Give me a big hunk of chewy, soft French bread to gnaw on and I’m one happy camper. And I don’t just love bread—I love the entire bread baking process. I love the scent of the yeasty dough in my hands and the way it always takes on a life of it’s own. I love the mixing, the proofing, the baking…and most of all, I love the eating!
Yep, I’m a bread girl all right.
However, even though I love it, I definitely don’t profess to be some sort of bread guru. Friday, for example, I wanted homemade naan with my channa masala and had no earthly idea how to make it. Where does one turn with that craving strike?? What does one do?!
Friends, allow me to show you.
Have you had your coffee yet?
No? Go grab some—I’ll wait.
There! Now get ready. This post is a long one but there’s a lot of love in it and I’m promising upfront that this is not a waste of your time. I’m not just going to write some crazy long bread post without promising to deliver the goods.
This naan is delicious. Like, kinda ridiculous. I definitely don’t know everything, but I do know that there’s not much in life that a good homemade loaf of bread can’t semi-fix. I mean, it’s not going to take away your bills, your taxes or your upcoming traffic court date, but when you rip apart that first steamy bite, dripping with roasted garlic butter, life will be good. It just will be.
So are you in? I hope so.
Bread baking is the definition of making something out of nothing.
With just four ingredients (not including water), you can create delicious homemade bread at home…just like the kind you buy at fancy bakeries! I know that many people are intimidated by the whole process, but I promise…it’s really not as scary as it looks.
So, start off by measuring out a cup and a half of warm water. The water should be warm but not scalding hot….about one hundred degrees, if you measure. I just stick my finger in it and if it’s the temperature of bath water, it’s a go!
Pour one teaspoon of active dry yeast in the warm water and give it a little stiry-stir.
This is where you’ll add a pinch of sugar. Sugar feeds the yeast so its important not skip this step…unless you’re baking bread that calls for milk. Milk has natural sugars in it already so no need to add the sugar.
But today, we add the sugar. Just a pinch. If you see bubbles, it’s a good thing. The bubbles mean the yeast is aaaaaaalive!
Sorry. That does look sort of gross but I wanted to show you all what the bubbles look like! I’ll stop now and show you prettier pictures, like how the yeast and water look when you add a little flour and begin mixing.
Okay fine. I give up. The entire bread baking process isn’t the most photogenic thing ever but I promise it’s worth the bubbles and the mess. Just wait!
The amount of flour you use is kinda up in the air. I’m going to say measure out three cups to start, but you’ll have to be the judge if you need it all. What I did was add about a cup and a half to start, mixed on low speed for a few minutes and then added another cup and a half.
After you add all the flour and the salt, you’re going to mix on medium high speed for about six minutes. This develops the gluten in the dough and gives it that nice chew we all know and love. When you’re done, your dough will still be a little sticky but you should be able to pull it thin without ripping.
When the dough is done, it will have a rather elastic feel to it. This is a pretty basic French bread dough and it’s on the loose side. It’s not going to form a perfectly smooth ball like pizza dough. However, another tell-tale sign that the dough is done is when the mixer has started to clear the sides of the bowl like this:
From start to finish, the entire mixing process took me ten minutes with my Kitchen Aid. If you are brave and going to try this by hand, it’ll probably take you about fifteen.
Now rub some oil in a large bowl, plop that baby in and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and let rise for almost two hours.
Yes, two hours. Go do something else while you’re waiting….like yoga….or online shopping! Or, even better, start roasting your garlic for the butter. Check here for details on that, but it should only take about thirty minutes. When it’s done, drain the garlic from the oil and smoosh it with about four tablespoons of soft butter.
If you’ve done your yoga, shopped till you dropped and roasted your garlic, the dough should be about ready. Let’s check.
Perfection. You want it about double the size it was when you left.
Now, divide it into four baby dough blobs…
And then flatten those babies into naan sized disks. Feel free to give ‘em a good slap on the counter and put some elbow grease in it.
(We’re almost done! We’re almost done!)
Sprinkle some water on each and just start poking the dough like crazy. Really dig your fingers in there…don’t be scared! This is what makes naan naan!
Perfect. Lay each piece of dough on a lined sheet tray, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake at 475 for ten minutes. Naan is traditionally made on a grill (or on a stovetop), but I’ve found the oven works great, too.
Now it’s time for a brief intermission while I tell you that while baking these here naan (naan? naans?), I accidentally set off the fire alarm off in my apartment complex. Sometimes these things happen….you just have to roll with them.
That being said, even if you do manage to set your oven on fire and set off the alarm, your naan will still come out of the oven all puffed up smelling absolutely heavenly. I’m telling you…there’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread!
Well, unless your kitchen is filled with smoke.
You probably shouldn’t listen to a thing I say, let alone follow my lead. Sheesh!
At this point though, if you are still here, I highly recommend brushing the loaves with roasted garlic butter.
And then sticking it back in the oven, under broil, for approximately four minutes. When it comes out, it will be positively sinful. At this point, you may either dunk it in a large bowl of channa masala or daal, or just tear right into it. It’s okay. I’ve been there.
I have a sneaking suspicion this would also make delicious flatbread and pizza! But that’s another post for another time.
Roasted Garlic Naan
Inspired by Baking with Julia
makes 4 naan breads
1.5 cups warm water, about 100 degrees farenheight
1 tsp active dry yeast
3-3.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
4 cloves garlic
4 T butter, softened
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine the yeast, water and sugar and stir gently. Let sit for about five minutes so the yeast can dissolve.
In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid, combine the water/yeast plus a cup and a half of the flour. Mix on low speed for about three minutes. Add the rest of the flour and the salt and increase the speed to high. Let ‘er rip for six minutes, or until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and, when pulled, is elastic.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place in a new, lightly oiled, bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about two hours. It should double in size. While it’s rising, roast the garlic in the olive oil at 400 degrees for thirty minutes. When done, remove the garlic from the olive oil and combine with the softened butter. Discard the oil and set the garlic butter aside.
After the dough has finished rising, turn it out onto a floured counter-top and divide into four equal sections. Flatten each section down into a rectangular shape and then sprinkle with water and prick your fingers in each. This gives it classic naan “dimples”. Lay each on a lined baking sheet and bake at 475 for ten minutes.
Let cool for ten minutes and then brush each naan with garlic butter. Broil for four minutes.
**Naan will last, wrapped in a brown paper bag, for two days though it’s best enjoyed the same day you bake it!