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Sourdough Naan – A Naturally Leavened Flat Bread

Naan is an leavened flatbread traditional baked in clay ovens called Tandoor. These are popular in the Indian Subcontinent and nearby regions. Using Sourdough starter in the recipe creates a Naan bread with more mature, complex flavors. This is as close as you can get to Naans made by the traditional Tandoor bakers of the villages. Vegetarian

Sourdough Naan in a wire basket
Sourdough Naan

I love Naan and as a fan of wild yeast I had to make the sourdough version. What is so special about sourdough naan, you ask?  The answer lies in the depth of flavor, and of course there is the added nutritional value. Naan by any method is a fantastic flat bread. The sourdough version takes it a step further.

Traditional Way Of Making Naan

To convert a regular bread recipe to its wild yeast version is to take a journey back in time. Wild yeast ruled the landscape when commercial packaged yeast was not common or even available. Bakers and home cooks used to ferment a variety of things, fruit peels, grains, tree sap etc. to make homemade yeast cultures. After creating the starter culture, regular feeding and maintenance regimens ensured the maintenance of active and healthy yeast population.

Often times a piece of dough, made with one such starter is allowed to ferment for longer period,  typically overnight or 8 to 10 hours,  and used as the starter for the next batch. These become prized possessions that are usually passed down from cook to cook. This was the secret ingredient of the village baker.

Sourdough Naan

This recipe uses a simple sourdough starter at 100% hydration. If you do not have a starter here is the recipe to make your own.

Sourdough starter - Ready to use full of bubbles and active

Typically naan is made with all purpose flour. But to my delight I have found that one about 1/3 of the flour can be substituted with whole wheat flour (Atta) without compromising the puffy soft texture. Another good substitute is the white whole wheat flour. A bit healthier, isn’t that a win for all?

How to Make Sourdough Naan

Apart from the sourdough, this recipe is very similar to the to the regular naan recipe.

Collage of pictures showing steps in making  teh Sourdough Naan Dough

Make The Dough

Take the fed and active starter in a large mixing bowl. Add flours, salt, oil and yogurt to it. Stir well. Slowly pour the water and knead a few times to moisten all the flour. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes to let the flours absorb more  moisture. This is an optional step, but it reduce the kneading time.

 Uncover and start kneading. The dough will feel a little little sticky at this time. As you knead the dough becomes less sticky and becomes more elastic and pliable. If after a few minutes of kneading the dough is still very tacky add a few tablespoons of flour. Knead for 10 minutes or so by hand (3 minutes in a stand mixer) until the  dough feels soft and supple.

Rise

Form into a ball. Transfer to an oiled bowl, turn the dough ball to coat all sides with oil. Cover and let rise for at least 4 hours till doubled in volume. Under normal temperatures it takes at least 4 hours but if the ambient temperature is high and the dough seems to be rising very fast place it in the refrigerator to slow it down. Alternately, refrigerate the dough for up to 48 hours, if planning ahead.

Shaping the Naan

Punch down the risen dough and divide into 8 portions. Form each portion into a ball, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Lightly oil (or dust with flour) the work surface. Place one dough ball on it and using the heel of your palm stretch the dough out to an oval / teardrop shape . The dough should not be sticky at this point but if it is, coat a little bit of oil in the palms to make it easy.

A collage of images showing the Naan being shaped from the dough.

Note:  You can use a rolling pin as I did  for the  video.  If  choosing to dust the  work surface instead of oiling make sure that very little amount of flour is used for dusting.

A series of 3 images showing Naan in various stages of cooking.

Baking the Naan

Traditionally Naans are baked in Tandoors. Tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven. The bakers light a fire at the base of the cylinder using charcoal or wood. The clay walls heat up and good at absorbing and retaining heat. The temperature inside the Tandoor reach 800℉ or more.

A hot tandoor with smoldering fire at the base
Tandoor – a traditional oven from the Indian Subcontinent

If you are one of the lucky folks to have access to one of these – well, you know what to do. Otherwise try one of the following methods.

Method 1

My favorite way to cook this is a combination of stove top and broiler. This is the quickest and most energy efficient way to do it at home. Heat a thick bottomed pan – like a cast iron griddle till it is smoking hot. Turn the broiler on and place a cookie sheet about 4 inches away from it. Place the shaped naan on the hot griddle and cook for 30 seconds. By this time bubbles start forming on top. Use a wide turner or a pizza peel to transfer the naan to the cookie sheet, without flipping.

Cook for a minute or till the bubbles are fully formed and the top turn brown . Remove from the oven and brush with oil or butter (optional but recommended), and keep covered .

Method 2

If you have a pizza stone, set the pizza stone in the lowest rack of the oven. Turn on the oven and set it to the highest setting.  Once the oven is preheated, keep it on for at least 20 minutes for the the stone to become hot. Place the shaped naan directly on top of the stone and cook for 2 to three minutes until it has puffed up and light brown spots appear on top.

You can use this method on a covered grill as well.

Method 3

Cook both sides on a stovetop pan. This will result in slightly drier and less soft textures, but will still be delicious.

Note

I have seen other stovetop methods where you can stick slightly moistened Naan on a hot Dutch Oven / pressure cooker setup or flip the pan upside down over the flame. So I do not recommend these as more often than not these lead to injuries to the cook or the result in burnt Naan.

two Naan breads on a wooden board.

Sourdough Naan

By Syama
Naan is a naturally leavened  flat bread popular in the Indian subcontinent. This sourdough version is as close to the original taste of Naan sold at the neighborhood food stalls. Sourdough adds brings out the more complex natural flavors making this mouthwatering bread all the more irresistible.
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Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Rest Time 4 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine Indian

Ingredients
  

  • 125 g Whole Wheat Flour 1 C (Notes)
  • 300 g All Purpose Flour 2 3/4 C (unbleached)
  • 200 g Starter 1 C (Notes)
  • 120 g Yogurt 1/2 C
  • 150 g Water 1/2C + 2 Tbsp
  • 8 g Fine Sea Salt 11/4 Tsp
  • 1 Tbsp Oil / Butter For Brushing the cooked Naan

Instructions
 

  • Place 200g of fully fed and active starter in a large mixing bowl. Add the flours, salt, yogurt and oil to it. Mix everything and begin to knead while slowly adding the water. If measuring by volume add enough water to just get all the flour wet. Once the mix comes together cover and set aside for 20 minutes (Notes).
  • After 20 minutes uncover and knead for 10 minutes to get a very soft and pliable dough. If the dough feels very tight add a few drops of water, on the other hand if it feels too sticky add a few teaspoons of flour. Try to keep the additions to minimum.
    The dough becomes more elastic as you knead. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Turn to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover and set aside to rise for at least 4 hours, till doubled. If the kitchen is warm and the dough seems to rise very fast, transfer to the fridge to slow down its progression.
  • Uncover and punch down the dough. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Lightly oil a work surface. Take one dough ball and place it on the work surface. Use the heel of the palms to press the dough and stretch it out into a teardrop shape. Follow any of the following methods to cook the Naan.

Oven with Pizza Stone

  • If you have a pizza stone in the oven, pre heat the oven tothe highest setting. Keep heating once it has reached the desired temperaturefor at least 20 minutes for the stone to get heated as well. Use a pizza peelor a cookie sheet to slide the shaped naan to the hot stone . Bake for a coupleminutes, until it blisters and begins to brown. Remove from the oven and brushwith ghee.

Stove top and Broiler

  • Heat a thick bottomed tawa, or cast iron pan on high heat. Turn on the broiler. Place a cookie sheet on a rack about 4 inches away from the broiler. Test the pan by sprinkling a couple drops of water on the pan. If the water sizzles and jumps out, the pan is hot enough. Place the naan on the hot pan and cook for 30 seconds until bubbles appear on top. Transfer to the cookie sheet under the broiler and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the bubbles develop fully and the top begins to brown

Oven without broiler and pizza stone

  • Preheat the oven to the highest setting . Place the cookie sheet in the oven. Once the oven is hot enough, place the naan on the cookie sheet. Cook on one side for 1 to 2 minutes until it begins to puff up, flip and cook the other side.

Grill

  • Follow the directions for the oven.
  • Brush the naan with oil or butter and keep covered using aluminum foil or wax paper till ready to serve. Serve warm.

Video

Notes

  • The Naan can be made with only AP flour or a mix of AP and Whole  Wheat flours.
  • The  starter used  here is 100% hydration  starter. In other  words 200g starter  has 100g  flour  and  100g  water.  Find the recipe here.
  • Fully fed  active  starter  means  that  the  starter  has  been  recently replenished  and has doubled in volume.
  • Volume measurements are approximate. Measurements are for standard 250ml cup.
  • Letting the dough rest makes it absorb more water, making  kneading much easier. 

Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.

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Storing and Serving

Naan tastes best served warm. To maintain its freshness brush the Naan with a little bit of oil and cover with a piece of foil/ wax paper / kitchen towel.  Serve  warm.

The  dough on the other hand, keeps well in the fridge or  freezer.  If planning to freeze do it before the yeast activity peaks. Place in s freezer safe bag and remove any extra air before freezing.

It is possible to refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days. Cooler temperatures slow down the yeast activity, but does not stop it completely. So if you are planning ahead, place it in the fridge as soon as possible. Bring it back to room temperature when ready to use. Also cover the dough bowl completely to prevent it from drying out.

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Recipe Rating




Susu

Wednesday 13th of December 2017

THANK YOU! This was my first successful sourdough bread and it was PERFECT! I think I’m going to try this for cheese pies and pizza too! I will be checking out a lot more of your recipes now!

Syama

Wednesday 13th of December 2017

I am so glad it worked for you ! For pizza I would suggest you increase the hydration, i.e. make a more wet dough. Creates beautiful bubbly crust in hot oven. Happy baking & happy holidays !!!

Bob

Saturday 29th of April 2017

Hi,

We tried your "Sourdough Naan" and it is fantastic!!!

We used "Sprouted Wheat Flour" and split the yogurt half and half with whey and then used the whey in place of the water to finish off the dough. It is great!

The "Ghee" adds a wonderful finish.

Thanks for the recipe!!

Bob

Syama

Sunday 30th of April 2017

Hi Bob, Thank you for the update. I am so glad you liked it. Sprouted Wheat flour and whey sounds wonderful. Can't wait to try it myself. Syama.

Bob

Thursday 27th of April 2017

Hi, If I can substitute "whey" from making homemade yogurt, should I substitute for just the water or can I substitute for both yogurt and water? Thanks

Syama

Friday 28th of April 2017

Hi Bob, You can definitely substitute whey for water. I would leave the yogurt in though, for a more rounded diary flavor. But if you substitute, I would love to hear about the results .