Wild Naan When the Weather is Hot and the Nights are Getting Longer

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summary: wild naan recipe revision; importance of the float test; hot weather baking on the barbecue; the nights are getting longer; steep learning curve for iPhone camera; Group Baking Naan in the FB sourdough bread baking group;

Wild Naan

It’s not really surprising that since March, even with the difficulty of getting flour and yeast, there seem to be many more people baking bread. And, probably because of the scarcity of yeast on the store shelves for several weeks, FB’s Sourdough Bread Baking private group is especially active.

This month, it was decided to bake sourdough naan together.
groupbake: naan

For the group bake this month, I decided to make Naan. Google helped me find a recipe, which, after some slight modifications, produced a pretty good Naan.
 
– Tom Ford, FB | Sourdough Bread Baking, *** August 2020 #GroupBake = Naan ***, 31 July 2020

We LOVE naan. I decided we’d join in. But I wasn’t crazy about the chosen recipe adapted from breadtopia’s Sourdough Naan Flatbread. It’s probably fine… but there’s {gleeps} no butter in the ingredients list except for “Oil or butter for your rolling pin” and “Optional: Minced garlic and cilantro or other herbs to […] combine with melted butter and brush on the flatbreads after they are cooked…“.

  • No butter or ghee in the dough?! Optional butter only if it’s combined with herbs or garlic? :stomp: :stomp:
  • Rolling pin?! For naan? :stomp: :stomp: :stomp:

Also – and again, there’s probably nothing wrong with the bread – breadtopia’s naan are round. And, of course I know that naan has been baked throughout Central Asia for centuries. But when we hear the word “naan”, we automatically think of India.

Naan is a leavened flatbread shaped like a teardrop. It is best when cooked in the clay oven called a tandoor.
 
– Madhur Jaffrey, “Invitation to Indian Cooking”, p.251
[N]aans are the bread of the northern regions […] The soft dough is shaped into long triangles, dampened on one side and slapped onto the side of the oven, where they cling until cooked. They emrege goldne brown on one side, crisp and dry on the side that has adhereed to the oven wall.
 
– Jacki Passmore, Asia: The beautiful Cookbook | India, p.198
Although naan sometimes comes in a round or triangular shape, the classic teardrop shape is what we think of when we think of this bread.
 
– Mike Benayoun, 196 flavors | India: Naan
Naan is traditionally baked by slapping the bread dough onto the side of a hot dome shaped clay oven referred to as a tandoor. The dough’s weight would normally cause it to fall into a teardrop shape, which is the recognizable characteristic of naan bread
 
– Heather Chase, The Culinary Chase | Naan Bread

In the spirit of full disclosure, Heather Chase adds: “you may also find round or oval shapes. Personally, if you make the bread, try not to be too picky about its shape“.

Taking photos wasn’t easy…. I imagined that using my sister’s iPhone would be a snap. But. The days are quickly getting shorter. Not to mention that we were baking the naan around 9pm!

Have I figured out how to focus with the iPhone? Did I know how to use the flash? Ha. As if.

Luckily, standing by the barbecue triggers our brilliant neighbours’ motion sensor light and lights up the barbecue so we can see if the bread is done (or getting overdone). The disadvantage to the neighbours’ light is that a shadow is cast from the upper rack of the barbecue.

(Our trusty digital camera was in T’s office and I was too lazy to run up two flights of stairs to get it.)

However, while they may not look it from the photos, the naan we made last night were easily the best ever.

Wild Naan baked on the gas barbecue

Here’s what we did to make wild naan:

Wild Naan
adapted from recipes in A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey and Entertaining Indian Style by Shehzad Husain, as well as being a slight revision of our own recipe for Wild Naan

makes 6 naans

Leavener

  • dessert spoonful culture (whole wheat 100% hydration starter) from the fridge (about 40 grams)
  • 50 grams room temperature water
  • 50 grams ‘no-additives’ 100% whole wheat flour

Leavener, continued (optional)

  • all of the above
  • 15 grams room temperature water
  • 15 grams ‘no-additives’ 100% whole wheat flour

Actual Dough

  • 45 grams (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 180 grams boiling water
  • 320 grams unbleached ‘no-additives’ all-purpose flour
  • 1 dessert-spoon (about 25 grams) plain yoghurt
  • All of the leavener, when it floats – showing that it’s as strong as it can be; (before adding the leavener, check the dough on the inside of your wrist to be sure it is body temperature – if it is still too hot, the yeasts will die)
  • 8 grams salt + 5 grams water

Topping, optional

  • butter
  1. Leavener Late in the evening on the day before you will be making naan, put a spoonful of culture from the fridge into a small bowl. Stir in 50 grams water and 50 grams whole wheat flour. Cover with a plate and put into the cold oven (if the night temperatures are dropping, turn the oven light on) to leave overnight.
  2. Leavener, continued In the morning of the day you will be making naan, particularly if the weather is warm, take a small spoonful of the leavener and see if it floats in a bowl of cool water. If the starter is quite bubbly but that little amount sinks, stir 15 grams water and 15 grams whole wheat flour into the bowl from the previous night. Cover with a plate and leave until about noon. If the kitchen is cool, omit this step and proceed to the next one.
  3. Actual Dough On the day you will be making naan, check to see if the leavener floats in a small bowl of cool water. If the leavener is domed but it doesn’t float, wait for 30 minutes or so and try again. If the leavener is bubbly but flat or concave on the surface, stir in about 5 grams each of whole wheat flour and water. Cover with a plate and leave it on the counter out of draughts. Check again again for floating about 20-30 minutes later. It probably will. Proceed with making the actual dough.
  4. Using a bowl that is large enough for the dough to triple, cut the butter into smallish pieces and place it in the bottom (I use a large casserole dish). Pour boiling water over top, stirring to melt the butter.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, stir all-purpose flour and yoghurt into the butter water. Before adding the leavener, doublecheck that the dough is no warmer than baby bottle temperature (touch some to the inside of your wrist), then add the leavener to the large bowl. Add the salt mixed into 5 grams of water overtop. Using a doughwhisk or wooden spoon, stir just enough to mix it together. Cover with a plate and leave on counter for about 20 minutes.
  6. Kneading: Wash your hands and leave one hand wet. With the back of your hand against the side of the bowl, reach down into the bowl to the bottom of the dough and pull it up to the fold it over the top. Turn the bowl with your other hand and repeat 4 or 5 times. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside on the counter for about 20 minutes.
  7. Repeat the previous step 2 or 3 times more. You’ll notice that the dough is smooth and silky to the touch.
  8. Proofing: Cover with a plate and leave on the counter. (Check the dough from time to time as the afternoon progresses into evening. Wet your hands and gently fold it whenever it has doubled. If the dough begins to feel sticky, sprinkle on a little all-purpose flour before folding.
  9. Preheating: If you are using the oven to bake: 20 minutes before baking the naan, put baking stone on the middle rack of the oven. Turn the oven to 400F.
    If you are using the barbecue: 10 minutes before baking the naan, turn the barbecue on high. There is no need to put a baking stone in the barbecue. You can cook naan directly on the grill.
  10. Shaping: 5 minutes before baking, when the dough has doubled in volume, gently turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Divide the dough into six equal pieces and shape each into a round. Finger press each round to flatten it into a heart shape, or thin rounded triangles, approximately 4 inches wide by 7 inches long. Don’t freak out if the heart shape turns into a rectangle. T says that naan are ideally teardrop shaped. (Luckily, it doesn’t really matter if they are not teardrop shaped – it’s not necessarily an easy shape to achieve….)
  11. Baking in the barbecue: Arrange the shaped bread directly on the hot grill and close the lid to the barbecue. Cook for about 2 minutes or so on one side; turn over when they have puffed. (Use blunt-nosed tongs so as not to pierce any holes in the naan.) Continue to cook on the other side until they seem done – complete baking takes about 5 minutes. Put the finished naan into a basket.
    Baking in the oven: 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!)
  12. When the bread is done, put it into a basket. Drizzle a little melted butter over top of each naan, if you want. (We don’t bother with this step when we’re serving naan with a particularly rich curry.)

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

Notes:

:: starter (aka culture): Our starter is a 100% hydration, liquid levain. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)

:: leavener and the float test: In the summer, our leavener can be quite active. We find that with the extra warmth in the kitchen, dough made with it tends to rise very quickly. Therefore, we feed it late at night and again in the morning.

Many people state categorically that the float test is unreliable, useless, and/or “bogus”. I have been tricked when merely looking at our starter – it appears to have doubled and be quite aerated. But it does NOT float. I feed it with a small amount of flour and check it about an hour or so later. The starter then has a slightly domed shape and DOES pass the float test, indicating that it is at its peak.

Here are three reasons that I am a diehard float tester:
1.)
[It] might be the case that your starter is rising, but you’re not there to see it. If you feed at night, it might be rising up while you’re asleep, and by morning it has fallen again, so it looks the same.
 
– Donna Currie, Serious Eats
| Sourdough Starter Frequently Asked Questions

2.)
The best time to mix your starter into your dough is when it’s achieved its maximum rise and is just starting to fall, because that’s when the yeast activity is going to be at its maximum.
 
– the Regular Chef, YouTube: 5 Ways To Get A Better Oven Spring | Sourdough Bread Tips
3.)
The most reliable indication that your leaven is ready is if it floats in water, a result of the carbon dioxide gas produced by wild yeast activity. To test the readiness of your leaven, drop a spoonful of it into a bowl of moderate room-temperature water. If it sinks, it is not ready to use and needs more time to ferment and ripen. You can expedite the fermentation by putting the leaven in a warm place and checking again after half an hour. Or you can [feed] the leaven […] [to give] it fresh resources to ferment and ripen. Let the new mixture ferment until it passes the float test.
 
– Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread, p45-47

Of course, I bow down to all the intuitive sourdough bakers out there who are producing brilliant bread after brilliant bread without doing the float test. But for me, it is an important step to ensure that our bread rises rather than becoming a doorstop destined for immediately becoming bread crumbs. Or worse, compost.

 

 

– me, blog from OUR kitchen, Wild Naan for Sourdough September, September 2017

Even in the dark, naan are easy to bake on the grill of the gas barbecue. And they’re really easy to eat! :-) :-)

20:58:24 (after about 3 minutes)
Baking Wild Naan on the Gas Barbecue
6 Wild Naan coming off the barbecue – in 14 seconds
Wild Naan Coming Off the Barbecue

 

This entry was posted in baking, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, Indian, posts with recipes, whine, wild yeast (sourdough) on by .

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