Pakistani Naan

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Today is my day off, the first real one that I’ve had in a long time. I’ve barely done any cooking lately, and so the extra hours this morning seemed like the perfect opportunity to make something new. As funny as this may sound, making bread is something that I dream about regularly. There’s just something about the ritualistic aspects of the task that sends me into a zen state. Mixing, kneading, waiting for the dough to rise. Pulling hot loaves out of the oven. Relishing that first warm bite. So when I have the time, I love to bake bread, and today was no exception.

I wanted to make something that I’d never made before, so I decided to delve back into Laura Kelley’s The Silk Road Gourmet. As I was looking up “bread” in the index at the back, I noticed a recipe for Pakistani Naan. The recipe contained yogurt, which I’d never used in bread before. I knew I had to try the it, even though I was a bit disturbed to see that there was no yeast in the recipe. Instead, baking soda and baking powder were used. I was wary (I much prefer yeasted breads), but I decided to press on.

The result was a soft, buttery flatbread, delicious eaten warm out of the oven with leftover daal. The flavour of the baking powder and soda was still a bit too pronounced for my tastes, but I still enjoyed  the results. These Naan are certainly much softer than baking powder biscuits, which is what I feared  they might come out like!

The recipe is mostly Laura Kelley’s, though I have made a few alterations.

Pakistani Naan

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan, which seemed culturally appropriate!)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain yogurt, lightly drained (I used greek, which is already thick, so doesn’t need draining)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup warm milk
Poppy seeds

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Add egg, yogurt and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir. Gradually stir in milk. You want your dough to be smooth. If it reaches a good consistency before all the milk is used, you don’t need to add the rest. If you are a bit impatient, like me, and add all the milk before you find this out, you can add a bit more flour during the kneading process. Knead dough for 3-5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, place it back in the mixing bowl (preferably wiped clean), and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm location for 1.5-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Punch down dough and kneed for another minute or so. The dough should be very elastic at this point. Divide into eight pieces, and roll each out on a lightly flour surface.

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You can also shaped them in your hands, though you may need to do last minute rolling for flattening purposes. The Naan should be oval-shaped, about 6-8 inches long.

Grease baking sheets. Place Naan on top, and brush with remaining butter. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, and more salt, if you like. Lightly press in poppy seeds.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on if you want them to be a bit crispy or not. Mine took a full 20 minutes with the convection setting on. They’re done when they’re a light, golden brown around the edges. If you’re not getting enough colour, you can brush them with a little more butter or oil. You can also flip them in the last 5 minutes if you’d like colour on both sides. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.

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Enjoying my Naan outside, under the fragrant lemon tree, imaging I’m somewhere along the Silk Road.

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