Naan is a yeast-leavened flatbread, originated from Central and South Asia with influence from the Middle-East. I like making naan as much as I enjoy the challenge of making complex robust sourdough breads that take days to do. The taste of this Indian cheese bread is remarkable – salty, creamy, and pillowy with a touch of sweetness. As David suggests, it is best eaten hot off the griddle. There is this ephemeral quality of just-made bread that’s worth the extra work. I felt the compulsion to serve this lovely cheese naan with something Indian. So I made a vegetable curry to go with it. There was very little leftover for this all-out Indian meal.
This Indian cheese bread recipe involves mixing the white-flour yeast culture first (7 grams of active dry yeast, a dash of sugar, 3/4 cup of flour and 160 ml of water). When the yeast mixture becomes frothy, combine the remaining flour (1 cup), baking powder (3/4 teaspoon), salt (3/4 teaspoon), yogurt (2 tablespoons) and clarified butter (3 tablespoons) in a stand mixer to make a smooth, elastic dough. As the dough is kneaded sufficiently for about five minutes, set it aside to rise for 30 minutes. The overall hydration is about 64% making it quite manageable if you want to knead the dough by hand. Once risen, the dough is divided into six balls (about 85 grams each), which are flattened and rolled into squares with the shredded Swiss-style soft cheese folded within.
Expect to see some smoke. Didn’t bother with a lid to cover the hot cast-iron skillet when I cooked the dough over the stovetop. I use the smoke as the visual cue to assess the rate at which the dough is cooked. Hence increase or decrease the heat dial accordingly. The few short minutes of cooking the naan under heat and the resulting adrenaline rush was exciting to me. When you see the brown or even black blistered spots appear, the naan is done.
Another detour I enjoy is making the clarified butter that the recipe calls for. It takes less time to make than going to the store to get some. The step is rather straightforward. Heat butter until liquefied, reaches 260°F, is clear, and the foam on top is slightly browned. Then strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
Clarifying butter removes the milk solids, which are what cause butter to burn if cooked for an extended period of time. Clarified butter has a higher smoking point which allows the naan to cook at an elevated temperature. The idea of using olive oil crossed my mind. However, after using the clarified butter in this recipe, all my doubts are removed.
I am linking this post to cook-the-book-Fridays, an online cooking group, who is making our way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, one recipe at a time. You are welcome to come join us for the fun in making delectable food like this Indian cheese bread.
Indian Cheese BreadPrint Recipe
- 2/3 cup (160ml) tepid water
- pinch of granulated sugar
- 1 packet (7g) active dry yeast
- 1 3/4 cups (250g) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons plan yogurt
- 5 tablespoons (75ml) melted clarified butter, plus more for frying
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 12 wedges (21g each) plain Laughing Cow cheese or shredded Swiss-style soft cheese
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, sugar, yeast and 3/4 cup (110g) of the flour. Let stand for 30 minutes; the mixture will become frothy.
Add the remaining 1 cup (140g) of flour along with the baking powder, yogurt, 3 tablespoons of the clarified butter, and the salt; knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough will be soft, but if it sticks to your fingers, add another tablespoon or two of flour. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and cover it with a lid, preferably domed.
Divide the dough into six pieces. Sprinkle the countertop with a light dusting of flour and knead each piece in a little bit of flour until it is smooth. Working one at a time, roll each piece of dough into a 4-inch (10cm) disk. Starting with one round of dough, place two unwrapped wedges (42g) of cheese side by side in the center. Fold over the four rounded edges, pressing them down to completely envelop and enclose the cheese so the naan is square.
Turn the naan over, seam side down, and roll it out with a rolling pin on the floured countertop until it's about 6 inches (15cm) square.
Brush a thin layer of clarified butter over the bottom of the hot skillet. Lay one naan on the hot surface, replace the lid, and cook for about 1 minute, until it puffs up unevenly and the underside is browned. Use a spatula to flip the naan and replace the lid, continuing to cook the naan until the other side is browned, about 1 minute. A few black, blistered spots are normal, and encouraged.
Slide the cheese-filled naan out onto a plate, brush it with clarified butter. Repeat the same process with other rounds of dough, and serve.
Adapted from David Lebovitz "My Paris Kitchen."