Saturday, December 08, 2007

1001 Naans


Dinakaran, the Tamil daily is carrying an article on the One page cookbooks tomo and I've made the book available for free download in my cookblog.

So new entries go here, for the timebeing.

Naan : Leavened Asian Flatbread

Naan is the most popular bread in central Asia. It was the breakfast food of the Moghul royalty. Under the name of Nan bya, it is still a popular breakfast food in Burma.

Naan is made from all purpose flour (maida) and uses a leavening agent ( yogurt, yeast, eggs or baking soda) to puff it up from the inside while being baked. This is what makes a naan light and fluffy.

Any thick bread needs a leavening agent. Without it all you get on baking is a hard brick. All the numerous holes you see in whitebread were made by gas generated by leavening agents. Yeast and baking soda are the most popular leavening agents in bread and cakes. It is the humble Yeast gives us delicious breads and all our alcohol. It is no wonder we have been using it for over 6000 years. Yeast breaks up sugar into carbon di oxide and alcohol. It is for this Carbon di oxide Yeast is used in bakeries and it is for alcohol it is used in breweries. Without Yeast, we lose both food and wine ! ( I love it so much that I capitalise it )

Naans come in various shapes and sizes. They may round or triangular, palm sized or table sized, plain or stuffed, They are generally sprinkled with herbs / seeds and brushed with butter / ghee.

The first recorded mention of Naan is in 1300 AD by Amir Khusarau, the greatest Sufi poet, a pillar of Hindustani music, originator of Qawali and famous for his tongue in cheek lines like

My beloved speaks Turkish, and Turkish I do not know;
How I wish if her tongue would have been in my mouth.


and

Old age and lovemaking do not go together;
But O Khusrau, you still remain a proof against this reasoning.


It was Khusrau who wrote the immortal

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.

If there is a paradise on earth,
It is this, it is this, it is this (India).

It is in Khusrau's works we see the first recorded mention of naan. He writes about naan-e-tanuri, tandoori Naan (tanur : tadoor) and Naan - e -tanuk , light bread.


Stuffed Naans :
Anything which can be shaped into a tight ball can be used to stuff naan. Pinch off a tomato sized ball of dough, roll out into a disc, place a ball of stuffing in the center and gather the edges of the dough, completely enclosing the filling. Now roll it up again into a thick disc and bake.

Kheema Naan filled with mincemeat, peshawari naan is a dessert naan filled with nuts, dates and raisins, aloo naan is stuffed with potatoes & gobi naan with cauliflower. The various possible stuffings are listed in the table next page.

Before baking, the naan can be sprinkled with poppy seeds / nigella ( black onion seeds : kalonji ), cumin or herbs like cilantro.

Though the recipe listed below calls for baking powder, you can use a pinch of active dry yeast instead. Yeast takes a couple of hours to work its magic and so the dough needs to be rested that long. You can also knead in milk / eggs / oil into the dough along with the dough. This makes the naan a complete meal by itself.

Master recipe for Naans

Prepare a base from column 1
Prepare additives as in column 2
Mix base and additives.
Add two pinches each of salt, baking powder and a couple of spoons of yogurt. Add water and knead well. Rest for 10 minutes.
Roll into rounds / triangles and bake in an electric tandoor for two minutes or till brown spots appear.

If a flatbread is light and fluffy , and made chiefly from all purpose flour, it can be safely called a naan.

1 Comments:

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4:46 AM  

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