As a teenager I spent several years in the Middle east as an aide worker. While spending those years in the desert I learned to love the middle eastern culture I was in and learned to love their foods as well. This Naan bread was very foreign to me (having grown up on mostly Amish honey bread and hamburger or hot dog buns), but I learned to love it and use it as a side to every meal like the locals did. This recipe For Iraqi style Naan was developed with the help of a few of my Middle eastern friends and has been adapted to be made in our Western kitchens with more “modern” appliances.
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Iraqi Naan bread
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups bread flour *see note
- Olive oil
- Yoghurt, honey or cream cheese for serving.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together warm water, yeast, salt and sugar. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to allow yeast to activate.
- After ten minutes, mix in the flour ( your choice of bread flour or all purpose flour, I find both produce similar results.) then knead well for 5 to 10 minutes until it is soft and lump free. The dough should be sticky but workable.
- Lightly flour the bottom of your bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour. After 50 Minutes, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. After 5 minutes of preheating, place a pizza stone inside to heat up as well (or see method 2 below).
- Shape the dough into 5 balls and allow to rest for another 15 minutes, then using a rolling pin (see below for traditional method), roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, into 7 by 7 in. (roughly) disks. Note* if the dough is too thin it will become crunchy after it baked, so I usually try to have it around 1/4 inch thick on the edges.
- Brush a little Olive oil on both sides of the disks, then using an oven mitt (*see note), place one or two disks of dough on the hot pizza stone, then shut the oven door and allow them to bake for a few minutes. Once they have bubbled up and are browned on the bottom, flip them using your oven mitt and allow them to bake 2-3 minutes longer until both sides have browned a bit. Allow to cool, then serve with cream cheese, yogurt and honey, or use as a side to your favorite meal.
Method Two for cooking Naan:
Heat an electric griddle to maximum heat, then cook the Naan disks on top. After 30-60 seconds on high heat you can turn the heat down to medium, then flip the bread once the bottom is browned and has started to bubble. Some people like to fry the bread in a frying pan. I find the oven and pizza stone or baking them in a hot grill, produces the best results for me. You can experiment and find what works for you.
Traditional method for shaping Naan:
The traditional way of shaping the Naan bread is a little more difficult but fun to master. Take a little olive oil and rub it on your palms, then press the edges of the dough down with your fingers until only a walnut sized lump in the center remains. Take the dough and slap it out between your palms, stopping to stretch it out a bit every once in a while. Once you have the desired shape you can place them directly onto the hot stone to bake, without adding oil.
Note* Operate an oven at 500 degrees with caution and at your own risk.
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While working in Iraq as humanitarian Aid workers, Naan was a huge part of our diet. One day a local lady invited my friend and I over to learn how to make Naan in her outdoor, earthen oven. She taught us how to slap the bread into shape (with much fumbling on my part), how to bake it and which ingredients to use. When I asked about adding yogurt to the bread dough she thought it was funny, so Iraqi bread is slightly different than most Naan recipes, but still produces the same chewy, delicious results!
Fresh Naan and Shakshuka makes a delicious dinner or breakfast!
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