Nope, not a Barney Stinson fan, but couldn’t resist that title 😉
Angie, the lovely host and the brain behind Fiesta Friday (the most happening party in blogosphere!!) has decided to take things up a notch and host a Fiesta Friday Challenge, based on different themes and ingredients, each time.
For the first challenge, participants have to cook with yeast and herbs. Herbs, I am comfortable with. I love experimenting with them and make savory as well as sweet things. Yeast however, is a different matter altogether. I have never (yes, never!) cooked with it before, except for being part of a beer-brewing club at work. Does that count?
So, I thought this challenge was the perfect time to conquer the yeast beast 😉 . And I have been wanting to make Naan at home for the longest time. It was destiny. Naan + Herbs = Perfect Solution to FF Challenge #1…
Naan, for the uninitiated is the most popular Indian flat-bread. You can use it to mop up a variety of fabulous curries, but when made right, it is wonderful enough to eat by itself.
In order to incorporate herbs in this Naan, I first made a herb butter by gently cooking garlic, cilantro and mint in butter for about 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to become mellow. This butter was then kneaded into the dough along with the yeast and yogurt. Labor of love? It sure was <3
More herbs were added to the surface of the naan, along with sesame seeds just before it was cooked. So you can actually taste two subtly different flavors from the herbs as they were added at different times to the dough.
The perfect Naan is crispy on the outside. The crust should almost crumble at your touch, especially the well-browned bits, which hide little pockets of steam. The insides however are soft, almost pillowy, the perfect medium to soak up all flavor from those mouth-watering Indian gravies.
Traditionally naan is cooked in a tandoor, the Punjabi clay oven that reaches temperatures over 450 C. The naan is rolled out and then stuck to the inside wall of the tandoor. At those high temperatures, the naan takes barely a minute to cook. The high temperature singes the outside of the naan resulting in that lovely crust and the insides become puffy and soft. The question when making naan at home is how to achieve that same texture without a tandoor.
This naan was made on a skillet that was heated till it was reaaaally hot. I love the brown spots on the naan. Doesn’t it look scrumptuous?
I was afraid while I was taking these pictures that the naan would toughen up (as it happens with restaurant naan; if you don’t eat them quickly, they get quite tough and rubbery). But these guys were wonderful!
Crispy: check! Brown spots: check! Pillowy: check! Buttery, garlicky, herby: check, check, check!!! And they were really light! Light enough for the munchkin to finish one of them!
Oh, and I loved cooking with yeast. The dough after the 2nd rise was so soft, so light, I have never held anything like it. It was an amazing learning experience and I can’t wait to do it again
And how did we eat it?
I whipped up some quick Egg Bhurji to make a lovely dinner.
Want some more accompaniments to this delectable Naan?
How about some drool-inducing Butter Chicken?
Or some luscious Lamb Rogan Josh?
Or some divine Chicken Korma?
Vegetarian Option: some lip-smacking Dal Makhani
Mix up north & south Indian flavors with flair: pair it with this lovely Mangalorean Mutton Curry
The list is endless really. There are many more curries on this blog and I will continue to post more.
Here is the recipe for this lovely, lovely Naan.
Buttery Herb & Garlic Naan
2 cups All-purpose Flour (Maida)
12.5 grams Fresh Yeast
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 cup warm Water
2 tablespoons Herb and Garlic Butter (see recipe below)
A pinch of Baking Soda
1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
1 teaspoon Sesame Seeds
6 Mint Leaves, finely chopped
3-4 sprigs Cilantro, finely chopped
For the Herb & Garlic Butter:
In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons Butter, 3 large cloves crushed Garlic, 2 tablespoons finely chopped Cilantro and 2 tablespoons finely chopped Mint leaves.
Cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes till the herbs and the garlic are limp. Cool.
Dissolve the sugar in warm water. Add the yeast to the warm water and stir till the yeast is dissolved.
Cover and leave aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to fizz. Set aside.
Sift flour, salt and baking soda. Add yogurt, the prepared herb butter and activated yeast to the flour.
Using your fingers, mix all ingredients together till you can pull them into a soft dough.
If you think you need more water, add a couple of tablespoons more, just enough to make a soft but not a sticky dough.
Flour a flat surface like a large cutting board or kitchen counter and knead the dough till it is smooth and stretchy, for about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, brush the surface of the dough with some oil, cover with a towel and set it aside in a warm place for it to rise for about 2-4 hours; it will double in volume.
Punch the dough down, knead again for about 4 minutes, divide the dough into 4 parts and let it rise for another 30 – 45 minutes.
Take one divided portion, dust it with flour and roll it out to a tear drop shape, (about 6-8 inches long ) on a floured surface.
Do not roll back and forth. Stretch the dough outward as you roll from the center.
Sprinkle the top of the Naan with sesame seeds and some chopped cilantro and mint.
Gently press down with the rolling-pin to make them stick to the dough.
Brush the other side of the Naan with water.
Heat a thick bottom skillet or pan, preferably a good cast iron skillet till it is really hot.
Place the Naan wet side down on the skillet and cover the skillet/pan with a lid.
Reduce the heat a tiny bit and allow it to cook for 30-45 seconds.
The underside will golden to light brown and the Naan will be easily released from the pan. You will see big bubbles on the surface of the Naan.
Reduce the heat to medium, uncover and cook for another 30 seconds.
(Roll another Naan and get it ready, while this one is cooking)
Flip over the Naan, turn heat to high and gently press down on the Naan with a spatula to get those lovely brown bits.
The Naan will start puffing up as it cooks. Remove from the skillet when the Naan is golden brown, unevenly, and with spots at some places.
Remove from heat and brush it generously with melted butter.