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Grilled Flatbread

naan-4

~This is the third post in a series running through the month of June 2009 in which I attempt to post once a day for the month.~

Hey I’m still here!

Day four of “post-a-day” month and we’re holding strong at a lovely new recipe that hits all ninja points – cheap, easy and deeeee-eeeeee-licious!

Naan! Well, this isn’t really naan. At least, I don’t think it is. It’s something called “kulcha.” I’m not sure what the difference is, but the stuff that this recipe makes is what the Indian restaurant down the street serves as “naan.” And it can be stuffed, like the “cheese naan” down the street. Oh. My. God.

Now that I think of it (and have looked at a couple of naan recipes), this isn’t naan at all and I’m probably making it wrong (apologies to the recipe maker), but if you make this recipe the way suggested here, you’ll get something extremely close to the amazing soft flat bread that we get at our favorite local Indian place that is called “naan.” Did I say? Oh. My. God.

Enough dinking around. You will need a pizza stone for this recipe. You do not, however, have to do this on the grill. Crank your oven up as high as it will go and let it warm up for about a half hour with the stone in it. Baking these takes a bit of finesse, but isn’t hard. It’s easy to overdo them.  Try pulling them off the stone earlier rather than later. If you make a full batch unstuffed, you’ll have eight breads to practice with and you’ll know right away if it’s over baked – it’ll be crunchy instead of heavenly soft with some browned patches. These are kind of like Indian flour tortillas…if flour tortillas were made with crack.

Cheers.

Grilled Flatbread

Adapted from 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking by Raghavan Iyer

Makes 8 breads (and halves nicely)

These are best when they are hot off the grill, but you can make a batch ahead of time; wrap them in foil and rewarm them in a preheated 300ºF oven for about 10 minutes. Like many of the Indian flatbreads, this freezes very well for up to 2 months.

* For the Dough: 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
* 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
* About 1 cup warm water
* Canola oil
* Ghee, for brushing

* For Grilling or Baking: Rock salt, gently pounded, for sprinkling (or use our secret weapon, below)
* Ghee or melted butter for brushing (we used regular butter, which worked fine, but it’s always nice to have some ghee around)

1. To make the dough, thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

2. Pour the buttermilk over the flour mixture and quickly stir it in. The flour will still be very dry, with some wet spots.

3. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the warm water over the flour mixture, stirring it in as you do so. Repeat until the flour comes together to form a soft ball; you will use about 1 cup warm water altogether. The dough should be very soft, close to being slightly sticky, so if you add an extra tablespoon or so of water, it won’t hurt it. Using your hand, gather the ball, picking up any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, and knead it to form a smooth, soft ball of dough. If it’s a little too sticky to handle, dust your hand with flour to handle the dough, but do not add any more flour to the dough if possible. Knead it for a minute or two. (If you used your hand to make the dough from the start, it will be caked with clumps of dough. Scrape them back into the bowl. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly, and return to the dough to knead it. You will get a much better feel for the dough’s consistency with a dry hand.)

4. Cut the dough into 8 equal portions. Lightly grease a plate with oil. Shape one portion into a round resembling a hamburger bun and put it on the plate. (To get a smooth round, cup the dough in the palm of your hand and use your fingers to fold and tuck the edges underneath; then rotate, folding and tucking all around the get an evenly smooth ball.) Repeat with the remaining dough.

5. Brush the tops of the rounds with ghee (I used olive oil and it was fine), cover them with plastic wrap or a slightly dampened cloth, and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

6. Place a pizza stone or unglazed pottery tiles on the grill rack (or in the oven). If it is a gas grill, heat it to the highest heat setting. If it is a charcoal grill, build an intensely hot fire and allow the charcoal to turn ash-white and red-hot. The temperature should hover between 600º and 700ºF.

7. Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil, fold it in half lengthwise, and set it aside. Tear off 5 sheets of wax paper, each about 8 inches wide.*

8. Lightly flour a small work area near the grill, and place a dough round on it. Press it down to form a patty. Roll the patty out to form a round roughly 3 to 5 inches in diameter**, dusting it with flour as needed. Make sure the round is evenly thin, with no tears on the surface.

9. Lightly salt one side of the bread with kosher salt, crushed rock salt (what is that?) or our secret seasoning…

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That’s right, garlic salt! Don’t make that face, it’s delicious. And salty. And delicious. Press whatever salt you choose into the dough so it doesn’t fly off when you put it in the oven. Your bread will look something like this when it’s ready to go.

naan-1

10. Transfer the filled round salt side down, onto the hot pizza stone. Within seconds, the dough will start to bubble in spots. Cover the grill and cook until the dough turns crispy brown*** on the underside, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the kulcha over and cook until that side turns light brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove it from the stone, liberally brush the salted side with ghee, and slide it between the layers of foil to keep it warm.

11. Continue rolling, salting and cooking the remaining rounds, stacking them on top of the previously grilled kulcha.

12. Eat it! Now while it’s warm!! There’s a nice hummus recipe below you can make to go with. If you make both of these, you’ll find yourself eating uncontrollably. I know. Oh yes, I know.

If you want to stuff your bread!

Flatbread Studded with Chile-Spiked Onions (Pyaaz Kulcha)

* 1 cup finely chopped red onion
* 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
* 4 to 6 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or Serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed
* 1/2 teaspoon black salt, coarse kosher, or sea salt

1. Combine the onion, cilantro, chiles, and salt in a medium-size bowl, and stir together well.

2. Lightly flour a small work area near the grill, and place a dough round on it. Press it down to form a patty. Roll the patty out to form a round roughly 3 to 5 inches in diameter**, dusting it with flour as needed. Make sure the round is evenly thin, with no tears on the surface. Spread one fourth of the onion filling over the dough. Take another dough round and roll it out in the same fashion. Drape this round over the filling and press the edges of the dough together, pinching them as hard as you can to seal them. Sprinkle a little rock salt over the top, and gently press it into the dough. Lift the filled dough round, flip it, plop it on a sheet of wax paper, and cover it with a second sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds and filling stacking them between sheets of wax paper as they are filled (or fill and bake one at a time).

3. Salt and bake as above.

Restaurant-style hummus (worth the fussiness – do all the steps!)

3 tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons tahini , stirred well
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves

1. Combine lemon juice and water in small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish (or don’t).
2. Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle reserved chickpeas and cilantro over surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

*I rolled and baked one at a time, so there was no need for the wax paper. If you fill the breads, you might want to roll and fill them all at once.
**My breads rolled out bigger than 5 inches.
***It says you want these brown, but I really don’t think you do. I’d err on the side of underbaking. You can see from the photo at the top that these are fairly pale. There are definitely some brown patches, but it does look more like a tortilla than, uh, a totally brown thing. If you like it crispy, though, let ‘er rip!
****I imagine you can stuff these with whatever you like. We’re trying cheese next!

One Comment

  1. […] this over rice is great.  You can eat it by itself as well or with some flatbread, which is a real […]

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