Saturday, May 4, 2013

Week 18 of the 52s...Naan

Okay.  Two observations...

First, let me say that I'm pretty much done having cooking experiences for the 52s.  Seriously.  I ruined the dog cookies in Week 14, and today I skirted the edge of ruin trying to make naan bread.

Second, how dumb am I to decide to cook something that requires a superheated cast iron pan on a day that is already abnormally hot?  Apparently, very, very dumb.

Earlier this week I was watching a cooking program on the Food Network.  One of the recipes was naan bread.  I love this bread and haven't had a good one since leaving the UK where you can get a curry and naan on every other corner.  The recipe looked easy, not many ingredients, and how cool, I could bake my own naan!

I should have known.  Really...

After the dog walk this morning, I quickly make the dough, which has to rise for 4 hours.  No problem. I do the yeast, sift the flour, knead the dough and set aside in a warm place (that would be anywhere in the nuclear furnace of the house) and go on to other chores.

Around 3:00, I figure it's been long enough.  The dough has risen, though not as high as expected.  Course, this isn't bread bread, it's Indian naan.  I knead a bit more, then I'm supposed to divide into 6 balls (loaves).  I only get 4.  That's alright, there's only one of me after all.  The dough is fluffy and slightly sticky, just as it's supposed to be...

I flatten a ball, roll it into a naan-shape and try to pick it up off the pastry mat.  It immediately stretches, rips through my fingers and drops onto the mat in a doughy heap. Huh.  I don't remember that happening on the television show.  I carefully knead the dough again, then practically fling it into the superheated cast iron pan.

At first it does exactly what it's supposed to: smokes and bubbles.  Naan traditionally has burnt spots, with big air pockets.  It cooks for one minute, gets flipped and cooks for another 30 seconds.  And here's where everything goes awry.  It has burned onto the pan's surface.  I can't get the spatula underneath to flip it, though eventually I manage.  Except the bread is burnt--in a bad way--but oddly raw inside.  Buggers.

Maybe, like making pancakes, the first one should go to the dog?  Too bad then that neither of my dogs will even come close enough to sniff the burned, mangled mess, let alone eat it.  The second one comes out the same...burnt and uncooked in the center.  They both will go over the ridge for the birds later this evening.

The temperature in the kitchen is now comparable to Chicago in August.  I am frustrated, hot and cranky.  Why isn't this working?  I have two more balls, then I'm taking a vow to never experiment with cooking again.

At last, the final dough ball.  It's the irregular shape of an authentic loaf, it's just starting to bubble, and I can slide the lip of the spatula under the edge. It's a miracle!

My Naan Bread.  It's not pretty, but it's cooked, there are numerous air pockets, it's got the good burned spots, and it tastes just right...

So, was it worth it?  Jury's still out.  I know it wasn't worth doing in this heat, for sure.  And I only got one true loaf out of what should have been six.  Plus my cast iron pan may never recover.


I did do something new this week.  And hey, as long as I'm sweaty and overheated, while I'm eating my naan with a nice salad later this evening, I'll just pretend I'm on holiday in Mumbai.  That should add a certain flavor, I think.


  1. You've not had good na'an since leaving the other side of the pond? The fuck?!? You mean to tell me there's not a single Indian and/or Himalayan restaurant where you live? If that's the case, I must question you sanity...either that or strongly recommend you figure out how to make the stuff properly. It is, after all, a matter of survival.

    1. In case you missed this part: I live in a very small town in the middle of bugger all. The closest Indian restaurant is well over an hour away. And yes, because I truly love this bread, I must figure out the recipe. Just not while it's hotter than the surface of Jupiter...

    2. Technically, Jupiter ain't as hot as the sunny side of Mercury or Venus and has not solid surface, but I'll let that one slide...;P

      Where you live sounds like where my parents were before my mother died. There was a reason I referred to it as the Rub 'al Khali. Going out for visits were often accented with bemoaning how we'd never get there and then asking them why they thought it was a good idea to live somewhere that made the Back of Beyond and Hell and Gone short distance hops.

    3. Someday I just might tell the story of how I ended up in this godforsaken place, so outside my ken it's a wonder I don't go mad...