Naan

Do you love Indian food? I do. I can’t remember when I started eating it (where I grew up, the first Indian restaurant anyone can remember opened right before I graduated high school), but we always ate foods from lots of different cultures. What I do remember is that shortly after moving to NYC, a friend introduced me to her favorite Indian restaurant, it soon become my favorite, and there was no looking back.

My wife had not really had much experience with Indian food, but on our first date, she agreed to be adventurous, and we went to my favorite Indian restaurant. She loves it now too. One of my favorite things is naan, a delicious Indian bread. When we get Indian food, we often have extra naan leftover. I’ll eat it with the leftover entrees. I will eat it plain. And I know it’s kinda blasphemous, but I’ll even turn it into a faux-pizza and eat it that way.

So I thought, somewhat naively, how hard can it be? I should try making it. I looked around a little bit, but then I realized I already had a recipe in the book “How to Cook Everything”, which I already had. If you haven’t seen this book, you should take a look. It’s really awesome. I had originally gotten it as a present for my wife many years ago, but we both use it a lot. And, like many things, there’s an app for thatI used the app to cook with, and it was actually quite handy.

I went out and got the necessary ingredients. I obviously didn’t read the recipe closely enough, as it called for instant yeast, and I got active dry yeast. I got a tiny little milk drink box (juice box size). I got a small Greek yogurt, as they didn’t have any regular yogurt where I was shopping.

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I went through the recipe, step by step. (You can follow along if you look at the recipe.)

Step 1: There was mostly nothing to it, but because I got active dry yeast, I had to activate it first. I used warm water for that.

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Step 2: This was easy. I had to break out our funnel. It was something we got as a wedding present, but for some reason we hadn’t used it until now (3 1/2 years later). It’s a pretty cool 3 in 1 funnel and it works nice.

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Step 3: I only added a cup of water, because I had already added 1/2 cup to dissolve the yeast in earlier. It ended up being too sticky. I had to add a few more tablespoons of flour until it was the right consistency.

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Step 4: It was hard to get it all out of the food processor, because it was still a little sticky. Kneading it was easy, but it was hard to get it into a ball, because it’s a lot of dough. It was more like a round-ish blob. I put it in a bowl which was lightly oiled with grapeseed oil and covered it with plastic wrap. It needed to rise 1 to 2 hours, and I ended up letting it rise an hour.

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Before rising.

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After rising.

Step 5: I preheated the oven, but I forgot to put the baking sheet in till later. I covered it with aluminum foil for cleanliness sake. Using “as much flour as necessary” turned out to be a bunch of flour. And getting 12 equal size balls was a little bit of a challenge. I had to fudge it a bit. I covered them with plastic wrap to rise for the last 10 minutes.

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Step 6: It was hard to roll out the dough because it was super sticky. I ended up using a bunch of flour. I didn’t measure how the size when I rolled them out, I just kinda guessed. I baked them for 3 minutes per side. (Note: the first round was 4 minutes for the first side as I didn’t have any rolled out yet. So I put on one, then let it sit open cause “it would only take a second” to get a second one ready, but then it took forever. So I think the oven cooled down a little bit and they weren’t quite ready at 3 minutes.)

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Step 7: I didn’t wrap them in a towel. Oops! I spread on some melted butter, although it may have been a little bit too much.

Overall, I would put making these on the messier end of the spectrum. They were really sticky. It took a lot of flour to roll out the balls of dough. I also didn’t tug them into shape. They were not that puffed when cooked. Some seemed a little thin.

However, for some reason, the last one came out super puffed.

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And how did they taste? They were tasty! They definitely looked like naan. They tasted kinda like naan. They were not the best naan I’ve ever had, but as my wife said, they were the best homemade naan I’ve ever had. They were definitely really good.

I should also note that while I was making the naan, my wife helped me out with making some and also put together a dinner to go with it. She had cut up some vegetables the other day, and we got some chicken and a jar of tikka masala sauce. We cooked up the chicken and vegetables in the sauce and had it with some naan. It was a good dinner. Thanks hon!

And lest you think I’m ignorant, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no way this was an authentic Indian dinner. It was a facsimile. A decent, tasty facsimile, but a facsimile nonetheless. I would love to learn how to do it better.

I’ll also be the first to admit the irony of making this recipe. When I first started the blog, I talked about not cooking so much cause it would make dinner late. But I could bake, because it wouldn’t affect dinner time. Well this time it did. I got started a little too late. We didn’t eat dinner till 10pm. It was good. It was fun. It was kinda awesome. My wife said it was totally worth it. She was super impressed by the naan. But it was still a late dinner. (Sorry hon!)

I was also kinda impressed by the naan. I now totally understand why they look the way they do: the kinda floury bits, the burned spots sometimes. I have a lot of respect for those who make them all the time. I would assume that I would get better at it if I did it again.

One last note. Because I have been taking so many pictures for the blog (with my phone), my wife got me an actual digital camera as a present. (Thank you! I love it!) This was many months ago. But this was the first recipe where I had a chance to use it. We’ll have to see if the pictures are any better. (Feel free to let me know what you think.) The day I made the naan was the first day I used the camera. I only briefly read through the instructions. I will have to learn how to use the camera better. And I will have to learn how to take better pictures. One step at a time!

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In closing, I’m wondering a few things. I’m wondering if you’ve ever learned to make food from another culture, and what that experience was like. I’m also wondering if you’ve ever made something that took so long you ended up eating late. And finally, I’m wondering if you have any good tips or resources for learning how to take better food photos. Thanks!

Recipe courtesy of “How to Cook Everything”, by Mark Bittman.

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