Thursday, 18 April 2013

Whole Wheat Naan

Whole Wheat Naan 

There’s something about yeast that lends a flavour and aroma to baked goods that baking soda and other leavening agents can’t replicate.  It tastes warm and friendly somehow, maybe because it actually is.  All those cute little yeast people, blinking at the first splash of moisture and warmth, yawning, waking up, meeting the other yeast people, frothing… 
Naan involves more effort than chappatties, but is so worth it.  A bit more planning ahead is needed, but what else could give you more pleasure?  Even the raw dough smells fabulous.  Begin at least an hour and a half before sitting down to eat.  (Don’t worry, you get a break while these rise, later.)

2 teaspoons instant yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon jaggery powder
½ cup warm (not hot) water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted ghee
3 tablespoons dried milk powder
½ cup warm water (perhaps more or less)

1 tablespoon or more kalonji seed (nigella seed)

2 tablespoons or more ghee
I used instant yeast, because that’s what I had on hand.  Even so, I wanted to give it the best start possible, so I mixed it with the jaggery and warm water, and set it aside while I got the other ingredients together.

If you like to knead, you can put these ingredients into a regular bowl.  Otherwise, use a stand mixer, and add the flour, salt, melted ghee, and milk powder.  If about ten minutes have passed since you woke up the yeast, it should be frothy and cheerful.  Pour it into the flour, and using the dough hook, start stirring, very slowly.  My province of Alberta is an arid place indeed, so our flour has a tendency to be quite dry.  As the mixture came together, I added the warm water in dribs and drabs.  Eventually I needed a bit more than a half cup.  If you are in a humid environment, you will likely need less, so go slowly and carefully here.

Once the dough is mixed, turn up the speed and let the machine do the kneading for you.  If you prefer to knead it yourself, knock yourself out.  You want a nice, springy and elastic dough.  When you have that, pour a few drops of ghee or other oil into a large bowl, roll your dough ball around in the oil to coat it well, and place it in a warm, draft free spot for an hour or so. 

Once the dough has doubled, punch and deflate, then knead it a bit more, pulling it into balls a bit larger than golf balls.  Just before rolling out a ball, flatten it a little with the palm of your hand.
Assuming you don’t have a tandoori oven, I suggest you put a griddle on medium heat. Roll out the first naan on a lightly floured surface to about an eighth inch thick.  As the naan is getting thinner, sprinkle on the kalonji seed on one side, and use the rolling pin to continue to flatten the dough and press the seed in deeply.  

I used to sprinkle the kalonji onto the dough and then get dismayed when it scattered off, bouncing all over the counter, stove top and floor.  I’m now thanking the creator of this website  for teaching me a better method.  
Flatten a bit before rolling out on a slightly floured spot.

The first naan usually looks peculiar, but trust that the rest will be better.  It doesn’t need to be round, in fact a tear drop shape is traditional.   Normally naan are rolled out round, and quickly smacked into a tandoori oven, where gravity takes over, causing the naan to stretch downward. 
I have a big iron oven/fireplace in my yard, but haven’t yet dared to try making naan in it.  Maybe one day.  In the meantime, the griddle works well enough. 

Place the rolled out naan on the griddle, and begin rolling out the next ball, keeping an eye on the griddle.  When the naan starts to puff up, brush it with ghee, and flip it over.  I am spare with the ghee, especially on a weeknight when we have no company.  It’s up to you how much you want to use.  Brush the flipped side with a little more, and get back to rolling out your next naan. 

The griddle heat is relative.  My stove dials go up to twelve, but five seems to be the best heat for my griddle.  A lower heat doesn’t puff up the naan quickly enough, and higher heats cause burning.  I roll out dough quite quickly, and have a smooth operation between the flipping, cooking, rolling, removing the one and putting down the next. 

Now it's ready to be flipped.
Each naan takes probably a couple of minutes. As they are cooked, place them in a covered pan or in a big piece of aluminum foil that loosely covers.  Serve warm.
These naan are soft, yet the kalonji seed is crunchy.  The flavours and aromas are so homey and enticing, you could make a regular practice of producing these friendly little breads. 
I served these with sag paneer made with spinach and kale, found in my vegetarian recipes!

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