The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

A long time coming, but finally success! A Naan I can be proud of.

TaiMai13's picture

A long time coming, but finally success! A Naan I can be proud of.

One of my earliest food memories is of eating a delicious, buttery Naan, al fresco on the patio, somewhere in an outdoor cafe in an Indian city, probably Mahabaleshwar or one of the stops on the way there from Pune, when I was just 8 years old. I can still taste it today. My senses were enchanted by this unexpected delight, both familiar and yet different to the breads of my American youth. The fact that I had been traumatized by countless watery and bland dals, lowering my expectations for Indian food considerably, does not undermine the fact that I knew right away that Naan was one of the great breads of the world. (Obviously I love Indian food now, but my early exposure to said cuisine was in the hands of those with more enthusiasm than skill!)

Flash forward to 2004 and I have my first go of making it myself. Well... let's just say there was considerable room for improvement. It wasn't Naan, but it wasn't bad and it didn't stop me from trying again. In fact, I continued to make it over and over throughout the years. I tried new recipes, methods of cooking, etc, but I never quite got there. The taste was almost always good, but the texture was wrong or the crust was too tough or it was too dry. But hey, garlic butter sure does cover a lot of evils in the food world!
Finally, a few months ago I spent a lot of time researching a new recipe. In the spirit of Alan Turing, I was determined to crack the code. I found a blog from a lady that had tested many different recipes from famous Indian chefs and had compiled her own as an amalgam of sorts. I was pretty excited and felt I had done my homework and understood the science, so I got the recipe and made it. It was really good, the best I had made, and we were all very happy, but it still wasn't Naan. And this was not me being a perfectionist; there was clearly a key component missing which I had yet to discover. I was flummoxed and feeling a bit exasperated. I didn't know what else I could do as I had tried just about everything.
But after lifting my chin back up, I decided to persist. YouTube was my source this time. I eventually stumbled upon a presentation from a kind looking lady in her home kitchen. I don't know what caught my interest, but it sure wasn't the production values or precise recipe control. Nevertheless, I continued to watch the entire 13 minutes. I was intrigued because her recipe and process were so radically different from anything I had ever read about or seen for Naan (or any kind of bread for that matter). I thought to myself: What have I got to lose? Nothing else has worked so why not give it a go. 
Curry was the dinner choice a few nights ago so I finally had an opportunity to try it out. I struggled a bit throughout the process due to unfamiliarity of technique, not having all the right ingredients and just general first time recipe jitters. The results were still a way off, but there was finally a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time, there was real hope. Could this radical approach really be it? I knew I had to change a few things but I felt the fundamentals were sound. I took notes and looked forward to the next attempt.
Curry was again on the menu tonight, so obviously Naan was called for. I cultivated a positive vibration, implemented my changes and just generally expected good things to happen. And sure enough: I finally, FINALLY, FINALLY did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I realise that I forgot to take a picture of the 'crumb' (Naan doesn't really have one, does it?). But trust me, it was very, very good. There was a hint of sweetness balanced by the tang of yogurt and a richness from the melted butter in the dough (and on top, of course!) with just a bit of a salty bite. It took on just the right colour and puffed up beautifully just like at the Indian takeaways, but didn't split in half and hollow out like pita bread as many previous attempts had. And most of all, the texture was just right. The one thing that always stood out as the glaring flaw to me on my previous attempts was a tough, dry crust and bit of a jaw workout throughout the eating process. This one had a wonderful chew with just the right amount of resistance (al dente if you will) but was still soft and pliable. 
Now the lack of an actual Tandoor will always present a challenge. You can see that the bubbles have been flattened on top. This is because the best home solution I have available now is cooking it on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet, and flipping it over flattens them a bit. I've already thought of an upgrade on this process (placing under a grill at the end instead of flipping) which will improve it somewhat, but the effect on the crust and texture will never be fully overcome with iron. I need clay or stone, so I need to either get a Tandoor or find some serious hacks for my pizza stone to achieve the next level. Any suggestions are welcome. But for now, I am very pleased. This is maybe the most satisfying bread I have ever made.

Recipe as follows. I must give credit to the original, which you can find here at Bhavna's Kitchen. I have made several significant changes but it's more or less the same.



Makes 6 portions @ ~ 110g each.

  • 75g tepid water

  • 15g sugar

  • 4g instant or active dry yeast

Mix all in a bowl of stand mixer, set aside to activate in warm place. (I have been doing this even for instant yeast, in large part because that was what the original recipe called for. I don't feel naan gets its flavour from slow fermentation and I also feel that part of what makes this recipe so good is that you are trying not to develop too much gluten, so working quickly and getting that yeast kicked into high gear is an advantage for this bread, IMHO).

  • 45g melted butter or ghee, cooled slightly

  • 225g plain yogurt, medium thickness, room temperature

Once yeast is bubbling, and to bowl and bring together briefly with paddle attachment. (You can absolutely do this recipe by hand like the original, but I like the ease of using my mixer and I wanted to experiment with the differences. I will probably try it by hand again a few times to find if one is better or simply more fun than the other).

  • 300g all-purpose flour

  • 4g salt

Mix together in a separate bowl. Continuing with paddle, with mixer running at low speed, add dry mix a spoonful at a time until all has been added. Turn speed up to 3 or 4 and continue to mix for ~ 2 minutes. The mix will continue to look more like a batter than a dough, but you will see some minor gluten development. This is correct and be careful not to over mix.

Bulk ferment in warm place for ~ 45 minutes but up to an hour. The dough should just barely double in size or not quite. 

Using a large metal spoon for ease of use, spoon out ~ 110g portions onto a floured surface. Being liberal with flour as needed, gently shape into oval/triangle/teardrop shape with hands, like forming a pizza. Place immediately into a cast iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cook for ~ 2 minutes then place under a hot grill for ~ 1 minute to crisp up the top.

Brush and sprinkle with:

  • Melted butter, as needed

  • Garlic, minced, as needed

  • Coriander or parsley, as needed

  • Kalonji (nigella) seeds, as needed

  • Flaky sea salt, as needed

Note: I assume this has a hydration of 100%, if we assume that yogurt is essentially milk and therefore essentially water. If anyone has better info on how to calculate hydration with yogurt, please let me know and I will update the recipe. It is this very high hydration which I feel is the key to this recipe. All others I had tried in the past maxed out at about 75-80%. Another area that I may play with is keeping everything the same but going for more gluten with either a longer knead or longer fermentation. However, this is one of those rare cases where I don't think it will benefit, and may even hinder the texture. The dough is very easy to tear when shaping, but I have seen this as a common concurrence with the professionals so there has to be a reason. Someone with more knowledge than me can hopefully contribute to more understanding in this area.




lizzy0523's picture

Nothing better than a naan with just the right amount of char! I too have seen/tried so many different formulas, with varying degrees of success. These look like some I'm going to have to try!

Re the tandoor: there are lots of tutorials for diying one with essentially nothing but a clay flower pot and charcoal. I've been thinking of attempting this slightly more involved version:

Anyway, it looks like those naan were perfectly satisfying with nothing but cast iron. Thanks for sharing!

TaiMai13's picture

Thanks Lizzy. I remember watching Good Eats and seeing Alton make a tandoor. I've been tempted to try ever since. I look the look of the one in this video. One day... 

dabrownman's picture

buit hard to make at home.  I put my stone in my gas grill and crank it up - flipping part way through.  It is as close as I can ge to a tandor but any WFO would do at a high temperature.  Yours have to be tasty with some curry.  Well done and happy baking.

TaiMai13's picture

My stone is too big to fit my current oven. I didn't think of putting it on the grill. How does it handle the direct heat of the flames? 

dabrownman's picture

So no worries here.  I have also used a large CI skillet on the grill gotr pita and Naan.

dabrownman's picture

Masala.  Made it right on the grill no stone needed - came out perfect.  Good to know you don't need the stone.  Just oil the grll with a towel first.  Grill one side on medium for 2 minutes butter the top. flip and butter the grilled side now on top - 2 more minutes.  I made 3 at a time.

Happy Naan grilling

TaiMai13's picture

Your naan looks amazing. I think the grill grates have actually allowed you to get more browning without charring. Obviously we want some char, but I think you have achieved a better balance there than I got on a flat skillet. Having said that, I'm not sure my super soft 100% hydration dough would handle the gaps well. Maybe I can try on a grill pan on the stove top so I don't have to worry about it falling through. Won't get the same flavour though. Ah well, now I'm hungry...

kendalm's picture

Have you tried making Paratha - not as difficult as the tandoor is not a crucial item and its just incredible - personally I prefer a good Paratha over a good naan !

TaiMai13's picture

But it would fit my current tastes. I've been obsessed with flatbreads recently. Would you be able to direct me to a good recipe? 

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Your naan looks so soft and stretchy. Perfect for mopping up curries.

TaiMai13's picture

It was that soft, stretchiness that was so elusive for so long. I can't wait to make it again. 

Ru007's picture

Your persistence paid off, your naan looks delicious :)

Danni3ll3's picture

Thank you for sharing! It looks delicious!

Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

Looks great!