I've been driving carpool, sorting socks and applauding the school musical, "Oliver!" Ann nurtures real orphans. I watch pretend orphans sing. I figured the least I could do was cook something distant and deserving.
We order the Indian flatbread regularly, reveling in its buttery exterior, its chewy interior and its curry-scooping convenience. Producing credible naan at home, however, was fresh terrain.
I stirred and kneaded bread dough, bolstered, in the naan tradition, with yogurt. I let it rise and rolled it thin. Then I baked it. That's when the adventure set in.
I tried tossing the disks of dough onto a hot baking stone, which yielded a pizza/pita/puff, but not naan. I tried the stove top skillet, yielding sog. I Skyped Ann. "Well," she sighed, "it's hard without a tandoor oven."
Apparently the traditionalist bakes naan by kindling a fire in the center of a vast vessel, then throwing the dough against its clay walls. The naan sticks, then crisps.
I wandered my kitchen, looking for a means to sandwich dough between hot and hotter. The waffle iron seemed an ingenious solution. But wasn't.
Then I tried the laptop. Following electronic advice, I baked my bread on top of a griddle, under the broiler. The double sizzle — above and below — gave my naan its signature blisters and crisp/chewy charm. Isn't world travel a wonder?
Naan (Indian flat bread)
Prep: 20 minutes
Wait: 90 minutes
Bake: 2 minutes
½ cup warm milk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 pinch sugar
½ cup plain yogurt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups bread flour
4 scallions, finely chopped (or try finely chopped garlic or slivered mint)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Pour milk into a small bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar. Let sit until creamy looking, 10 minutes. Stir in yogurt, 2 tablespoons melted butter and coarse salt.
Measure flour into a medium bowl. Add milk mixture and stir to a clumpy dough. Knead dough by hand on a lightly floured surface or using stand mixer fitted with a dough hook until soft and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Brush a large bowl with some of the remaining melted butter. Add dough ball, turn once to coat with butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
Divide dough and roll into 4 balls. Roll out each to a very thin oval about 8 inches long and 5 inches wide. Brush tops with melted butter. Scatter on scallions. Sprinkle each with flaky salt.
Set a cast-iron griddle, smooth side up, on the top rack of the oven. An upside down cast-iron skillet will also work, but you may need to move down one rack. Heat the broiler. Set 2 naan on the hot cast-iron surface. Bake until bottoms are crisp and tops are pocked with golden brown (or even slightly charred) bubbles, a mere 1 - 2 minutes.
Use tongs to pull out breads. Fold each in half and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel while baking remaining breads. Enjoy hot.
Broiler baking technique thanks to the blog Once Upon a Plate.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at email@example.com.