Pretzels

There seem to be several thousand different ways to make pretzels, and I’m sure that most of them work, though one or two recipes that I have tried have been abject failures. All that matters is the end result, and this method – which I found in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book – delivers every time.

You can make pretzels sweet as well as savoury, just sprinkle them with demerara sugar instead of salt before baking.

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RECIPE – makes 8 large pretzels

175ml hand warm water

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1 1/2 tsp active dried yeast

300g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp melted butter

flaky sea salt (or demerara sugar if making sweet pretzels)


METHOD

Mix the warm water with the sugar and yeast and leave in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble.

Put the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre, add the yeast and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a loose dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough starts to loose it’s stickiness.

Flatten and spread the dough out into a loose square, and sprinkle the salt over it. Knead for a further five minutes, this will distribute the salt thoroughly throughout the dough. When the dough is smooth and elastic, roll it into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with cling film or a damp cloth, in a warm place for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 170C/ Gas 3. Put about 1 1/2 litres of water in a large pan with the bicarbonate of soda and bring it to the boil.

Meanwhile, punch the dough back down and give it another brief knead, then cut it into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long thin rope, about 45cm (18 inches) long.

Take one end of the rope and bring it to the centre, then take the other end of the rope and bring it across the first end and twist it underneath to form a knot in the centre, then bring it to the middle. Press the ends tightly on the top edge of the dough rope to seal them – see the picture for the end result.

Gently lower each piece of shaped pretzel dough into the boiling water using a slotted spoon, you can probably do 3 at a time. After about ten seconds they will start to rise to the top, but allow them to boil for 30 seconds before removing with a slotted spoon and placing onto a baking sheet lined with parchment while you do the rest.

Once the pretzels have all been boiled, brush them with the egg and butter glaze and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 45 minutes until they are a deep and glossy brown, and crisp. Cool on a wire rack before eating – you might want to have the dough for eight more proving in a corner, these go fast!

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Perfect Bread Machine Loaves

I make bread at home at least once a week, and though I will make it by hand as often as I can – just for the pleasure of it – there is no disgrace at all in using a bread machine. I’ve been ill for a few weeks, so I have been filling my time doing a lot of experimenting with small differences in how my bread is made, both by hand and by machine.

I have come to a few surprising conclusions, chief among which is that for a standard white loaf there is no need to pay top-dollar for the ‘best’ bread flour. Whether you judge a loaf on its taste, on its ‘crumb’, on its chewiness, its looks or its crust, there is absolutely no difference between the own-brand flour from my local Lidl and the most expensive boutique flours. Under identical conditions, back-to-back tests illustrate that all of the characteristics of a loaf are determined by the kind of yeast you use, and what the baker does, not the flour.

I know that is close to heresy in some peoples’ eyes, but there it is.

I have been reading some fascinating books about bread; seriously, I had no idea that such a narrow subject could be so diverse and fascinating. I’m not yet at the point where I can offer a masterclass in bread-making, but I am willing to offer a couple of tips that will improve the bread that comes out of your bread machine.

The first tip concerns how you add the ingredients to the bread machine. All the instructions that I have ever read direct you to put all the ingredients into the pan, select the appropriate settings, turn it on and walk away for a few hours. That, after all, is what a bread machine is all about.

But what if I told you that by being just a little more organised and doing five minutes preparation, a couple of hours before you turn the machine on, you will get a machine loaf that is probably 98% as good as a loaf made by hand? Interested?

All you need to do is take a little of the water, a little of the flour, all of the yeast and all of the sugar specified in a recipe, put it into a small bowl and mix it all together with a fork so you end up with a smooth, very sloppy porridge consistency. Now cover it with a damp cloth and walk away for a few hours.

When you come back to it and lift the cloth, you will find that the top is covered in foaming bubbles and smells a little like beer. It will also have grown; by how much depends purely on how long you left it – don’t leave it too long, a few hours only, otherwise you run the risk of exhausting the yeast.

Now grab a fork, or a whisk, and whip the mixture for a minute or two. You will find that it is all stringy, like melting cheese. That is the gluten, developing before you even begin kneading. The smell and the volume increase is the yeast, digesting the sugar and flour and releasing carbon dioxide as it does so.

Now add all of the remaining flour, water, oil and salt to the bread machine pan, pour in the yeasted mixture, give it a stir with the fork to combine it all, then walk away.

When you come back after the 4 or 5 hours the bread machine cycle takes, you will find that your loaf looks, smells and tastes remarkably better than it used to. The loaf will be slightly bigger, with a more pronounced crown, and when you cut into it you will find that the crumb (the distribution of air bubbles) will be uneven and more open. On tasting it you will find that it has a little more ‘body’, is a little chewier and has a flavour all its own. All this just from pre-activating the yeast and the gluten.

The second tip concerns salt. I used to think that salt was included in bread dough purely to add flavour to the finished loaf; not so, actually salt plays a crucial role in gluten development.  If you make bread, or you watch any baking programmes, you will be aware that bread dough is kneaded in order to activate the gluten proteins in the flour. Without going into the chemistry of what happens, and in simplified layman’s terms, by working the dough the protein molecules combine into longer strands, and it is these strands which give the bread the strength to trap air and rise. The presence of salt in a dough gives the gluten greater structural strength, so it is better able to hold onto the carbon dioxide released as the yeast feeds on the flour, sugar and water, trapping it as the bread proves, and then holding it when the loaf goes into a hot oven, at which point the trapped air expands and the loaf springs into its final shape.

Paradoxically, though salt is necessary when the gluten has developed, it actually inhibits the initial development of gluten. Experiments show that adding the salt later means that your finished loaf has greater structure for the same amount of kneading, or, if you’re making it by hand, you can get away with kneading the bread less.

So, if you’re using a bread machine to make a basic white or wholemeal loaf (sample recipes are below), the first step is to pre-activate the yeast and gluten by mixing all the yeast with all the sugar and some of the water and flour, then leaving it for a couple of hours before whipping it and adding it, with all of the remaining ingredients, to the bread pan. This of course includes the salt, the absence of which in the initial yeast mixture allows the gluten to get a good head start in developing.

Both of these principles apply equally to hand-made loaves, and the trouble with all this is that I have been making some exquisite bread recently, and it isn’t good for my waistline…

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RECIPES 

White Bread Machine Loaf

Medium

Large Extra-Large
Strong white flour

400g

475g 550g

Dried active yeast

¾ tsp 1 tsp

1¼ tsp

Sugar

1 tsp

1½ tsp

2 tsp

Butter/olive oil

15g

25g

25g

Salt

¾ tsp

1 tsp

1¼ tsp

Water

270 ml 320 ml

360 ml

70% Wholemeal Bread Machine Loaf

Medium

Large

Extra-Large

Strong whole meal flour

300g

350g

400g

Strong white flour

100g

125g

150g

Dried active yeast

¾ tsp

1 tsp

1¼ tsp

Sugar

1 tsp

1½ tsp

2 tsp

Butter/olive oil

15g

25g

25g

Salt

¾ tsp

1 tsp

1¼ tsp

Water

280 ml

340 ml

380 ml


 

Seeded Crispbreads for Cheese

These crispy flatbreads tick all the boxes: they’re easy to make, they’re great fun for making with children, they keep really well (in an airtight container), they’re endlessly variable (experiment with different kinds of seeds: poppy, hemp, mustard, fennel, coriander… anything!) and, most importantly, they’re deliciously moreish. They are suitable for everyone as well, being vegan and gluten-free.

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RECIPE – Makes about 30

200g fine polenta

40g milled flaxseed or linseed

40g whole flaxseed or linseed

40g sesame seeds

75g sunflower seeds

75g pumpkin seeds

flaked sea salt

80ml olive oil

450ml just-boiled water


METHOD

Heat the oven to 150C/ gas 2. You will need 2 large baking sheets and some baking parchment.

Mix the polenta and all the seeds together in a large bowl. Add a generous pinch of sea salt and the olive oil, mix well, then add the just-boiled water and stir with a wooden spoon until it all comes together as a sticky dough.

Divide the mixture in two, on two large sheets of baking parchment (large enough to cover your baking sheets). Place another sheet of baking parchment on top of each half of the mixture, press and roll the dough out between the parchment sheets until it is nice and thin. Remove the top sheet of parchment and place the bottom parchment, with the rolled out dough on it, onto a baking sheet. Score lines into the rolled-out mixture to enable you to easily snap it into even, individual flatbreads once it is cooked. Season lightly with a little more sea salt.

Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes until it is golden and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely before breaking it up into individual pieces.

Simple Roti

These simple, unleavened flat breads have no business being as delicious as they are. They are extraordinarily filling as well.

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RECIPE – Makes 10

300g plain flour

4 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp fine sea salt

150ml water


METHOD

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl to form a soft dough. You may need to add a little more water, or a little more flour; the dough should be pillowy and slightly (but not excessively) sticky.

Leave it to rest in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with a damp cloth, for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into ten equal balls, and on a lightly-floured surface press the balls into rounds as thin as you can make them.

Cook them, one at a time, on an extremely hot skillet very lightly brushed with oil, for 1 minute each side.

Keep warm, wrapped in a tea towel, in a very low oven until they are all cooked and you are ready to serve.

Beer and Cheese Bread

I’m always wary of flavoured breads; whether store-bought or home-made, quite often the loaf ends up too dry, too dense, too bland, too intense or just too weird to be a success. I keep on trying them out though, I used to make an incredible sun-dried tomato loaf, I must dig that recipe out…

I wouldn’t be sharing this recipe if it wasn’t impressive; I have only made it once and half of it is still in the freezer, but my wife made me promise that we would never, ever be without some of this on hand. She doesn’t praise easily, so I take that as a big thumbs-up.

Perfect alongside soup, or as an accompaniment to cheese, the flavours are interesting enough to enhance whatever you serve it with, while not being so dominant that they will be overpowering. It’s got great texture too; the secret is in a long, slow prove followed by a blisteringly hot oven so you get lovely aeration throughout the loaf.

Your choice of ale will have the biggest effect on the flavour. Stout will bring with it a rich, treacly darkness, while a pale ale or lager will be softer and more subtle. I tend to use whatever I have to hand – in this case a rather good home-brewed stout – but feel free to experiment.

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RECIPE 

250ml ale

4 tsp caster sugar

1 tbsp dry yeast

600g white bread flour

320g wholemeal flour

200g cheddar, grated

75g Parmesan, grated

50g milk powder

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 1/2 tsp English mustard powder

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tsp fennel seeds

egg white, to glaze (optional)


METHOD

Gently warm the ale to blood temperature – any hotter and you run the risk of killing your yeast – add the sugar and the yeast, stir and set aside to activate while you prepare everything else.

Combine all the other ingredients in a very large bowl, using your hands mix it well and start to bring it together – it will be heavy and stiff at first because of the cheese. Now start to add the yeasted ale, a little at a time, bringing it together and kneading as you go. You may well need to add more than 250ml ale, so if the dough is still too dry once you have used what you measured out, just keep on adding more from the bottle until the dough is stiff and holds together.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface and knead for around 20 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Work it into a ball.

This dough only requires one prove, so make it worth while.

Either use a round banetton, well-dusted with flour and covered by a large plastic bag that is in no danger of touching the dough as it rises. The loaf pictured was proved in a banetton. Leave the dough alone in a warm, still place to rise for between 1 and 2 hours, or until at least doubled in size and springy to the touch.

Alternatively, place the dough on a piece of baking parchment and glaze the unproven dough with the white of an egg. Put a bag over it, ensuring that it is in no danger of touching the dough as it rises and leave the dough alone in a warm, still place to rise for between 1 and 2 hours, or until at least doubled in size and springy to the touch.

Heat the oven to 250C, or as hot as your oven will go, with a baking sheet and a baking tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up. Turn the dough in the banetton onto the hot baking sheet (very carefully! Don’t burn yourself, or deflate the dough by being too rough), slash the loaf a few times with a razor blade or very sharp knife. Throw a cup of water into the hot baking tray in the bottom of the oven to make steam, and quickly put the dough on the baking sheet into the middle of the oven. Close the oven door and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 200C and bake 30-40 minutes in the falling oven until the temperature in the middle is 90C (I use an instant-read thermometer) or a skewer inserted comes out clean.

If you have proved your dough on a piece of parchment and glazed it, then carefully slide the parchment and dough onto the hot baking sheet. Slash the dough, make steam in the oven and bake as above.

Garlic Butter and Garlic Bread

It’s the little things that matter when you are cooking; whether it is the choice of oil, the freshness of the ingredients or the judicious selection of side dishes.

I guess everyone knows how to make garlic butter: take some butter and mash some garlic into it. Yes? Well okay, yes, but add a few little extra things and you will experience garlic butter that will make you cry with joy. Simon Hopkinson, restaurateur and writer, is responsible for this, and he has my eternal thanks.

Garlic bread is a must-have when I am serving meatballs, lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese. It is so easy to make you will never reach for the ready-made supermarket version again.

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RECIPE – Sufficient to make a baguette into garlic bread 

125g unsalted butter

4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

a small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 tsp Pernod

a pinch of flaky sea salt

a twist of freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of cayenne pepper

3 drops of tabasco

1 long French baguette


METHOD

Put all of the ingredients (except the baguette, of course) into a bowl and mash together until fully combined. Roll out a 30cm square piece of cling film and place the butter mix in the middle, then using the cling film to shield your hands, mould and roll out into a sausage. Wrap the cling film tightly around it and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

To make the garlic bread: heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7. Cut the baguette 3/4 of the way through in slices 1cm thick; the baguette will still hold together but is easily torn apart when served.

Take the chilled sausage of butter and cut thin slices, place a slice of butter in between each slice that you made in the baguette.

Take a length of baking parchment, long enough to wrap the baguette. Scrunch it up and wet it under a tap. Shake it so there is no excess water, then place the baguette into it and wrap tightly so it is sealed. Doing this ensures that your baguette (which has already been baked) steams as it heats and remains moist. Place onto a large baking tray and bake for between 10 and 20 minutes until it is done to your liking – keep an eye on it!

Pide Bread

Pide is to Turkey as focaccia is to Italy: a simple, delicious, tear ‘n’ share accompaniment to… just about anything.

Many people are scared of making bread, I really can’t see why. There is a time element involved in making bread, but the actual hands-on time is mere minutes, the rest of the time is spent either leaving the dough alone to do its thing, or leaving it in the oven to cook while you do something else. There are few simpler breads than this, so if you are a bread-making novice this is a very rewarding place to start.

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RECIPE – serves 4 to 6 people

2 tsp dried yeast

1 tsp sugar

450ml tepid tap water

700g white bread flour, plus a little extra for dusting

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp polenta or semolina, for dusting

For the topping:

1 fat clove of garlic, bruised with the back of a knife

50ml olive oil

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only

1 tsp flaky sea salt


METHOD 

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a jug and leave it in a warm place until it begins to froth. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt, then add the olive oil and gradually add the yeast mixture. Using your hand as a claw, gradually work the liquid into the flour as you add it, stop adding liquid when the dough comes together and starts to clean itself off the sides of the bowl. The hydration that flour requires can vary enormously depending on the manufacturer, its age and the atmospheric conditions, so you may have some liquid left over, or you may require a little more – let your fingers be your guide.

Knead the dough, still in the bowl, for a couple of minutes, then turn it out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead with the whole of your hand for twenty seconds, bringing the dough to a tight ball. Leave to rest for ten minutes, then knead for another twenty seconds, again bringing the dough back to a tight ball – add a little more oil if you need to. Leave to rest for another ten minutes, then knead for a final twenty seconds, bringing the dough back to a tight ball and placing it into a large, lightly-oiled, bowl. At this stage your dough should be silky, springy and pliable – that means the gluten has formed strong strands so your bread will hold the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast as it feeds off the sugar, and it will rise.

Cover with cling film and set aside in a warm place for about an hour until it has doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, combine the garlic and oil for the topping in a small pan and heat gently until the oil is warm. Turn off the heat, add the rosemary leaves and set aside to infuse.

Heat your oven to 240C/ gas 9, or as hot as your oven will go (if it will go higher than get the temperature right up – my oven gets close to 300C, bread LOVES heat!). Leave two baking trays or pizza stones in the oven to heat up.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and push the air out of the dough using your fingers and hands. Divide the dough into equal pieces as you wish; you can divide it into 2, 4 or 6 depending how large you want your breads to be. You can also divide off some of the dough and put it into a sealed ziplock bag, leaving it in the fridge for up to a week and it will awaken when brought back into the warm. The dough will also freeze for a month or more.

Flatten the divided dough balls into rough ovals using your hands or a rolling pin. Dust the baking trays or stones with semolina or polenta then place the dough on them. Make indentations with your fingers all over the surface of each and drizzle over the infused oil (not the garlic and rosemary leaves though). Sprinkle over the flaky sea salt and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden – a little less if you have divided the dough into more pieces.

Allow to cool a little but eat it fresh from the oven. So simple, so delicious!

You can also top these breads with a dusting of za’atar or dukkah, nigella seeds, sesame seeds, whatever takes your fancy.

Pita Bread

A quick and very simple bread to make, Pita is a slightly leavened flatbread said to have originated in the Near East over 4000 years ago.

Most bread books have a basic white loaf as the opening recipe; Pita is much easier, and I believe it should be the first bread used to introduce newcomers to the art of bread making – if only to give pita its historic due.

The defining characteristic of pita is the internal pocket, and the secret to getting a good pocket is a hot oven, so make sure you give your oven plenty of time to thoroughly heat up before putting your bread in to bake.

There are two recipes here, one for white pita and one for wholemeal. The method is the same for both.

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RECIPE 

For 4 white pita:

100g strong white flour

100g plain or ’00’ flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 heaped tsp dried yeast

135g tepid water

olive oil

For 4 wholemeal pita:

50g strong white flour

50g strong wholemeal flour

100g plain or ’00’ flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 heaped tsp dried yeast

145g tepid water

olive oil


METHOD

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the tepid water. Using your fingers as a claw, drag the dry ingredients through the water and begin to mix everything together, gently kneading until everything comes together as a dough. The dough should be of a consistency that it leaves the sides of the bowl clean.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface, leave for ten minutes, then knead for twenty seconds and shape into a ball. Lightly oil the bowl and put the dough back into it. Cover the bowl with a damp tea-towel or cling film and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, push the air out of the dough with your fingertips, fold the dough in half while still in the bowl, turn the bowl through 90 degrees and fold the dough in half again, then shape into a ball once more, cover and leave for a further 40 minutes.

Heat your oven to its maximum setting.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a loose sausage. Cut the dough into four equal pieces then, using a little more oil, roll each piece out gently until approximately 5mm thick.

Turn the oven down to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 8. Your pitas will cook perfectly in the falling heat.

Place the pitas on a baking sheet and bake for approximately ten minutes or until puffed up and golden.

Focaccia with Middle-Eastern Flavours

Focaccia is, of course, an Italian staple; ideal for tearing and sharing, one of the easiest breads to make, and endlessly receptive to all kinds of flavours. This particular version was invented by Sabrina Ghayour and can be found in her beautiful book ‘Persiana’. I urge you to buy a copy, it is stuffed full of amazing recipes that – on the evidence of the many that I have cooked so far – are absolutely delicious.

This bread goes well with any warm and spicy dish but also enlivens simple fare like a plate of fine cheese and vine-fresh cherry tomatoes. If you have never made bread before then start here; it is real bread in that it has to have time to rise, but it requires virtually no kneading and can be treated quite roughly with no ill-effects. It’s as close to foolproof as bread can be, it’s very impressive as well.

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RECIPE 

For the dough:

125g cold soured cream

150ml cold water

100ml boiling water

550g white bread flour

3 good pinches of sea salt

2 tsp caster sugar

1 1/2 tsp dried yeast

2 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp dried mint

1 tsp chilli flakes

For the topping:

olive oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp sumac

sea salt flakes


METHOD

Mix the soured cream with the cold water in a bowl, then add the boiling water to it.

In a large bowl, mix the bread flour, sea salt, caster sugar, dried yeast, cumin seeds, ground coriander, dried mint and chilli flakes. Make a well in the centre, then pour in the cream and water mixture. Using your hands as a claw, pull the flour into the liquid and mix all of the ingredients together. The dough will start off sticky and there will be dry bits in the bottom of the bowl; keep manipulating the dough until it all comes together and starts to leave the sides of the bowl clean. This will only take a few minutes and you will end up with a rough ball of dough that looks like this:

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Cover the dough with cling film or a tea towel and set aside in a warm place to rest for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, line a large, deep roasting tin (mine is approximately 13 inches x 9 inches) with baking parchment. Place the ball of dough in it, flatten it out and pull and stretch it so it completely fills the bottom of the tin. You can be firm with the dough to get it to do what you want, just take care not to tear it. Now using your finger poke deep holes into the dough, all over the top. Your dough should now look like this:

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Cover it with cling film or a tea towel, taking care to leave a lot of air over the dough, and set it aside in a warm place to rise for at least an hour. Don’t leave it more than three hours as the dough will get ‘exhausted’ and won’t be as good. You will see it rising, quite impressively, so when you are happy with the degree of rising you can continue.

Heat your oven to 200C/ 180C Fan/ gas 6.

Generously drizzle olive oil all over the top of the dough; make sure you completely cover the top of the dough – I use a silicon brush to ensure it gets everywhere. The Italians use an awful lot of olive oil on their focaccia so it seeps into the top portion of the dough as it cooks, that’s a bit much for my personal taste so I am generous with the oil without going overboard. It is a personal matter though so use however much oil you want to.

Now liberally cover the top of the dough with the toppings: cumin seeds, dried thyme, nigella seeds, sumac and sea salt flakes. Once again, be generous, this is all great flavour and the quantities of each that I have specified are only a guide. Your risen dough will now look like this:

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Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. If you are unsure of when your focaccia is properly cooked, an instant read thermometer inserted into the centre of the bread should read at least 90C. Turn the focaccia out, together with its parchment, onto a wire rack and after a few minutes remove the baking parchment and leave to cool completely – that is if you can resist the temptation to tear straight into it…

Your kitchen will now smell gorgeous, and your finished bread will wow everybody:

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Naan Bread

For an amateur cook, there are some almost impossible holy grails to chase when it comes to making curries:

  • getting a curry to taste just like it does in the restaurant
  • making the perfect naan
  • making the perfect Bombay aloo

When I finally came up with the recipe and method for making a great naan I almost did backflips in the kitchen. Okay, maybe not, but I was very pleased indeed; I must have tried 20 different recipes before coming up with the final refinements.

This is probably as close to perfection as I’m likely to come in my kitchen, short of digging a great big pit in my garden and sinking a tandoor into it. Those who have tasted it say that it is every bit as good as the one that we have in our local Indian restaurant, and theirs is very good indeed.

This recipe makes 6 naan, around 9 inches in diameter. It is hard to cut this recipe down for smaller quantities while still retaining its balance, but once it has risen you can divide the dough and freeze what you don’t want to use. It comes back to life very well and will last up to a month with no ill effects in a freezer.

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RECIPE – makes 6

3/4 tsp dried yeast

3 tsp caster sugar

130 ml tepid water

300g ’00’ flour

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp melted butter (or ghee)

4 tbsp natural yoghurt

To serve:

nigella seeds

chopped fresh coriander leaves


METHOD

Mix the yeast and half the sugar in 4 tbsp of the water and set aside for 10 minutes.

Stir all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the liquids, including the yeast and sugar mixture you made earlier. Using a fork, bring the ingredients together into a sticky dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 7 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, using a teaspoon of vegetable oil; work the dough into a ball and place into the bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel or cling film, set aside for at least two hours.

Heat your oven to its hottest setting and put a large baking tray in the oven to heat up. Allow enough time for your oven to get as hot as it possibly can. At full blast on the hottest fan setting my oven will reach around 270C.

After two hours the dough will have risen to a silky, pillowy texture. Turn out from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface; using your fingers push all the air out from the dough, divide into six and roll each segment into a rough circle (or the more traditional teardrop shape of a naan). If using nigella seeds as a topping, scatter them lightly over the top and gently push them in. Brush the top of each naan with a little melted butter or ghee.

When ready to cook, take the hot baking tray out of the oven and close the oven door. Quickly but carefully lay one naan on the hot baking tray, then put it back into the hottest part of your oven.

Tip: So often I see people heat their oven then leave the door open while they do something else, they end up with a cooler oven and a hotter kitchen.

Especially when using the fan setting, the hottest part is not necessarily the top of the oven – using an oven thermometer you can quickly discover the temperature differences between the various areas of your oven. It’s good to know, especially when baking cakes, because there can be a 20 degree Celsius difference between the hottest and coolest areas of your oven, front to back as well as top to bottom.

Cook the naan for around 3 minutes until the remaining air pockets have bubbled up, it is golden brown and starting to go dark brown in places – as you can see in the picture above.

Brush with a little more melted butter or ghee, and scatter with chopped coriander leaves if you are using them. You can make a garlic naan by infusing your melted butter with a crushed garlic clove.