The earliest appearance of “nan” in English is from 1810, in a travelogue of William Tooke. The Persian word nān ‘bread’ (Uzbek non/нон) is already attested in Middle-Persian/Pahlavi as n’n ‘bread, food’. The form itself is of Iranian origin.
Unlike some other staple Indian breads, which are unleavened and crafted from durum wheat flour, or atta, fluffy naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast. Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven and baked over wood fires, but many home cooks make it on the stovetop. It is best savored hot and slathered with ghee.
- 3 to 4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. instant yeast
- 1¼ c. milk
- ¼ c. plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom
- ⅛ tsp. ground turmeric
- 4 Tbsp. melted Ghee
- Pour the milk into a liquid measuring cup, whisk in the Greek yogurt, and heat in the microwave until warm to the touch (about 110 degrees F). Pour the warm milk into a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the sugar, instant yeast, salt, cardamom, turmeric, and 2½ cups of the flour.
- Mix well with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Continue adding flour gradually in small amounts, until a soft dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl (it will still be sticky). Knead the dough using the dough attachment on your stand mixer, or by hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rest at room temperature, covered lightly, for about 2 hours.
- After the dough has rested, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, rounding each into a ball shape. The dough will still be a little sticky, but you won’t have too much trouble forming it into balls.
- Cover the pieces with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes. While the dough rests, preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and place a pizza stone or large cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven.
- Once the dough has rested for a half hour, one by one, roll each piece into a circle about 6 inches wide. Open up the oven and lay the circle of dough on the hot pizza stone. Spritz the top of the dough with a little water or olive oil. Close the oven and bake the naan for about 2-3 minutes, until it is lightly puffed and brown spots begin to appear on the bottom. Turn the naan using tongs and return to oven for another 2 minutes or so.
- Remove the naan from the oven and place on a cooling rack or large plate. Brush lightly with Ghee. Stack the hot naan on top of each other as it comes out of the oven to hep keep the pieces warm.