Friday, July 22, 2016
Naan - For Hot Summer Days
When you just want a little bread with your salad....
Also, I was contemplating summer in India, anyway, and imagining what 100 degrees in the shade is like with 80% humidity. I was doing this so that I could better apprciate our 100 degrees in the shade with 11% humidity. It's an exercise in counting one's blessings.
But seriously, when it's that hot, no matter what the humidity, what do you do if you want a little piece of bread with your salad (Salad being about the only thing one can imagine eating on a day that hot....other than sending one's husband out to pick up a bag of burgers that someone else sweat over.)?
An ancient bread, "naan", today originates from South Asia with influence from the Middle-East. The most familiar and readily available varieties of naan in Western countries are the South Asian varieties. In Iran, from which the word ultimately originated, nān (نان) does not carry any special significance, as it is merely the generic word for any kind of bread, as well as in other West Asian nations or ethnic groups in the region, such as amongst Kurds, Turks, Azerbaijanis (from bothAzerbaijan and Iran), etc (See Wikipedia)
I read that and asked myself, "Why Naan?"
The answer was this: When you have only an open fire and a grill, or a fire of some sort, the only way to bake bread, anciently, was to do it on a rack or a rock or in a skillet of some sort. Today, many people the world over have ovens or access to ovens. But the production of a loaf of bread, in early times, and today in some parts of the world, is not a common thing due to the lack of ovens.
So, I'm thinking, what did the pioneers, coming across America in early days have for bread? No ovens, right? If they had an iron skillet and a lid, they had sourdough bisquits. If they had a pan but no lid, they had sourdough pancakes. No pan? NAAN, of a sort....any sort. To make the most basic form of bread, all you need is flour and water. A little oil helps, too.
Naan became known in the west in the early 1800's although forms of it have been known in written record since early Biblical times (see Genesis 31:54). One beautiful story about bread comes from the story of the great prophet, Elijah, and the widow of Zarephath.
Anyway, I made Naan, not exactly the ancient way, but close. Okay, not close. I used my bread machine and pasta maker. There! Are you happy now? The truth will out. I found this recipe online at food.com by Aarti Sequeira. I made some changes so the bread machine could cope with it. Even so, it makes a very moist dough. Consequently, when you roll it out, you need a lot of flour.
You'll remember in an earlier post, I used the pasta maker to roll out my tortilla dough. It works great, aside from the shape. But, hey, tortillas are round because that's what two hands produce: a round product. When you use a pasta maker, you get a...um....rectangle.
Okay. Rectangle. Circle. If you read the wikipedia article you saw "shovel-shaped" bread (say that 10 times really fast).
As I rolled them out, I put them, with plenty of flour on them, between pieces of waxed paper in a rectangular refrigerator container with a tight-fitting lid. This morning, I took five out and baked them on the griddle. My recipe made about 24 naan.
After they cooled, I slipped them into a plastic bag to keep them soft for the rest of the day. One of the advantages of naan is in that you can bake off however many you need at a time. That way, your bread is always fresh.
Part of the summer baking problem is, not only that it's too hot to even think of firing up the oven, but also that the bread molds quite fast if stored on the counter; or becomes mealy, if stored in the fridge. We almost always wind up finishing the loaf by making toast. Fresh bread for sandwiches, in a house where bread is homemade, is best on the first day of the bake. After that, it's not quite so good.
But naan is fresh every day.
It's a very good bread.
So, last night, we had naan with a great salad I found on Marie Ranier's blog, "The English Kitchen".
It's called 'Bistro Potato Salad' and it's really a wonderful combination of tastes for a hot summer's day. You can get a lovely printable recipe on her site.
Recipe for Naan, the American Way.....
Place in the bread machine bowl, or the bowl of an electric or stand mixer:
1 1/2 c. tepid Water
2 t. active Dry Yeast
4 t. Sugar
5 c. All-Purpose Flour
2 t. Salt
1/4 t. Baking Powder
6 T. plain Yogurt
4 T. Oil or Butter
1/4 c. Sesame Seeds (optional, or, any favorite small seed)
Process as for Pizza Dough in the bread machine. Using an electric mixer, blend altogether on low, scraping the bowl well. Then, set the mixer on low and mix for 10 minutes to bring up the gluten. Pour into a greased bowl, sprinkle and rub the top of the dough with a little oil, and cover to rise double in size.
When risen, turn out onto a leveled pile of about two cups of flour, so that the dough touches only flour, not the board (it's very sticky). Divide in two, then divide each of the two in sixths. Form the pieces, into balls, keeping lots of flour on your hands. Roll the balls in more flour and set aside.
Cut each piece in two and form into an oval. With flour on the rollers and flour on your hand, under the rollers, put the piece of dough through on the thickest setting of your pasta machine. Mine was set on "3". Let the naan fill your hand from wrist to fingertips. Dust the naan with more flour and place between pieces of plastic in an airtight container to keep refrigerated until used. Or, bake immediately. Continue until all the dough is rolled and stored and/or baked.
To bake, heat a skillet or griddle to medium high (I would advise against using a non-stick surface skillet because of the high heat) until almost smoking. Bake the naan on each side, 1 minute. Remove to a plate until all are done. Store in a ziploc bag at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to a week. They can also be frozen for future use.
Makes about 24 Naan about 4" wide and 8" long.
Alternatively, you can roll them out in a circle or in the traditional tear-drop shape with a rolling pin. For thick naan, pat them out to about 1/4" thick in your hands. To make thicker naan flat, poke it all over with a fork before baking.
Have a cool, cool summer!
AND LOOK! THE FIFTH BLOCK IN THE MYSTERY QUILT IS OUT NOW. SEE THE SIDE PANEL TO THE RIGHT.