recommend using ghee. Mind the heat level on your skillet, refresh ghee as needed when batching, and watch steam generate under the skillet cover as you cook your bread. Then dig into your favorite Indian cuisine with almost authentic naan.
“Yesterday, Lily couldn’t drink the milk. It was warm, tasted too much like cow, and the egg yolks were bright orange, so she just ate the naan. She had never before eaten flatbread like this- baked on hot stones, dimpled and crusty, it tasted sour and earthy and so delicious, she could eat an entire slab.”― Donia Bijan
- 4 ping-pong sized balls of artisan bread dough see link to recipe below
- 2-3 TBSP ghee (clarified butter) or canola oil have on hand additional ghee to brush on cooked naan
- Flour for surface and rolling pin
- 1 TSBP nigella seeds optional
- Sea salt to taste
- Sprinkle generous amount of flour on rolling surface and rolling pin.
- Add 1 to 2 TBSP ghee to cast iron skillet and heat to medium.
- While heating ghee, sprinkle flour into dough and grab off a ping-pong sized ball of dough.
- Work flour into dough and flatten slightly with hands. Sprinkle nigella seeds into dough.
- Roll to about 1/4 in thick, in a roughly rectangular shape.
- Place shaped naan dough into skillet and cover with lid. It is ready to turn when it puffs up. It takes only a minute or two (not more than three) to puff.
- Turn with tongs and replace lid. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt. Check bottom of bread in about a minute.
- Remove from skillet when both sides are cooked through and raised areas are browned.
- Continue shaping and cooking naan until done.
- Add additional ghee to the skillet between breads if needed. Be careful not to put too much ghee in or you’ll fry the bread instead of “baking” it.
- If desired, brush cooked naan with ghee before serving. Serve warm.