For this Friday’s recipe, I’m sharing a review of a Jamie Oliver recipe that makes some lovely naan bread.
There’s something important you guys need to know. I can’t buy naan bread locally. GASP! I’ve seen it once in Aldi, but it’s the dry, breakable, cardboard sort that just isn’t naan. Being British I’m used to having decent pre-prepared Indian foods available whenever I like. Authentic stir in sauces, pastes and chutney? Yup yup. Naan, poppadums, chapati? Yes, yup und ja. Obviously I needed to have a go at making them.
You might recognise the bread in the pictures as something featuring in this post for my gorgeous creamy coconut curry. I know that was quite a while ago but I wanted to have another go at making this recipe first. Just to make sure I knew exactly what I was going to say to you lovely people reading all these words of mine! Having made these breads about five or six times, I’m now pretty sure that what I’m gonna say won’t be a lot of nonsense.
The Challenge in Germany
Naan bread is traditionally made in a tandoor. It’s a hot clay oven that has raw naan dough slapped onto its walls, where it cooks and becomes this wonderfully fluffy yet chewy piece of bread with a crispy exterior and a beautifully charred flavour. I was under no expectation that I’d be able to recreate this in a German kitchen, featuring an electric hob that barely hits a reasonable temperature for stir fry. If you listen carefully, you can hear my inside voice crying for a gas hob.
Another challenge is the flour. British bread flour has a strong gluten content of 12-14%. When you’re looking at a bag of flour and wondering how to interpret it, take a look at the protein content. For a nutritional breakdown per 100g, the protein amount will also be your percentage. The Rosenmehl flour you see in the picture above is 11%. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference but I also think there’s a texture difference with German flour – it seems finer and more delicate. I genuinely think those two things combined make a difference to the final product. As I want a lovely chewy consistency from naan, I up the protein/gluten content of my flour by adding in vital wheat gluten, or seitan. It doesn’t recreate an English flour type but I do think it helps achieve some extra elasticity. If you’re in Germany, seitan is easy to pick up from Denn’s Biomarkt.
I could also title this as: Why can’t I just follow instructions?
JamieOliver.com – Incredible Naan Breads | This recipe looks simple enough and fairly straightforward. But do I follow it? Oh, absolutely not.
Oddly for someone who loves to cook and was proudly the PVA glue monitor at primary school, I hate hate getting a sticky gloopy floury baking mess on my fingers. For this reason I have an electric hand mixer with dough hook attachments. I’m also not a patient person when it comes to dealing with the whole ‘activate the yeast for five minutes’ thing. You’ll see I use Allinson Easy Bake Yeast sachets. These are English but I did buy them online and had them delivered in Germany. Manufacturers instructions make no requirement on activating it and I’ve used this brand for years without issue.
So what do I do? Mix the flour, salt, yeast and seitan in one bowl. In a pyrex measuring jug measure out the quantity of just boiled water and add in the butter, mixing to melt, before adding the yogurt and honey. By this point the liquid is a nice lukewarm temperature so you’re not going to kill the yeast, you haven’t had to wait five minutes for butter to melt in a pan and for yeast to get frothy either. There’s also less washing up to do.
Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry and go at it for a while with the electric dough hooks. Knead until the dough is stretchy, springs back and cleans the sides of the bowl. After it’s risen, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten it out. Sprinkle nigella seeds over the surface, then fold the dough over itself to keep them inside. Give it a quick knead to evenly distribute. Why? Because any attempt of mine to sprinkle them delicately over a butter brushed naan is just going to end up with most of them falling off and being wasted on the plate.
Split the dough into six pieces and roll each out. Mine are a bit thinner than the recipe suggests though… Get the dry frying pan as hot as possible on the electric hob and cook the naan breads until they’re starting to darken. Be brave and leave them a bit longer and you’ll be rewarded with burning bits… which gives a nice little bit of charred flavour you’re not going to get any other way.
I serve them brushed with melted garlic butter because really what bread isn’t improved by the addition of garlic? I don’t add the extra salt – they don’t knead it.
What do I think? Some might take issue with my not following instructions exactly but I tend to treat those more as guidelines in this sort of situation. It’s the quantities that are important for me. As for the breads? I’ve found them to be consistently good and always incredibly well received. They’re fluffy on the inside and when I get it right, the surface can be a little elastic and flavourful. They’re not going to compare with something you get freshly made in a tandoor but if you’re stuck for choice and really fancy something that gives a good nod to naan bread, I rather like this recipe. I can’t help but feel it’ll be better on a gas hob with British flour but I’m happy with the results I get and I’m not looking for a new recipe to try. This does what I need it to do!