I have a ball of dough sitting in the oven, which is turned onto “warm,” with a red towel over it and it is absolutely killing me to not peek at it over the next hour.
Today, I did two things that I have never done before. I clarifed butter and made something with yeast.
I’m not sure why I so badly want to bake with yeast, to make breads and brioche and rolls and croissants and I’m not sure why it seems so daunting. Part of me wants to make it because it is daunting. Part of me wants to make it because, in my mind, it’s the ultimate act of baking. Part of me wants to do it because it’s sexy, bitches, and because it’s cozy & domestic & sensual. Then there’s part of me that weighs the cost of flour and a couple packets of yeast against the amount of bread stuff I like to eat and would like to eat and thinks DAMN! It’s so much cheaper to make your own croissants!
I’m starting today with naan, from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I’m also making a Lebanese chickpea and tomato stew, from the same book. I swear to God, people. Buy this book. I can’t tell you how often I use it and what an AWESOME gift it was for me (you know who you are). And I haven’t even gotten near the desserts and sauces yet. I had this plan of just starting from the beginning and working my way through, but then I got distracted by naan, which is towards the back.
We’ll see how it goes. Naan seemed like one of the easiest yeast-dough things to start with. This recipe, working with yeast, was easier than I expected (and that makes me suspicious that I fucked something up.) Clarifying the butter, while easy, was kind of annoying.
Yogurt Flatbread (naan) p 674
- 1/4 warm water
- 2 1/4 tspn (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 3/4 c hot water
- 3/4 c plain yogurt, preferably whole milk
- 1/4 c ghee or clarified butter
- 1 1/2 tspn salt
- 1 c whole wheat flour
- 1/4 c what bran, unless flour is bran-flecked
- 3 c all-purpose or bread flour
Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 c warm water in a small bowl and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. (***I found, from googling, that you need to STIR the yeast in. She says sprinkle, but then I didn’t get the foam, and I couldn’t imagine that all my packets of yeast were bad. Turns out, you just have to mix it up first.) Meanwhile, combine 3/4 c hot water, the yogurt, ghee or butter, and salt in a bowl, then stir in the yeast, whole wheat flour, and bran. Work in enough white flour to form a heavy dough, then turn it out and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but slightly tacky. (***Kneading dough is FUN, it feels almost primal.) Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it out to coat the top, then cover and put in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a pizza stone or sheet pan. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and divide into 8 or 10 pieces. Roll them into balls, cover with a towel, and let rest for 10 minutes.
Here are two options for shaping the dough:
1. Pat the dough into a circle using your fingertips to simple it all over. Then gently pull it in opposite directions to make a dimpled oblong. The texture will be uneven, providing crisp and bready parts. Place right on the baking stone or hot sheet pan and bake until browned on top, 12 to 15 minutes. (This is based on the traditional “snowshoe” naan, a much larger bread.)
2. Pat or roll the dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Make five short knife cuts, radiating from the center like a sand dollar, then transfer to the baking stone and bake until browned. (This idea comes from Naomi Duguid, author of Flatbreads.) You can also make plain rounds, like pita breads, but this cut bread is very pretty.
When the breads are done, stack them on top of each other and serve, warm if possible. I sometimes brush a little softened butter over them and sprinkle them very lightly with fresh milled sea salt.