The relatively thick, bubble-puffy flatbread known as naan came to India and Pakistan by way of Persia. The dough is yeast-leavened and contains yogurt. Once baked, naan can be a scoop for saucy foods, a wrapper, or something to be stuffed with delicious fillings like spiced mashed potato. As for baking naan, there are a couple of ways you can go. Traditionally, the rolled-out raw breads are slapped onto the walls of a clay tandoor oven. At home, you can choose to bake naan in a skillet or on a griddle, or take it outside and cook them on a propane grill. We did both (spoiler alert: Each method produces delicious naan, though with a few differences). So read on—but first you need to make the dough:
Naan (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey)
Makes 12 breads
1 1/4 cups tepid milk (about 105°F to 115°F)
4 teaspoons granulate sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
7 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups plain full-fat yogurt
2 eggs, lightly whisked
Heat the milk in large saucepan until it's barely warm to the touch. Add the sugar and yeast, and set aside until the yeast is dissolved and frothy, about 15 minutes.
Sift the measured flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, the yogurt, and eggs to the yeast mixture and stir, then add this to the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix, then use your hands to form a ball of dough.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes (you might need to add a little extra flour to get it smooth and pearlescent). Massage the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil onto the ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down the risen dough and knead again, then divide into 12 equal balls (I used a scale for accuracy). Lay a damp dishtowel over the dough balls so they won't dry out.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll out 1 ball at a time. With your hand, flatten the ball.
Using a rolling pin (or whatever you prefer—I use a wine bottle), roll each ball into a rough teardrop shape—roll it back and forth without changing the direction of the roller, until it's roughly as thin as pizza dough (about 1/4 inch).
To bake the naan, you have two options: on a propane grill, or in a cast-iron skillet.
Turn the flames on your outdoor propane grill to high. When it's hot, place the dough directly on the grates—within 1 minute the top surface will begin to bubble. Grill until bubbles have formed all over the top, then flip, close the lid, and cook until done, about 1 minute.
Place a large cast iron skillet over high heat until it's smoking hot. Place a piece of dough on the surface: It should start bubbling within 30 seconds. Keep cooking until bubbles have formed all over the top, about 60 to 90 seconds. Flip and cook until done, about 30 to 60 seconds.
Both methods produce naan that taste very similar. The differences are mostly textural: The cast-iron naan has a chewier bottom layer and is more dense, while the grilled naan is slightly fluffier and crisp on the bottom.
You can freeze whatever naan you don't eat right away for future use. They make fantastic bases for improvised pizzas!
Photos and animated GIFs by Chris Rochelle