When eating curry, rice is usually the starch of choice… but what if you’re camping with Shirokuma, Penguin, Panda, and Grizzly, like in episode 17 of Shirokuma Cafe (Polar Bear Cafe), and your rice has just burned to a crisp and charred mass over your campfire because you were distracted by the silly antics of a polar bear and panda?
Well then, grab some flour and do what Grizzly and Penguin do: make naan!
Naan is a type of flatbread that is typically associated with food from India and its surrounding regions. It is generally served as an accompaniment to curry and other flavourful, saucy dishes, and it does a great job of soaking up all sorts of delicious gravies and sauces, which is exactly what Shirokuma, Penguin, Panda, and Grizzly do with their naan and curry while camping!
About the recipe:
Naan is traditionally made in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven used for cooking and baking… but, if you don’t have a tandoor (I certainly don’t!), not to worry, because you can still make delicious naan in the oven or on the stove. Just make sure you have enough time set aside to make naan – the dough must rest up to 40 minutes (in 2 twenty minute intervals) before it can be shaped and cooked.
For the oven method, the key is the temperature… While a tandoor reaches a very high temperature of up to 900 F., a typical kitchen oven only reaches about 500 F. This difference in max temperature means that it will take about twice a long to cook the naan in an oven than in a tandoor. For this reason, it is important to make the dough as sticky as possible so that it comes out soft and fluffy, despite being subjected to a longer time under heat.
To really max out the temperature of your oven so that it somes as close as possible to the temperature of a tandoor, it’s best to preheat the oven to its max temperature, and then, when the naan is ready to be baked, to turn on the oven’s broiler. This technique will ensure a hot environment for the naan, and the broiler will also help simulate the interior of a tandoor, which will have a fire in its interior.
Watch your naan carefully while it is under the broiler. Depending on where the heat source for the broiler is located (in my oven it’s in a single strip along the center of the oven), you may need to adjust the position of the baking sheet to ensure even browning and to avoid burning the naan.
For the stove top version, you will need a metal/wire mesh rack/screen of some sort that can take direct heat. Something like a grease splatter screen would do well. Just make sure that there aren’t any pieces (like plastic) that could melt. This method works well over a gas element, but I am not sure how it would fare using an electric stove. Also, be warned that making naan like this may not be the best thing for the rack (unless it was designed for this purpose in mind).
By placing the uncooked naan on the rack and then hovering it over the element, the naan can be cooked to perfection. Just remember to rotate the naan over the element so that it cooks evenly. Once the first side is browned, and the naan begins to puff up, flip the naan over and brown the second side.
When making naan, the dough should be left as sticky as possible. Because the dough is often very sticky, it’s good to have a bowl with about a cup of flour beside your work space. While portioning out and shaping the dough, you can use the bowl of flour to dip your fingers and the balls of dough in a little flour to make it more manageable.
About the ingredients:
Yeast is used as the rising agent in this recipe, helping to make the naan soft and fluffy. You can substitute baking powder for the yeast, but the taste and rise of the naan will not be as good. In addition, baking powder will cause the naan to brown faster in the oven, so if you choose this route, make sure to account for this.
Placing the yeast in warm water will activate the yeast. Ensure that your water is not too hot (or else you will kill the yeast!). The temperature should be just a little warmer than body temperature.
Makes 6 pieces of naan
- 4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
- 2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup milk or plain yogurt
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4-1/3 cups all purpose flour, for handling dough and dusting workspace
- Butter or ghee
- Pressed garlic
1. Sift flour into a large bowl, and set aside. Mix together yeast, warm water, milk, salt, sugar and 1 tbsp oil, mixing well to dissolve the yeast, sugar, and salt.
2. Add the liquid mixture to your sifted flour, and stir to combine thoroughly. The resulting dough will be very, very soft and sticky. Drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp oil on top, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
3. Place 1/4 to 1/3 cups flour in a bowl. Dust workspace with flour and divide the dough into 6 equal portions, and shape them gently into rounds by pulling the top of the dough taut and tucking it underneath. If the dough is too sticky or soft to be handled, dip your hands and the balls of dough into the bowl of flour as needed. Place on the workspace 1-2 inches apart, cover with a lint-free cloth, and let rest for 20 minutes.
4. To shape the dough, use your hands to gently flatten the dough. Toss the dough between the palms of your hands to cause the dough to become large and thin (a bit similar to the way pizza dough is stretched). Pull one side of the naan down gently to form it into its typical tapered oval shape. Be careful not to stretch the naan out too thinly, as doing so will cause it to cook much faster, and will cause it to become crispy instead of soft.
5. Once the naan in formed and placed on either the baking sheet (oven method) or wire rack (stovetop method). The pressed garlic can be sprinkled on top at this point. If garlic is added, be careful while cooking the naan as the garlic may burn.
1. Position the oven rack to it’s highest position, and preheat the oven to 500 F (or as high as possible). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Place the uncooked naan onto the baking sheet.
2. Turn on the broiler, and place the naan into the oven for about 2 minutes, or until browned on top. Turn the naan over, and return to the oven for about 1 minute, or until the second side is browned.
3. Remove from oven and serve hot, adding butter or ghee to the surface of one side of the naan, if desired.
1. Place the uncooked naan on the metal or wire mesh rack. Turn the stove on to medium-high and carefully hold the naan over the element, rotating it so as to evenly cook the naan. When the naan begins to puff up, and the bottom becomes brown, flip the naan over on the rack and brown the second side.
2. Remove from the rack and serve hot, adding butter or ghee to the surface of one side of the naan, if desired.