Baking with Julia – Oasis Naan

I am really trying to focus on naan right now, but I have this habit of watching movies on Netflix on my iPad while I cook/bake and I made the mistake of putting on Sleepless in Seattle and seriously there is a reason this movie is a classic. I have seen it at least a half a dozen times and it is still totally engrossing. It it just a perfect early to mid-nineties mix of actors, writing, and directing that will always be one of those movies that makes you feel. Like really feel something. It’s pretty magical. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like Tom Hanks? I mean have you ever met someone who has said, ” I hate Tom Hanks” ? No, and if you have, they were probably an ass. That’s a ridiculous thing to say. I mean I’m not saying I’m in love with him and he’s my favorite or anything. I just feel like as a child of the late eighties and nineties he is just so comforting to me, comforting enough that I am willing to forget/forgive some of his latter day sins (ahem, The Ladykillers, The Da Vinci Code, etc).

But anyway, back to the naan. When I found out I was chosen to host this recipe I immediately got pretty nervous. It’s a lot of pressure to think that people will be counting on me for at the very least a good pic and probably something meaningful and worthwhile to say about naan. Being a lifelong small-town Midwesterner I haven’t had that much opportunity to sample Indian cuisine. I think I’ve had naan two times in my life, but it’s got flour and yeast so I’m good. Bread is definitely my friend. The pics above are from the first batch I made the day I found out about my hosting gig. I went totally by the book except that I didn’t have any caraway seeds at work so they were left off. One of my friends who spent an extended period of time in India had one and gave it a pretty rave review. Considering it was the same guy who said my soda bread tasted like medicine, I was pretty stoked. Since I’m counting that as my practice batch, the one I made today is my real shot at naan and I am pretty pleased with it. I decided to try something a little different and did half the batch with salt & pepper & green onion and half with a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Trust me to make something sweet if it’s at all possible.

So basically they taste like an Auntie Annie’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel from the mall and they are awesome. I still sprinkled some fleur de Sel on the cinnamon sugar ones to give them a little pop and it was definitely a good idea.

But let’s go back to the beginning. I mixed up the dough and left it to rise in my very favorite Red Wing stoneware mixing bowl (thanks Daddio!) and I have to say that I think I used the whole 6 cups of flour plus some during the kneading. When I put it to bed to rise, it looked like this:

And after about three hours of hanging out on my table while I did some housework (aka watched Strictly Ballroom while doing dishes and surfing the internet) it had become this nice pillowy ball of delight:

I used Bek’s pizza stone to bake them on and even though the directions in the book make it seem like you should be able to bake them all at once, that was pretty impossible. I’d say my naan were like 5 inches across and I had to bake them one at a time so they wouldn’t touch while baking. I guess I had thought they would be a little flatter but they all poofed kind of a lot in the oven.

These little flatbreads are the kind of thing that I could really make a meal out of. I will probably cook something for dinner tonight but I know that I’ll end up eating only a little of that and like 3 more pieces of naan. Since I’m one of the hosts for the week, the recipe for these little beauties follows. Enjoy!

Oasis Naan from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

(Persian Naan dough)

– 2 ½ cups tepid water (80-90 degrees F)

– 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

– 5-6 cups of bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

– 1 tablespoon salt

(Oasis Naan add-ons)

– 1 tablespoon coarse salt

– 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped (white and tender green parts only)

– 1 teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds

Put the water and yeast in a large bowl and stir to blend. Add 3 cups of the flour, about a cup at a time, stirring in one direction with a wooden spoon. Beat for 1 minute, or about 100 strokes, to develop the gluten. Sprinkle the salt over the mixture and start adding the remaining flour, again about a cup at a time, stirring after each addition and then stirring until the dough is too stiff for you to work. You may not need to use it all.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it vigorously, adding more flour as necessary, until it is smooth and easy to handle, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to cover the entire surface with oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest at room temperature until it has more than doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Don’t worry if it goes longer – it will be just fine. If it’s more convenient you can put the bowl in the refrigerator and let the dough rise overnight; bring the dough to room temperature before continuing.

Center a rack in the oven and line it with quarry tiles or a baking stone, leaving a 1-inch air space all around. If you do not have tiles or a stone, place an inverted baking sheet on the oven rack. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Set aside a baker’s peel or dust a baking sheet with flour.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball; flatten each ball with lightly floured palms. Roll out the dough into circles about ¼ inch thick and 5 to 6 inches across and sprinkle with water. Each circle needs to be well pricked all over with the exception of a 1-2 inch border. Traditionally, this is done with a dough stamp, a round utensil with concentric circles of thin spikes. Alternatively you can use a roller pricker (aka pastry docker), the tines of a fork, or the pointy metal loop at the bottom of a whisk. Whatever you choose, you want to prick the dough with determination, flattening the center of each circle. Sprinkle each center with coarse salt, chopped scallions, and a pinch of cumin or caraway seeds.

Slide the breads onto the hot stone using a baker’s peel and bake for 6-8 minutes or until the tops start to color. Remove the breads and cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before wrapping them in a cotton towel. These are best served warm.

The breads are best eaten shortly after they’re baked, but they’ll keep wrapped in a towel for about a day. For longer storage, wrap the breads airtight and freeze for up to a month. Keep the breads in their wrappers while they thaw at room temperature and then warm them for a few minutes in a 400 degree F oven before serving.

Contributing bakers: Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid

Tom Hanks & Hooch definitely think you should make some naan.

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