Grilled Flaxseed Flatbread
Along with tandoori chicken, this clay oven-baked flatbread catapulted northern Indian foods (especially foods from Punjab and the Moghalai way of cooking) into the Western European and North American.
- 2 1/2 cups (375 mL) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely cracked flaxseed
- 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
- 1 tsp (5 mL) coarse sea salt
- 1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
- Additional warm tap water as needed
- Ghee (clarified butter) or melted butter for brushing
- Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, thoroughly combine flour, flaxseed, baking powder, and salt.
- Pour the buttermilk over the flour mixture and quickly stir it in. The flour may still be dry, with a few wet spots.
- Pour a few tablespoons warm water over the flour, stirring it in as you go. Repeat until the flour comes together to form a softball. You want the dough to be very soft, close to being slightly sticky, so if you add an extra tablespoon or so, it won’t hurt it. Using your hand (as long as it’s clean, I think it’s the best tool), gather the ball, picking up any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, and knead it to form a smooth, soft ball of dough. If it’s a little too sticky to handle, dust your hand with flour, but do not add any more flour to the dough if possible. Knead it for a minute or two. (If you used your hand to make the dough from the start, it will be caked with clumps of dough. Scrape them back into the bowl. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly, and return to the dough to knead it. You will get a much better feel for the dough’s consistency with a dry hand.)
- Cut the dough into 6 equal portions. Lightly grease a plate with the butter. Shape one portion into a round resembling a hamburger bun, and put it on the plate. (To get a smooth round, cup the dough in the palm of your hand and use your fingers to fold and tuck the edges underneath; then rotate it, folding and tucking all around to get an evenly smooth ball.) Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Brush the tops of the rounds with the butter, cover them with plastic wrap or a slightly dampened cloth, and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Place a pizza stone or unglazed pottery tiles on the grill rack. If it is a gas grill, heat it to the highest heat setting. If it is a charcoal grill, build an intensely hot fire and allow the charcoal to turn ash-white and red-hot. The temperature should hover between 600° and 700˚F.
- Tear off a large piece of aluminium foil, fold it in half lengthwise, and set it aside.
- Lightly flour a small work area near the grill, and place a dough round on it. Press it down to form a patty. Roll the patty out to form a round roughly 3 to 5 inches in diameter, dusting it with flour as needed. Make sure the round is evenly thin, with no tears on the surface. Sprinkle a little rock salt over the top, and gently press it into the dough. Lift the round and flip it, salt side down, onto the hot pizza stone. Within seconds, the dough will start to bubble in spots. Cover the grill and cook until the dough turns crispy brown on the underside and the top acquires light brown patches, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove it from the stone, liberally brush the top with ghee, and slide it between the layers of foil to keep it warm. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds, stacking them on top of the previously grilled naans. Cut each naan into four pieces, and savor them warm.
- Unless you are among the very few folks, here in the United States, who have a tandoor in the kitchen or backyard, you will have to fashion a tandoor-like environment to cook naan. Look no further than your handy-dandy outdoor grill (or for a less effective result, your oven) and a pizza stone (or unglazed pottery tiles) to re-create those conditions. I have given you explicit instructions in the recipe on how to do it. It is hard to generate that same intense heat in a kitchen oven because they are not designed to generate more than 550˚F, but you can bake the flatbread in it if you don’t have a grill (or if it’s snowing outside). If yours is a conventional oven, place the pizza stone on the lowest rack and preheat it at the highest bake setting. A convection oven generates the same heat but distributes it more evenly, and you can place the pizza stone on any of the racks. You will need to bake the bread a little longer than you would on an outdoor grill.
- The moisture in the dough is a key factor in ensuring slightly moist, tender, but chewy bread. If the dough is too dry, the heaviness will deter the characteristic puffing that actually steams the bread from within. That’s why I insist that the dough be really soft, almost to the point of stickiness. When Indian cooks shape this dough, they slap it between their palms, all the while stretching it with their thumbs to yield that characteristic tear-shaped naan -- and it’s much easier to do that with a soft dough.
- I like to include buttermilk in the dough because it contributes an appealing sourdough-like flavour, and because the dairy further contributes to the dough’s softness.
YIELD: 6 flatbread.
SERVING SIZE: 1 flatbread. Each serving contains 1 1/2 Tbsp (20 mL) of flax.