Have you ever heard of a naan burger? Naan is a leavened flatbread similar to pita bread that is a staple in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other parts of southern Asia. Put a plain hamburger between two pieces of naan, and you have a naan burger as served by KFC in India.
The first time I heard about a naan burger, I had a flashback to a windy day on Kentucky Lake, waves splashing over the gunwales on a classic wooden runabout with a newly rebuilt motor, two six-year-old boys laughing as the boat bounced over the waves and two fathers asking themselves, “Why did we decide to do this?”
My good friend John had rebuilt the boat and motor over the winter, and we thought it would be fun to take it for its maiden cruise on a camping trip with our sons to a neat place I knew in Land Between the Lakes. We loaded the boat with a tent, sleeping bags, cookware, beverages and food and motored slowly away from the dock at the marina.
We had a bit of a breeze at our back, but the waves were small and the boat was performing beautifully. We idled along enjoying the scenery. After forty-five minutes or so we were halfway to our destination. About then a thundercloud swept up on us from the south bringing a wind that seemed to build whitecaps in seconds. The boys thought it was neat. A real camping trip!
We were five or six miles from the marina and a couple from the campsite. The waves were two feet high, and we had to angle across the wind to reach it. Briefly we considered trying to turn the boat and run with the storm back to the dock, but decided it would be safer to steer for the place where we planned to spend the weekend.
We arrived safely at the cove and secured the boat with a stern anchor and a rope at the bow to protect the newly varnished hull. We unloaded the boat, pitched the tent, stowed our gear and proceeded to relax with pop for the boys and beer for us. The boys played along the shore while John and I gathered firewood. The wind stayed high, but the trees enclosing the cove protected us. It was a beautiful May afternoon.
As the sun began dropping in the west we lit the fire, opened the beans and potato chips and got the hamburgers ready to grill. Everything was perfect until we looked for the hamburger buns. A search by four hungry campers confirmed that there were no buns in the boat, the cooler, the tent or anywhere near the camp. We found them two day’s later on the floor in the back seat of the car.
We bribed the boys with pop and fortified ourselves with another beer while we discussed options. The waves were still high and there were no other campers in sight who might have had buns to share. “Well,” says I, “we have a box of pancake mix. We’ll use pancakes as buns.”
They worked just fine. The boys loved them and John and I decided they tasted pretty good too. If I had known then about naan burgers, I might have called ours pancake burgers.
Traditionally, naan is baked in a hot tandoori oven, but you can make delicious naan by grilling it on a hot griddle, as you will find out after you try this recipe.
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (1 package)
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 T milk
2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
3 T butter
You are going to be kneading dough, so start by scrubbing your hands.
Warm a cup of water to about 105º. You can test it by putting a drop on the inside of your wrist as if you were checking the temperature of baby formula. It should feel just barely warm. Put the water in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast and allow it to proof.
Beat the egg until it is lemon colored, then stir it into the yeast mixture when it begins to foam. Stir in the milk, sugar, salt and one cup of flour and beat thoroughly. Add the rest of flour, a half-cup at a time and stir thoroughly between additions. Flours vary as does kitchen humidity, so you may need to add a little more flour or water to get a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl but is not too dry or too sticky.
Let the dough rest in the bowl for five minutes, then turn it out on a floured surface, scraping the bowl thoroughly. Knead the dough for six or seven minutes until it is smooth and elastic, then form it into a ball. Grease the bowl. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it until the dough is covered with a thin coating of oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set it in a warm place to rise.
Grease and lightly flour a tray or baking sheet.
When the dough has doubled in bulk, usually in an hour or two, punch it down and knead it for a few seconds on the the lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half, then cut each half into six pieces. Lightly flour the cut surfaces of each piece and roll them between your hands into balls. Put them about two inches apart on the prepared tray, cover them with the damp towel and let them rise until they are about double in size. This will take from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
Preheat your griddle or skillet to about 400º and melt the butter in a small bowl.
Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball into a thin circle, about an eighth of an inch thick, brush the top with a little melted butter and put it buttered side down on the griddle. Butter the top lightly while the naan is cooking. After about two minutes, turn it over and cook for another two or three minutes. You can turn it over after a couple of minutes to see if it is browned enough. The bread will puff up in spots to produce a nice mottled appearance.
NOTES: We use an electric griddle large enough to cook four circles at a time, so it takes just a few minutes to bake all the loaves.
You can brush the finished loaves with a little more butter as they come off the griddle, which will keep them soft.
Naan is best served warm.
It tastes great with butter and good jam too!