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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

raisins, curry powder, mango chutney and naan (BBBwB)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for naan with kalonji (nigella seeds); Bread Baking Babes wannaBe; information on Bread Baking Babes; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on image to see larger views and more photos)

Well, RATS. I really thought I had a chance this time. But, you guessed it, I remain a

Bread Baking Babe wannaBe (BBBwB)

naan I was so thrilled when I saw that the BBBabes made naan! I can make naan!!! I make naan all the time. And I did make naan.

Alas, no Babe status for me though. Here’s why:

  1. I missed the deadline. (I really thought that the BBB bread could be baked until the end of the month!)
  2. I refused to use the BBB’s recipe because it called for raisins, curry powder and mango chutney. But no yoghurt. No yoghurt?? Naan always has yoghurt.
  3. I put the raisins in a different dish.
  4. I replaced the curry powder with garam masala. And put that into a different dish as well.
  5. I forgot to get the mango chutney out of the fridge.

Wahhh! I’ll NEVER be a Babe! Here I am destined to remain the curmudgeonly neighbour peering into the BBB’s windows when I think they’re not looking.

Okay, excuse that little outburst. I’m fine now…

Perhaps you’re wondering (if you’re still stoically reading on) why I refused to use the BBBabe’s naan recipe. It was because of the raisins and the curry powder. I have a horror of curry powder. All that turmeric.

I know. I can make my own curry powder. And I do.

But I just don’t think raisins, mango chutney OR curry powder belong in naan.

Who me?? Opinionated??

(I’m such an expert!! I know EVERYTHING there is to know about Indian cooking (*cough*). Okay, I know EVERYTHING there is to know about eating Indian food (*ahem*). Okay, okay, I know EVERYTHING there is to know about eating OUR Indian food…. :lalala:)

Oops….

Naan is supposed to be neutral. To be a nice contrast to the complex flavours of the rest of the dinner. Naan’s for sopping up a curry. Or for eating alone to douse the flames if the curry is particularly hot. A curry that might even have raisins in it and maybe some mango chutney on the side.

Happily, the BBBabe’s included a plain naan recipe too. But it didn’t call for any butter. Or yoghurt. And it was brushed with olive oil. With caraway and cumin seeds on top. What??

And then there was the cooking method. Hollywood says to bake the naan in a skillet on the stove top. Using the stovetop is not what made me gasp though. It’s that he said to add a splash of olive oil to the pan.

Oil in the pan? For baking naan? How unnecessary is that?

Okay. Sorry for yet another outburst.

Let’s get real. Who do I think I am, anyway?? I’m neither Persian, Pakistani or Indian. I’m a WASP who has been to India, but having spent only 4 weeks of my life in just a handful of places in the north, I can’t really pretend to know everything there is to know about the various naans that are made in the Subcontinent.

I asked the resident expert, who lived in India for several years and also travelled through Pakistan and Iran. (He’s eaten a LOT of naan.) He looked at me as if I were crazy and assured me that he’d never had naan with curry powder in it and that he sometimes saw seeds on naan but that they were kalonji (aka nigella seeds).

I looked again at the BBBabe’s recipe. And googled the recipe author, Paul Hollywood. Who is this guy?

Aha. An Englishman. Not Indian. But maybe he spent a lot of time in India too….

Because maybe I was wrong. (It can happen. I think I’ve been wrong once before. Maybe even twice.) Maybe naan can be made with curry powder, raisins and no yoghurt.

So I looked in the Indian/Subcontinent cookbooks on our shelves to see what ingredients were called for.

Not all of our Indian cookbooks had recipes for naan, including the one that I thought might play fast and loose with the ingredients: the Indian/European fusion with a definite slant towards Indian, “Vij’s Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine” by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala. I’ve only dined at Vij’s once and as far as I recall, the naan were delicious but like most naan I’d had before (no curry powder or seeds on top). The book does mention naan, of course. But only with the following disheartening words in the “Staple Ingredients” section at the beginning:

Naan [...] originates from Central Asia and there are slight variations to it, depending on where it is eaten – Afghanistan, India, Iran or Pakistan, to name just a few countries. [...] [I]n India it is round and mostly made in a tandoor. At Vij’s, we don’t use a tandoor to bake our naan and it is a labour-intensive process. Since it’s not easy to make naan at home, we suggest you buy it premade from Indian grocers.

Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala, “Vij’s Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine”, p.16

Hmmmm. I’m not so sure about the labour-intensiveness of making naan. Personally, I find that it’s one of the least labour-intensive breads to make. But I’m not running a restaurant and having to provide naan for several diners over the course of a whole evening.

Here’s what Madhur Jaffrey has to say about naan:

Naan is a leavened flatbread shaped like a teardrop. It is best when cooked in the clay oven called a tandoor. While meats, chicken, and fish broil on large skewers inside the tandoor, moistened naans are stuck to its walls to bake.

-Madhur Jaffrey, “Invitation to Indian Cooking”, p.251

I’d agree that naan baked in tandoors are truly wonderful. Just as woodfire oven pizzas are stellar. But a regular old electric oven also produces fabulous naan.

Of the several cookbooks we have, these ones had recipes for naan:

  • Entertaining Indian Style by Shehzad Husain (p.113) butter but no yoghurt; sprinkled with poppy seeds after baking under the broiler
  • Taste of the Orient by Alison Granger (p.331) yoghurt and egg; brushed with butter and sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds after baking in the oven
  • Asia: The Beautiful Cookbook by Jacki Passmore (p.198) yoghurt and egg; brushed with butter and NO seeds after baking in the oven
  • Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (p.116) milk and NO yoghurt; brushed with ghee (clarified butter) and sprinkled with kalonji (nigella seeds) or sesame seeds after baking on stone in the oven.
  • Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey (p.251) milk and yoghurt; brushed with water and sprinkled with kalonji (nigella seeds) or poppy seeds before baking on baking sheets brushed with ghee and placed under the broiler.

Alford and Duguid also had a definition of naan in the back of their book:

Naan [...] is the Central Asian word for “bread”. In South Asia, it has come to mean the leavened tandoor-baked flatbreads that evolved from the breads brought to the Subcontinent by the Moguls.

-Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, “Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent”, p.357

Using the above definition, I must backpedal and apologize profusely to the BBBabes and Paul Hollywood. It seems that naan is just another word for bread. If people like the idea of putting curry powder and chutney into their bread, why shouldn’t they?

However, being the purist that I am, I made our usual recipe. But with a bow to the BBBabes, we sprayed the shaped bread with water and sprinkled on kalonji before baking the bread on a stone in the oven.

We have, however, made naan on the stovetop on an UN-oiled tava (cast iron frying pan would work too), directly on the grill of the barbecue, and on the stone in the oven. Our favourite naans are baked in the barbecue. But only by a mere fraction are they our favourites; the others are delicious as well.

In “Flatbreads and Flavours”, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid describe how to bake bread using an overturned wok placed over the gas burner on the stove (I don’t have a copy of that particular book; I borrowed it from the library – it’s on my “want list”). To get an idea of what they describe, take a look at this photo of a Calcutta street vendor using this technique.

We haven’t tried using the upsidedown wok method but that’s the thing I love about making naan; it CAN be made on the stovetop, in the oven, on the barbecue. It’s wonderful!! And definitely easily made by the home cook!

Here is what I did to make the most recent naan:

Naan with kalonji
adapted from recipes in A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey and Entertaining Indian Style by Shehzad Husain

makes 6 naans

  • ¼ c lukewarm water
  • 1 scant tsp active dry yeast
  • ¾ c boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp salted butter
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 1½ Tbsp plain yoghurt
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 c unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp seasalt
  • kalonji seeds, (optional)
  • melted butter, for drizzling (optional)
  1. In a small bowl, add the yeast and some of the sugar to lukewarm (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist). Whisk together until creamy. Set aside.
  2. Cut the butter into pieces and place in a bowl large enough for the dough to triple (I use a large casserole dish). Add boiling water and stir til the butter is melted.
  3. Add the yoghurt, salt, and rest of the sugar to the butter water. Using a wooden spoon, stir in whole wheat flour and all but ½ c all-purpose flour. Doublecheck that the dough is no warmer than baby bottle temperature, then add the yeast mixture to the large bowl. Stir just enough to mix it together. Cover (plate, lid, plastic wrap) and leave on counter for about 20 minutes (or not).
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board (use some of the leftover ½ c flour). Let the dough rest as you wash and dry your mixing bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
  5. Kneading: Knead the dough 5 to 10 minutes, adding small amounts of what’s left of the ½ c flour to the board if dough seems sticky. (You don’t have to use up all the flour.) When the dough is smooth and silky to the touch, it has been kneaded enough.
  6. Proofing: Put the dough into the clean dry bowl, cover and allow to rise in a non-drafty area at room temperature (or in the cold oven with only the light turned on) until the dough has doubled. This might take anywhere from an hour to four hours – the cooler the area, the longer it will take. Plan ahead. It’s BETTER when it takes longer to rise. A good way to tell if the dough has doubled is to dip your finger in cold water and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.
  7. 30 minutes before baking the bread, put baking stone on the middle rack of the oven. Turn the oven to 400F.
  8. Shaping: 5 minutes before baking, when the dough has doubled in volume, gently turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into six equal pieces and shape each into a round. Use your fingertips (or a floured rolling pin) to flatten the rounds. Stretch them so they become thin flat ovals or rounded triangles, approximately 4 inches wide by 8 inches long. T says that naan are ideally teardrop shaped. (But it doesn’t really matter.)
  9. Topping: Spray the shaped bread with water and sprinkle kalonji (nigella seeds) lightly over the bread.
  10. Baking: Place the shaped bread directly on the hot stone in the oven. Bake the bread at 400F for 5 minutes or until it is lightly golden and puffed. (It really does take only 5 minutes.) You might want to turn the bread over half way through cooking but it isn’t really necessary. (Use tongs!)
  11. When the bread is done, put it on a warm plate and drizzle a little melted butter over top, if you want. (We don’t bother with this step if we’re serving naan with a particularly rich curry.)

Serve immediately with Indian curry, or butter chicken, and/or Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese).

Notes:

:: Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap; Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate?* Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer. The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

:: In the summer, I mix the dough around 2 or 3 PM and it has risen by about 6PM. In winter (our kitchen is ridiculously cold), I mix the dough in the morning, leave it on the counter to proof and it’s ready to shape by evening. I’ve never tested this but I can’t see why you couldn’t mix and knead the dough in the late evening and stick it in the fridge overnight to rise so you could bake it in the morning to have with green chili omelettes. If you try this, leave it out on the counter for at least 30 minutes before putting it in the fridge and then bring it out and let it come up to room temperature before shaping (probably would do that in the time that you are preheating the oven).

:: Naan can be baked on the barbecue or on the stovetop. (edit: Here are the printed instructions for baking naan on the barbecue.)

naan Yes, indeed. Naan is the best thing since – ummm – sliced bread. Actually, it’s better.

And it’s wonderful with kalonji seeds!

We had a veritable feast last night of naan, chickpea curry, palak paneer, beet salad (made with raisins and garam masala). This morning’s breakfast was left-over chickpea curry, left-over naan and Major Grey chutney (mango chutney).

There. I used all the ingredients.

I know I’m late with my entry. I do hope I haven’t managed to alienate all of the actual BBBabes with my ranting and raving. And even though I know I’m a whining BBBrat, in my heart of hearts, I still feel like a BBBabe….

Bread Baking Babes wannaBe

Lynn (Cookie baker lynn) is the host of January 2010′s Bread Baking Babes‘ task. She wrote:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

After Christmas, I felt as if all my creativity had been squeezed out of me, leaving me flat. [...] I got tagged to pick the bread of the month for the Bread Baking Babes. So I picked Naan.

Does that seem like a naan-secquiter? Because it’s not. It might seem like a naan-sense, but really it made perfect sense to pick a bread that’s super easy to make and is really different, something naan-standard.

The challenging thing about Naan is that all the cookbooks preface their recipes with how you can’t replicate the true cooking method of slapping the naan against the super hot walls of the specially-built clay oven. Well, I don’t have that oven, but I don’t think that lack makes it naan-negotiable. I used my cast iron skillet. A bit naan-traditional, but it worked. [...]

If you’d like to bake along and receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site, bake the naan and post it before the 25th [January 2010]!

For complete details on how to become a BBB, please go to:

Take a look at the Bread Baking Babes’ naan:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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8 Comments for raisins, curry powder, mango chutney and naan (BBBwB)” »

  1. Comment by Lynn — 27 January 2010 @ 11:35 EDT

    My goodness, what an extensive exposition on naan! I’m sorry that the recipe choice provoked such controversy. I’m really not a naan expert in the least, and just picked a recipe that sounded interesting, easy, and achievable in a home kitchen. I love that you baked along with us – I’m not fretting about the missing curry or chutney.

    Yes, I did go a bit overboard, didn’t I? Especially when one considers that your post dispelled the notion that naan was too hard to make and showed that it is easily made by anyone who has flour, water, yeast and a heat source. :-) -Elizabeth

  2. Comment by katie — 29 January 2010 @ 06:55 EDT

    Please, don’t keep your opinions to yourself – feel free to share (I was going to do a ‘tehehe’ but, while I can be very sarcastic, I’m not much of a giggler. I am, also, a baking sheep and just follow along) Had I still lived in Andorra I would have asked my Indian friends. So…. Glad you baked the Naan; glad you wrote such an entertaining post.
    Oh, about that hot water tap thing – the reasoning is that often the hot water is ‘softened’ while the cold water is not. It would be done in your own house, so you would know. In the US, we did and I never used it. Here, we don’t and I always use it. Great shortcut for pasta as it’s very (too) hot.

  3. Comment by Jeanne — 29 January 2010 @ 07:39 EDT

    I feel so much lsee alone when I read your posts… Just posted someting with a view to MLLA and found out that ummm…. the requirement this month is for vegetarian and unless I am mistaken, lamb ain’t going to cut it. Damn damn damn. Note to self: reade instructions BEFORE putting together post! Your naans look fab…

  4. Comment by Baking Soda — 29 January 2010 @ 08:59 EDT

    Ooh we got ourselves a Brea-n-d new BBBRat! I love that! Rest assured you’ll fit in nicely between the ranting we do between ourselves. (And hey psst Mr. Hollywood kneads and bakes bread in a black dress shirt. On video. Yeah right. No apron, no flour anywhere on his person. I’m just saying.. but don’t tell the rest of them I told you that).
    From one religiously recipe-follower *cough* to another: you made great Naan! oh and thanks for the reminder where I read the upturned wok thing! I knew I read it somewhere.

  5. Comment by ejm — 29 January 2010 @ 09:00 EDT

    Thank you, Katie. I’m glad that I haven’t managed to alienate everyone. It’s always tricky with the written word when people can’t hear the voice inflections.

    edit… (I saw that we commented simultaneously, Karen.) Ha! A black shirt?! Is he crazy? Let me know if you try the overturned wok. I’m afraid to try it. What if I wreck our wok. (Heh. I’d rather let someone else be the guinea pig.)

    -Elizabeth

    As for the “never use hot water out of the tap” thing, it’s not just to avoid water that has been softened. Not to be too alarmist, but because you’re living in a very old house, if I were you, I would refrain from drinking water out of the hot water tap. Here’s why:

    from everything2.com: Never drink or cook with hot tap water

    The insides of a hot water heater contain metals that can, and do corrode. Some of the pipes in your home that are not made of PVC may have lead soldering. Hot water will dissolve metals, especially lead, much quicker than cold water will. Not to mention that over the years of daily use of drawing gallons throughout the day in cycles causes the water from the local utility, with all of it’s impurities to collect and precipitate in the bottom of the hot water heater. This is a prime breeding ground for bacteria. Perhaps they cannot survive in an environment where the water is around 140°, but as soon as the water cools down enough due to a power outage or extended leave (if you turn off your water heater), all the necessary nutrients are there in an 80 gallon soup. [...]

    Lead toxicity and water treatment information taken from the following pamphlet
    Cooperative Extension Service
    University of the Virgin Islands
    http://rps.uvi.edu/CES/LeadinWater.pdf

    Also see the following from Health Canada:

    [L]ead can enter the water supply from lead solder in plumbing, lead service connections or lead pipes in your home. [Canadian] Homes built before 1950 often have leaded distribution lines and service connections.

    In newer homes, lead may leach from solder for several years until the pipes form a protective oxide layer. [...] Lead levels in tap water increase as water stands in pipes. [...]

    [T]o reduce you and your family’s exposure to lead [...] Run the cold water tap first thing in the morning or any other time the system hasn’t been used for a number of hours. This is especially true if you have soft water. Use only cold tap water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula, since hot water is likely to contain more lead.

    And don’t forget that even if the pipes in your house are new, the pipes that are leading INTO your house from the municipality may not be new. (This is the case with our house. The city pipes leading into the house are ancient and have raised our water lead levels to a tiny amount above what Canada considers to be the safe level. So ALL of our water has to be filtered. Because as far as I’m concerned, no extra amount of lead is safe….)

  6. Comment by katie — 29 January 2010 @ 12:02 EDT

    All good points that I didn’t know and will be duly registered for the future…. but for me (just me, not other readers) because our house is so very old we have all new everything. The old owners actually had different pipes connected to a well that the didn’t tell us about and didn’t sell with the house. As well as a water heater so old it collapsed when we touched it. We were quite upset at the time (WHAT? No WATER?) But, in retrospect, all new is good.
    Not that I thought about it before….. Thanks for all the info! Oh, and the water supply to our 3 houses is fairly recent. Still, I may just get it tested….

  7. Comment by MyKitchenInHalfCups — 30 January 2010 @ 05:54 EDT

    I can always count on a good laugh and great food here … and you’ve done it so well with this one!

  8. Comment by Joanne — 31 January 2010 @ 23:39 EDT

    I thought this post was absolutely hysterical. I loved every second of it. Plus the naan looks and sounds fantastic! I am definitely going to have to try your version of it.

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