Got two or three inches of snow last night. I had hoped to find a pair of snowshoes in time for this recipe. I would stomp through the backyard posing intrepidly with today’s naan, but all I had was a pair of skates, hand-me-downs from Carol Sundholm. Luckily, the freezing rain from last week created three large puddles in our otherwise grass backyard which have since frozen into rinks. Naan en toepick:
Afghan Snowshoe Naan
Flatbreads and Flavours
2 and a half cups luke warm water
1 ts dry yeast (or use my sourdough starter method)
2 cups hard whole wheat flour (bread flour)
3 to 3 and a half cups hard unbleached (if you can get it) white flour
1 tbls salt
Scant half ts nigella – if you can find it. What is nigella, you ask? Not Voldemort’s snake from Harry Potter, as I originally assumed (close, Nagini). Nigella is black onion seed. My Indian food store consultant had to make two phone calls to friends to learn that I was really asking for kalonji. Nigella is also commonly referred to as black cumin, fennel flower, and black caraway. This, a bag of small teardrop shaped black seeds, the Indian food store man kept under the cash register, which I found odd. To anyone witnessing our exchange, the cell phones, the secret spot under the register, the baggie of herbs—it resembled the perfect drug deal. Also odd, how below the barcode on the package (below) the phrase: “Screening May Required.” ? ?
Place the water in a large bread bowl, add the yeast, and stir to blend (or use my sourdough starter method). Add the whole wheat flour and stir well. Then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to develop the gluten. Cover this ‘sponge’ with plastic wrap – or put it in a grocery store bag and close it up and let it stand for 30 minutes to 3 hours. I like to put it on the back of the fridge, a little warmer and less likely to get spilt.
Sprinkle salt over the sponge, then add 1 cup of the white flour and stir well. Continue adding white flour half a cup at a time and stirring until the dough is too stiff to turn. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead thoroughly, sprinkling more flour on if it gets sticky (this time of year, when it is so humid, I needed to do this a lot, the flour was damp and didn’t absorb the same way). After you turn the dough out, put your bowl to soak in the sink. It is thoroughly kneaded when it is smooth and easy to handle, maybe about 10 minutes. I think of kneading bread like Tai Chi, with a point. Same hand motions, and if you want, body swaying.
Clean out the bowl, and oil lightly. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap – or put it back in the grocery store bag, and let it rise for 2 or 3 hours, until more than doubled in volume.
Gently push down the dough and turn onto a lighty floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape each into a flat oval shape approximately 6 inches wide by 8 inches long. Cover with plastic wrap (or those grocery bags inside out…no icky ink) and let rise for approximately 20 minutes.
Place quarry tiles (or your upside down cookie sheet) on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1 inch space between the tiles and the oven walls to allow air to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Five minutes after the oven has reached 450F, begin shaping the first bread. Place a small bowl full of cold water at the edge of your work surface. Dip your fingertips in the water and then, beginning at one end of the disc of dough, make tightly spaced indentations all over the surface of the dough so that it is deeply and uniformly pitted. Now, with wet hands, stretch the dough into a long oval strip by draping it over both hands and pulling them gently apart. Attractive stretch marks will form where the dimples are, hence the name snowshoe bread. There may be a few holes in the bread, do not worry about that, it will be slightly crisper in those areas.
Place the bread back on a work surface and sprinkle with a scant 1/2 ts of nigella. Then, using both (wet) hands place the bread on the heated quarry tiles, and bake for about 4 minutes until the bread has golden patches on the top and a crusty browned bottom surface. While the bread bakes, shape the next bread.
To keep the breads warm and soft, let cool for 5 min and then wrap them in a cotton coth. Serve warm or at room temp.
I once attempted a triple lutz sow cow axle, something like the Iron Lotus, and landed windless on my back. Izzy did one of those today, poor baby, in pursuit of a Frisbee. Beer Church approves this naan when paired with garlic hummus- 4 stars.