The Bread 101 class I have been co-teaching all term finished up today with a plethora of home baked breads (this Chad Robertson recipe) from the starters that the students have nurtured all term. It was impressive to see the quality of bread produced and to hear about the students' resourcefulness in creating these loaves. A common theme was the challenge of fitting the demands of bread baking into a busy weekend preparing for final exams. Over the weekend, I experimented with using my starter to make naan, which proved to be a successful vehicle for sour, fermented flavors and a speedy enough bread to be able to mix the night before and serve for lunch the next day.
I started with a naan recipe from Neelam Batra and incorporated a portion of my sourdough starter, as well as a small amount of commercial yeast. The dough already contains yogurt (I used Nancy's with live cultures), which gives it a fermented sourness, so the grain-fermenting wild yeast and bacteria of my starter seemed right at home in the mix.
A dough I started in the evening with an active culture (fed that morning) doubled in bulk overnight. A half hour before noon, I preheated my oven to 500 degrees with a cast iron griddle positioned below the heating element. Rolled out flats of dough placed on this hot griddle puffed up in a matter of minutes, and were eaten hot out of the oven, slathered with melted butter. In the meantime, my students were still busy building the gluten networks of their country loaves. The final results were well worth all the hours of work, but this naan is a good alternative when time is short.
Bread Starter Naan
adapted from Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes
makes 8 to 10 naan1/3 cup active starter (90 g)
1/8 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water (or yogurt whey)
1/2 cup yogurt (125 g)
2 cups flour (250 g) (I used 1 cup unbleached white and 1 cup red fife)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/4 tsp salt or to taste (I used ~3/8 tsp)
more flour for dusting
melted butter or ghee for brushing on the cooked naan
1. Start with an actively growing culture that you've fed no more than 12 hours earlier. Mix together the starter, yeast, sugar, water, yogurt, oil, and flour until just incorporated. Allow to sit for half an hour (autolysis period). Then add the salt and kneed the dough until it is soft and elastic. Cover the dough in a clean bowl and let it rise for at least 6 hours to overnight, until it has doubled in size.
2. Heat the oven to 500 degrees and place a cast iron skillet directly under the heating element. Divide the dough into 8 to 10 portions and roll into flat ovals about 6 inches in length. Place the dough flats onto the skillet and bake for about two minutes until they puff up. Flip and bake for another minute on the second side, until they are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter as the next batch bakes. Eat warm.
Notes: there are a lot of ways to modulate the sourness of the final bread. For less sour naan, do one or more of the following: use a more recently fed culture, double the amount of commercial yeast, double the amount of sugar, use water instead of whey for the liquid, decrease the dough fermentation time.