What does the picture above have in common with the one below?
Both were taken at a recent class at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center – a.k.a. the B.E.C.
Are we having fun yet?
Did you know King Arthur Flour is the largest educator of home bakers in the world? Between our Traveling Baking Demos, Life Skills program, and our on-site education center in Vermont, we’ve taught hundreds of thousands of people how to bake bread.
And cookies. And chocolate cake, apple pie, the best brownies ever, baguettes to die for… In short, if a recipe involves flour, we’re here to show you how to make it.
I spent a recent afternoon at a BEC class called Far-Flung Flatbreads, where within 4 hours students had made Syrian pita breads; a Scandinavian rye cracker bread; and Indian naan.
The whole experience was a great example of the journey being as important as the destination: not only did the students go home with bags of bread, they now know how to bake these treats themselves.
Most of you live far from Vermont, and may never have the opportunity to experience one of our BEC classes in person. But scroll through the pictures below, and enjoy a virtual trip to Vermont. At the end, I’ll show you how to make the delicious naan pictured at the top of this blog – with some help from our students.
First, we measure the flour.
(As I said, you’ll get the complete recipe down below; don’t panic.)
Next, melted ghee (clarified butter), milk, yogurt, and an egg are carefully measured out.
…then knead. First, some flour on the board…
Push, turn 90°, push some more.
Students develop their own effective rhythms.
Some try a different method, slamming the sticky dough onto the counter top. Class instructor Amber Eisler, a baker in our King Arthur bakery, checks out Tina’s technique.
There! A fairly smooth, elastic ball of dough, ready to go into a bowl to rise for an hour.
An hour later, students turn their risen dough out onto a floured board.
The dough is divided into four pieces.
Once a mom, always a mom… Lyn brushes flour off daughter Michelle’s nose. There, that’s better!
Kinda sticky, Michelle?
Amber demonstrates how to shape the breads. The four pieces of dough are pre-shaped…
…then given a short rest.
Next, each piece of soft dough is flattened into a long, irregularly shaped flatbread.
Jon does some serious shaping.
Kalena grabbed her camera to take a “halfway there” picture.
Finishing touches being applied.
Amber demonstrates brushing the loaves with beaten egg white, and sprinkling with seeds.
Are you starting to picture the finished breads?
By the time all the students have finished shaping, brushing, and sprinkling, some of the earlier breads are starting to puff.
Perfectly OK. Bonnie Hooper, a long-time member of our retail staff and assistant for this class, quickly wheels this rolling rack into the bakery, and loads the loaves into our French brick oven.
About 5 minutes later – done! Amber and Bonnie place the baked breads on cooling racks, while out in the classroom students shape their pitas.
Now those are some good-looking loaves!
Let’s see how they taste.
Out comes the hummus…
Now – let’s make naan.
We’ll start with a pantry check. The recipe uses a couple of ingredients you might need to substitute for, if you don’t have them.
First, plain whole-milk yogurt, a staple of Indian baking.
Can you use low-fat yogurt? Yes, your bread will be a bit less tender.
Can you use nonfat yogurt? Yes, your bread will be a lot less tender.
Next, shelf-stable ghee – clarified butter. This is pure butterfat, with all the milk solids removed. Ghee adds rich mouth-feel to naan, and helps keep it beautifully tender.
Ghee is bright yellow, and spreadable at room temperature.
Can you substitute melted butter? Yes.
Can you substitute vegetable oil? Yes.
In either case you won’t be making traditional naan, but go for it.
Put the following in a mixing bowl:
*The lesser amount of salt will give you a “neutral-tasting” naan, perfect for serving with salty dips or foods. Use up to the greater amount of salt if you’re going to be serving the naan on its own.
**Use the greater amount in winter or in dry climates; the lesser amount in summer, or in more humid weather.
Add the following to the bowl:
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons ghee or melted butter
1 large egg
Mix and knead to make a smooth, fairly stiff dough.
I never fail to marvel at the stretchiness of gluten!
Round the dough into a ball…
…and place into a lightly greased bowl. Or into a large measuring cup, as I’ve done here.
Let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours; it should double in bulk. It’ll take the longer amount of time if you’ve used the greater amount of salt.
Towards the end of the rising time, start heating your oven to 475°F. If you want to use a pizza stone, place it on the bottom rack.
Divide the dough into four pieces. A scale makes this easy.
841g quickly becomes…
…210g for each piece.
I usually have my scale set on ounces, but switch to grams when I’m dividing dough; the arithmetic is a lot easier in grams.
Shape the dough into four rough ovals. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Shape each oval into a 10” to 11”, teardrop-shaped bread. I’ve put these two on parchment, so I can slip them easily onto my pizza stone.
I often use a pizza stone for pizza and flatbreads, but this time I had mixed feelings. While traditional naan is indeed cooked on the stone sides of a tandoor oven, I just had the feeling that in this case, it might make the bread more crusty than I like; I prefer a softer naan.
Well, let’s try it.
Two minutes on each side was all it took. And it was OK… but baking on a baking sheet, while it took 8 minutes (double the time), was easier. It also allowed me to top the loaves with seeds prior to baking.
In this case – the baking sheet wins.
I put two loaves on my parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush them with an egg white wash – 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon of water.
Next, the seeds. Fennel on one, poppy on the other. If I’d had nigella (a.k.a. black caraway or charnushka), I would have used them.
Ready for the oven.
Immediately place in the 475°F oven, and bake for 8 minutes. No need to turn them over.
Remove from the oven, and brush with ghee or melted butter, if desired.
Since I’ve made the lower-salt version, I also sprinkle the breads with a bit of sea salt.
Break off pieces. Serve warm.
Trust me, this is a serious swoon…
Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Buttery Seeded Naan.