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Jul 16, 2010 06:46 PM

I'm so d*mned close on naan but still can't get the yummy char

I'm really comfortable making conventional European breads. But I've been struggling to make delicious, light, flavorful naan for years. This doesn't come easy to me and I've got a trail of broken pizza stones and leaden hockey pucks of bread to prove it!

Most recently I found this recipe: It's a great recipe and Manjula does a great job of making the intangibles of the process very clear. I got naan that has the fluffy texture and it's got robust flavor (I added some puréed garlic) with the right hint of sweetness and tartness from yogurt. It rose, it puffed and it blistered. It just didn't char. And I think the charring has fully half of the characteristic flavor.

Can anyone push me further down the road to the naan I'm dreaming of?

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  1. I looked at some of the almost 10-minute video you pointed to, mainly from about 6 minutes onward, when the baking was underway. My view: if you want char, and you are not getting char, you need higher heat. You mention broken pizza stones. How did you break a pizza stone? I've heated them to my oven's max (550 F) countless times with no problem. Anyway. you need some oil in the dough and a super-hot stone (preheated at least 45 minutes at top temp) or you need to use a grill or broiler function. Nothing else apart from a Tandoori oven is likely to get you what you want by way of char.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Bada Bing

      Really? You've heated pizza stones to over 500˚? What's happened to mine before when I got them in the vicinity of 500˚ was I put something comparatively "cold" and wet on them and they cracked under the stress. My current stone is much thicker and holds up better tho.

      I had mine heated to 500˚ for 30-40 minutes and that wasn't enough. It may be that I was too sparing with the oil on the surface. I did oil my hands to work the dough but then the balls were coated in flour sort of negating that effect, I think.

      I tried switching to the Broil function once the stone was well heated and the dough was loaded onto it. I couldn't see that the broiler unit came on. I wondered if there's a feature that cuts it out at that extreme internal temperature...

      Maybe I should be trying to do this on the gas grill that gets ungodly hot. I've got an extra thick piece of soapstone I could try out there in lieu of the ceramic pizza stone.

      1. re: rainey

        How cold and how wet was this thing you put on the stone? As far as pizza and bread doughs go, they shouldn't be cold enough to create thermal shock. And if a dough can be got to slide off of a peel onto the stone, it's not wet enough to trouble the stone.

        Also, to clarify, I don't advocate that your naan feel oily. Rather, it would help browning, I think, if some fat were part of the dough recipe. But really, heat is the key. Check your oven temp. And I find even 40 minutes to be too little time for preheating some stones in some ovens. Like others here, I also encourage you to explore grilling, broiling, whatever gets you really high heat. Good luck!

        1. re: Bada Bing

          "Cold" was a relative term. I'm not talking cold as in chilled but room temp compared with the heat of the stone. "Wet", likewise, was not so much a literal expression as a comparison of the soft naan doughs I've experimented with to the firmer doughs of freestanding loaves that can support their own mass.

          As for the oil, there is a decent amount of oil in the dough plus whatever transfers from handling minus whatever part is absorbed by the flour used in shaping/rolling.

          I'm hopeful about the possibility of the grill. I"ll try that out this weekend.

          1. re: rainey

            Hmmmm. Sorry for your bad luck. Maybe some stones are made differently, or thinner? I've had the same rectangular stone--just whatever was on hand at some kitchen store--for at least 15 years, and it's had all the heat I could generate thrown at it countless times.

            I'm actually going to try grilling a pizza for the first time tonight (no stone!). Here's wishing us both luck.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              Well, happily, for bread you can just push the edges of a broken stones back together and carry on as tho they were never cracked. But I learned that rather late after I'd gotten a much thicker and much more durable stone. I just have the leftover trepidation about what can happen north of 500˚. ;>

              ...and I think some of the breaking probs I had may have had to do with my attempts at tandoori chicken as well as naan. =o

              1. re: rainey

                You put tandoori chicken right on the stone?

                That might be a problem, especially if the chicken was cool. But even in a tandoor oven, the chicken is not in contact with the stone walls but instead suspended on skewers (although the naan is, in fact, cooked on the walls).

                1. re: rainey

                  I used a cheap pizza stone from Pampered Chef for a couple of years, at 550 in the oven and it finally cracked. I replaced it with unglazed quarry tiles from Home Depot and they've been great for the past year. Even if they crack, they're only 36 cents a piece.

      2. If you really can't get it, cheat! Take a culinary torch to it on a little test piece and see how it goes.

          1. re: chowser

            +1 what chowser said. My propane grill will get upwards of 800F. I bake it on a metal pan that is on a wok ring. It doesn't work for me if the pan touches the grill (those burn). On my Weber I use large chunk charcoal and a pizza stone. I like the gas grill because the bread cooks so quickly and doesn't dry out.

            Thanks for the youtube link, I wil try that recipe.

            Edit: Hey, rainey, I just watched the video and looked at her website and noticed she's preheating to 500F and then turning the oven to high broil. Are you doing that?

            " Heat the oven to 500 degrees with pizza stone for at least thirty minutes so stone is hot. Using a pizza stone will help to give naan close to same kind of heat as clay tandoor.
            Next turn the oven to high broil."

            1. re: chowser

              I did mine on the grill too. Best naan I've ever had, bare NONE. And really, that is almost never the case with me. I was so excited I posted results but haven't found them to link them. Will try (again) to find and edify. Seriously, this naan was so good that I've thought (long and often) about organizing a party around it. Oh, and it was dead easy.

              ETA: I found the thread but don't know how to point you directly to the naan part. Here's the general vicinity.

              1. re: miss louella

                Thank you for that link. I"m reading through it right now.

                Delighted to have all the recipe suggestions and thoughts on Indian cooking in general in addition to whatever naan tips I'll find. I just love, love, LOVE Indian!

              2. re: chowser

                I also do it on the grill, and had great results. Naan is maybe my favorite type of bread...mmmmm

                1. re: eviemichael

                  Yeah, when it's done right it's food of the gods!

                  1. re: rainey

                    Totally!! Ok, seriously? I'm about to drag my boyfriend to the Indian place near my house...see what you made me do? :)

                    1. re: eviemichael

                      You're welcome! ;>

                      If it's has hot where you are as it is here, I think you're doing the right thing. Enjoy!

                      1. re: rainey

                        It is hot as Hades over here so yes it was good! thanks :)

                1. OK rainey, tonight I made naan with your youtube recipe using an electric kitchen oven and a pizza stone to see if I could get the char and I did, so let's try to figure out why you aren't getting it.

                  I made the recipe from her website because it had much more explicit instructions than the youtube video, but the igredients were the same.

                  I let the dough rise 4 hours because my house is rather cool. I preheated the oven and stone to 500F for half an hour. I had the stone and the rack up high in the oven, like you would position something if you were going to broil it.

                  I then set the oven to high broil and rolled out 3 naan. I left the oven door open a crack. I had the husband pull the shelf out while I put the 3 naan on the stone. Did you dip your hands in water (not oil) and flip the naan back and forth in your hands like she did? I did. I remember you mentioning that you used oil on the naan dough balls, but I think this might keep it from charring.

                  I left them in the oven just short of 3 minutes and had lots of char. The second batch was a little softer (and I think better) because I didn't turn on the broil until I put the naan in the oven. It seems that the closer the naan is to the broiler top element, the more char you get.

                  Hope this helps.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: runwestierun

                    Thank you for that. I think you may have the key. My stone is way down in the bottom third of my oven for breadmaking. I never even thought about distance from the broiler because, of course for conventional European bread, I want it to have lots of room to rise without obstruction.

                    I'm going to reposition my stone and try again.

                    1. re: rainey

                      Good luck. And thanks for the recipe, it's better than mine and I'll use it from now on.