A Twist of Naan

Hi everyone! Did it seem like the break was really long? It did to me. Luckily, we’re easing back into things with a really easy recipe for flatbreads. This recipe was contributed by the people who introduced me to flatbreads (other than pizza) waaaay back in 1995. This book won a James Beard award, and the cooking world is lucky it did. Why? Because that gave the authors the legitimacy with publishers to get big “coffee table” style cookbooks made.

They are not just cookbook authors, they’re world travelers and photographers. The stories and photos that they put into their cookbooks are almost better than the recipes themselves. I may never travel to Lebanon or Vietnam or Tibet, but they have. What they bring back are not just recipes, but windows into a culture. I’m glad that my introduction to the people of Afghanistan was not on 9-11, but six years before in the recipe for Afghan Homestyle Naan and the accompanying essays.

So, as you can see, this is not the first time I’ve made this recipe. This is a pretty simple recipe: Flour, water, yeast, salt and time. But don’t forget the fancy toppings: green onions, kosher salt and cumin (or caraway) seeds. Don’t even think of leaving the seeds off! It really does make all of the difference.

Here’s a few tips (with pictures!):

This should be a wet dough, even though it’s hand-kneaded. Yes, it’ll be a little sticky, but embrace the goo. If you don’t, the bread will taste a little pasty.

Be patient when you roll these. They need some time to relax, or they will snap back like rubber bands. If you are like me, patience is not one of your strengths. I do mine in an assembly line. Roll the first one until it starts acting up, set it aside, and move onto the next one. By the time you finish with the last one, the first one will have relaxed enough to roll again.

Top them, THEN put them on the well-floured(!) peel. Nothing is worse than when the dough sticks to the peel and flops onto the baking stone (especially, if you’re making pizza, hello gooey burnt cheese mess!) I usually rub AP flour into the wood of the peel, then top that will a sprinkle of semolina flour. If I’m really worried, I just put each flatbread on parchment paper.

Use a baking stone. Flatbreads really benefit from this. I think it’s because they spend so little time in the oven. If you use parchment paper, you can put them right on the stone.

You can also make these on the grill. Turn your burners to low, or let your coals cool down (I usually make them after the main dish comes off the grill.) They will not take 6 minutes, so watch them carefully. If your grates aren’t that close together, you can use one of the perforated pans that they sell at kitchen supply stores. (Don’t use parchment on the grill. I learned the hard way that all paper burns, even if it’s coated with silicone. Ha!)

That’s it for this week. BTW, these flatbreads went really well with rib-eye steaks with parsley-garlic butter…