Flatbreads are a quintessential accompaniment to almost all South Asian dishes. But they are much more than that! Flatbreads are the centuries old heritage of the region, passed on from one generations to the next. There is a wide variety of leavened and unleavened breads in the cuisine with equally versatile uses – for instance, any flatbread can be turned into roll, wrap, taco, burrito or even pizza with a little filling or topping. There is a flatbread for every occasion and every meal of the day.

Naan is definitely the front runner in terms of popularity. Naan is very different from the simple whole wheat rotis and chapatis, a lot softer and tastier. It’s a tandoor (clay oven) based fermented bread that was cooked in the royal court of Delhi during the Mughal era as breakfast bread served with kebabs or minced meat. Since then naan has evolved into many different flavours.

Garlic naan is a delicious variation on the plain naan. Garlic infused, buttery, aromatic and melt in the mouth soft, these naans pair well with almost anything – from cool cucumber yogurt raita to hot and spicy curries. I can actually devour the garlic naan on its own and be very happy and content.

Homemade garlic naan is not only very easy to make both on stove top and in the oven but also tastes a lot more flavourful. And I can’t even begin to describe how it makes the house smell when it’s getting cooked. Crispy on the edges, soft and spongy garlic naan is just the thing to whet your appetite and make the curries taste doubly delicious.

I add a lot of garlic to my naans, first in the dough and more brushed on top with melted butter for a big punch of flavour. You can adjust the quantity to your liking.
A sprinkling of herbs and sesame or nigella seeds gives an added oomph to flavour and aroma. Since we rarely have access to clay ovens in modern times, this recipe for Homemade Garlic Naans is an easy and yummy substitute that works equally well in gas/electric oven and on stove top.

Tips:
-For oven roll the naans a little thicker for softer texture, for stove top slightly thinner.
-Make sure the oven, oven tray or skillet/tawa are really hot before you put the naan on for cooking.
-for lasting softness immediately wrap the cooked naan in a damp cotton cloth or kitchen towel.
-naans made with yeast turn out softer, the ones made with baking soda are crispier.
-you can 50% plain and 50% whole wheat flour too.

Ingredients:
4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
2+1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
OR 2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup plain thick yogurt
2 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1+1/2 tablespoon oil
1-4 cup melted butter or ghee(clarified butter)
Fresh coriander, mint, cumin or sesame seeds for garnish

This Is What You Do:
In a cup add water, sugar and yeast. Leave to bubble up for 8-10 minutes.
If you don’t want to use yeast, simply mix baking powder and soda with flour and dry ingredients.

Add flour in a big mixing bowl.

Make a well in the centre, add the yeast mix, yogurt, garlic paste and oil.

Rub a little oil all over your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick to your hands.

Knead for 8-10 minutes or till the dough is elastic and doesn’t stick to the bowl anymore.

Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place.

After an hour, dough should be double the size.

Add chopped garlic to melted butter and set aside.

Flour a work top. Divide the dough into 8 small or 4 bigger dough balls.

Flatten a dough ball on the worktop. Press with your fingers to spread out or roll out with a rolling pin into a thickish circle, oval or triangular shape. Don’t roll or press too thin. Specially keep the edges slightly thicker. Make marks with your finger tips all over the middle area to keep the naan from fluffing up like a roti.

Brush with garlic butter. Sprinkle some cumin, sesame or nigella seeds and lightly press down.

Cook covered over lightly greased hot skillet till puffy and golden on both sides OR preheat oven at 200 degrees C and bake on a hot tray for 8-10 minutes or till golden.

As soon as a naan is done, brush over some more garlic butter, sprinkle fresh chopped herbs and immediately cover with a damp cotton napkin or tea towel to keep soft.

Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Makes 8 small or 4 big naans.

Serves 4

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