forget the oven ::::
“MOMMY! MOMMY!! I DON’T WANT STRING CHEESE IN …MY … LUNCH!” Or it could sound like “MOMMY! I NEED TO GO POO-POO!”
“Babe, I’m right here,” is my usual response. “Please stop yelling.”
I often have a conversation with Peach or Grub, not even an arm’s length away, with their loud accusations, announcements, or vitriols. I don’t understand how the volume level increased so drastically in the last year. We all have excellent hearing. We don’t live in an airport flight path or next to train tracks. There are no fog horns sounding nearby. Then I realized recently it’s about wanting to be heard, plain and simple.
I get that, I really do, but I didn’t grow up in a noisy home. In fact, I didn’t realize just how quiet my siblings and I were (usually), often huddled in our bedrooms reading books or in the basement watching TV, radio at low volume on the weekend listening to Kasey Kasem’s Top 40, until I was an adult. Those activities always seemed “loud enough” to me, as we were told from a young age to not make “extra noise” by my dad. This request was especially apparent at the dinner table: any extra finger tapping, chair squeaking, or silverware scraping was deemed noise pollution and a parental irritant. In college, brother and I spent a Christmas with my aunt and uncle and my three older male cousins. My aunt told my mother later she was amazed that my brother and I were so quiet the entire stay, he reading and me knitting a sweater and writing letters to my first and last histrionic boyfriend.
Is there just so much noise now that kids feel compelled to yell? Or are they trying to be heard by the glazed eye distracted parent checking Facebook again on his or her iPhone one more time? I honestly try not to even have my phone in my hand when Peach or Grub talk to me, and make eye contact when talking. It’s no wonder some kids yell when everyone is plugged into technology, some iThingy. We’re all as distracted as hell.
This recipe is not one to be distracted from. You have a screeching hot pan, essentially a hot skillet that is screaming at you to pay attention. And if you want to make it a project with an older child, s/he can roll out the dough into the teardrop-shaped flats while you throw each onto the skillet and smoke up the kitchen. When the fire alarm goes off when your kitchen smokes up like a London fog, you have hit the nadir of your naan-making experience and the zenith of the noise it creates.
This is a great recipe for that charred naan flavor, puffy and elastic, as if you have a tandoor oven at hand. While there are instructions in the original recipe to make the naan in a standard oven, I felt less confident working with a 500 degree oven and young children nearby. The screeching hot pan on the stove was something I could move out to the back of the stove, away from small fingers. When she helped me prepare the dough, I warned Peach of the potential to get burned if not careful. Yet another possibility to add to the noise: screeching heat, a screaming, burned child, and wailing fire alarm. Luckily, we only witnessed screeching stove-top heat and there was no yelling from kids, about poop or otherwise.
One year ago: broccoli-cheese soup
Two years ago: strata story
Three years ago: dried, chewy bananas
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- 5 tablespoons neutral oil or ghee
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup or 10-12 heaping tablespoons of plain unflavored yogurt (I used Greek and added a splash of water as Greek yogurt has less water content)
- few more tablespoons of water if needed
- melted butter or ghee to brush on the naan
- spices (like nigella, cumin, sesame) or herbs, dried or fresh (optional)
- Dissolve the sugar in warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees F). Add the dry yeast to the warm water and stir till the yeast is dissolved. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to bubble.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Add yogurt, 5 tablespoons oil/ghee, and yeast mixture to the flour.
- Mix all the ingredients together until you can pull them into a soft dough. If the dough is dry, add more water, add a couple of tablespoons more, just enough to make a soft, pliable dough but NOT a sticky dough.
- Flour your work space and knead the dough until 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 aside in a warm place for it to rise for about 2 to 4 hours. It should double in volume.
- Punch the dough down, knead again for about 4 minutes, divide the dough into 8 parts, and let it rise for another 30 to 45 minutes.
- Roll each naan one at a time. When one is cooking on the skillet, roll the next one. Take one divided portion, dust it with flour and roll it out to a tear drop shape, (about 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 spices or herbs or both, if using. Gently press down with the rolling pin to make them stick to the dough.
- Brush the other side of the naan with water.
- COOKING THE NAAN: Heat a thick-bottomed skillet (cast iron is great). The skillet should be really hot before any cooking.
- Place the rolled naan WET side down on the skillet and cover the skillet with a lid. Reduce the heat a bit and allow it to cook for 30 to 45 seconds. The underside will golden to light brown and will easily release from the pan; the surface will have large bubbles form.
- Reduce the heat to medium, uncover and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Roll another naan and get it ready, while this one is cooking.
- Remove the skillet from the cook the other side of the naan over direct flame of the gas burner (bubble side facing the fire) with tongs if you have a gas stove. If not, like me, flip and cook in skillet on high heat, gently pressing on naan with spatula. The naan usually puffs up, and some spots will get charred (which gives wonderful flavor). Remove from heat and brush it generously with melted butter or ghee.
- At this point, you may, like me, have a pan that is smoking. Adjust the heat, if needed. Open the windows and turn on the range hood fan!
- Remove from the skillet when the naan is golden brown, unevenly, and with charred spots at some places.
- OVEN METHOD (per the original recipe):
- DISCLAIMER: I haven't tried this cooking method with this particular recipe, but with other recipes. I felt the other recipes were too thick and puffy. I included this cooking method here to remind myself to try it and to honor the original recipe's cooking method completeness.
- Personally, I like the skillet method, because I feel like I can control the cooking a little better than in the oven. In the oven, cooking naan works best on a pre-heated pizza stone. A thick baking sheet also works. The cooking time will also be needed to be adjusted as each oven heats differently. Look for the color and how the naan puffs.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place as many naan as the stone/baking sheet can hold with the WET side down.
- Cook the naan for about 2 minutes; the top will be light golden and the naan might start to puff.
- Flip the naan over, cook for 2 minutes.
- If you want it lightly charred, set the oven to broil and cook till the top starts getting charred spots, for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Remove naan from the oven and brush generously with ghee or melted butter.
- Stack them, and keep them covered in foil and wrap the package with a kitchen towel to keep them warm.
- To store the naan, wrap them in foil and refrigerate them. Reheat in the oven wrapped in foil to warm through before serving.
- Makes 8 naan.