Indian Bread Made Simple
When I left India nearly twenty years ago, my world of flatbreads was made up of the traditional staples of roti, naan, and parathas, but that soon changed. After living in New England and traveling further than the Arabian Sea, my ‘flat’ world stretched, and I find myself reaching for pita just as much as a stuffed paratha, or when the tortillas substitutes for a roti, but nothing has replaced the naan.
As a cook and foodie, what I have observed, is that most traditional flat breads from across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America have one thing in common; they’re flat, and mostly yeast-less. Made over a hot griddle or in large rustic ovens [clay tandoors are used for naans], they all have a certain charred flavor due to their cooking methods.
The naan bread is the most recognized Indian flatbreads across the world, and since most home kitchens don’t have the traditional clay oven or tandoor; I improvise using either a hot griddle or an Indian tava and roast them over the open flame of a gas stove. If a gas stove is unavailable, I use my oven on broil and preheat my cookie sheet to cook these breads quickly using high-heat.
Whichever method you choose, this simple recipe makes what seems exotic accessible anytime. I love how food similar our foods are across the world and making these at home lets you enjoy your favorite curries on a whim.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. nigella seeds
2-3 tbsp. melted butter / ghee or olive oil
2-3 tbsp. melted ghee or butter to taste after cooking
2-3 tbsp. water for during cooking
¾ cup whipped plain yogurt
¾+ cup warm water
- Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
- Make a well in the center of the flour mound and add the melted ghee or oil
- Whip the yogurt with a couple of tbsp. of water to make about ¾ cup pouring consistency
- Knead the dough until the bowl is clean and the dough ball is tacky – add warm water as needed during the kneading process
- Moisten a cheesecloth and cover the dough, cover the bowl with a lid and set aside for a few hours – ideally about 4 hours at the least
- Divide the dough into about 8 – 10 portions
- Roll out the portions into round naans
- Heat a pan / tava on high heat if using a gas stove or heat the oven at broil with the cookie sheet
- Place each naan one at a time on the pan and spread a few drops of water with your fingers on the top side, sprinkle some nigella seeds, and pat them down to stick
- Apply butter or melted ghee as per taste and serve hot
Tip – If using a gas top griddle, once the underside bubbles and starts to brown, take the naan off the pan and roast over the flame directly until cooked through
Tip – If using the broiler, watch the naan and remove from the oven once the top blisters and has some charring, if the bottom is not browned, flip and broil for a few minutes – timing is based on your oven, the size of the naans and the type of cookie sheet or pizza stone you’re using for the process