Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kitchen Oasis Naan

The scarf hails directly from India (thanks Aim),
The naan hails directly from my decrepit kitchen.
My kitchen isn’t fancy. It’s not practical or efficient.  There are no stainless-clad modern appliances or gleaming 6-burner cook tops. The setup is unwieldy at best, with the workspace situated about a mile from the stove, which makes every trip to the range a test of balance and agility. The oven itself is a crusty old electric number that hasn’t maintained a static temperature for more than seven consecutive minutes since 1972. Our creaky floor is a deeply wounded wooden testament to the kitchen tools that have landed there over the past 75 years or so.

The kitchen’s centerpiece is a craggy and burned wooden stand on wheels that we creatively refer to as “the rollie thing.” We purchased it circa 1994 from the now defunct Caldor, which was a prehistoric antecedent to Wal-Mart, so you can imagine its structural integrity. (Imagine kneading dough on a puddle of Jell-O.)

But it is my kitchen. And as such, it is my oasis. It’s the place I come back to again and again for solace, for sustenance, for adventure, for relief from the theater of parenthood and the general mayhem of mid-life. And in my kitchen, I find that the most effective escape – a mental oasis, if you will -- is baking bread.

Any excuse to use the ThermaPen.
So I was thrilled to learn that the assignment this week for the Tuesdays with Dorie group was “Oasis Naan.” I’ve made this recipe before, and although it does require a little babysitting while each piece is shaped and then plopped onto a hot baking stone, it is not difficult. It’s hard to go wrong.

Like pizza dough, naan can be a canvas for just about anything you could conceive. The biggest challenge for me was reigning myself in with the toppings. Because, like pizza, simpler naan is usually better naan. The recipe creates 8 6-inch rounds of bread, so I chose to leave 3 plain, topping with a little butter and a pinch of salt after they came out of the oven. (Though the Bean and Pie generally are adventurous eaters, they’re still kids, so I knew they would prefer the purely white variety.)

I used a mixer instead of kneading it by hand.
Worked like a charm.
For two of the breads, I used the scallions, salt and cumin seeds called for in the recipe. As expected, this made a lovely accompaniment for the leftover Indian takeout from the previous night (I’d planned ahead).
The dough bubbled like crazy when I let it rest in the fridge overnight,
then warmed it up by leaving it on the range while the stove was preheating.
Hooray for old appliances that leak heat!

For another two breads, I used the scallions, salt and caraway seeds, just as the recipe suggested. When I bit into this version, I couldn’t help but think “bialy.” Yes, it was missing the poppyseeds and the onions were totally different and yes I know that caraway doesn't usually make an appearance on bialys, but something about the salt and the thick doughy quality harkened straight back to Kossars for me. This is not a bad thing, I just wouldn’t recommend pairing this bread with leftover chana saag. This version cries out for just a little shmear of plain cream cheese.

The toppings
I used the final bread round as a platform for all of the toppings previously mentioned: salt, scallions, cumin seeds and caraway seeds. Plus a little butter thrown on at the end, just because, well, you know the adage is true -- everything is better with butter.

What a great day! For two straight hours, I had flour in my hair, dough stuck to the front of my shirt, and an assembly line of pillowy spheres parading from counter to oven to cooling rack. I had the house to myself, a warm, yeasty kitchen on a cold day, and an intimate oasis of calm. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Until dinner.

Thanks to our hosts, Maggie and Phyl.Check out their blogs this week for the recipes, or better yet, purchase the Baking with Julia cookbook.


  1. Thanks for stopping by. Your naan loooks great. And to answer your question, bialy tastes different

    Ulrike @K├╝chenlatein

  2. I can almost picture your kitchen... I love being able to putter around at home on my own, too.

  3. Your naan looks delicious! I'm glad I'm not the only one who went for the mixer first :D

  4. That sounds very much like the kitchen in my first house - until I got so fed up with it that I gutted it :-)
    Your naan look and sound delicious.
    Have a great weekend

  5. You're welcome for the scarf (and the Therma Pen). I'll take a few Naan as payment. They look and sound so yummy.


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