Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Remember dinner parties? Me neither… I’ve been sheltering in place so long I can’t remember what it’s like to be a normal person who shakes hands with other people and allows house guests. But from what I remember about dinner parties, the rule of thumb is that you’re not supposed to serve recipes you’ve never made before. But who has time in their every day life to do tons of recipe testing?! Well… our everyday lives have recently changed and we now have quite a bit of time at home to do some recipe testing, and some dreaming about all the fun dinner parties we’ll throw when we’re allowed to be friends with our friends again. So here’s a recipe that I think is dinner party perfect!
In my humble opinion, the best dinner party recipes are 1) really delicious, 2) reheat well and 3) appear to be way more complicated than they actually are. Everyone wants to impress their friends without putting in hours of work right?! That’s where flat bread comes in. Most people aren’t baking bread at home (well, before March 2020 they weren’t) so homemade bread recipes really tend impress! Your friends will say “What – you made the bread?! That’s amazing!” They don’t need to know that you only spent around 25 minutes of active time.
You can make these flatbreads a day in advance and then pop them in a warm oven to reheat for just a few minutes, and blow everyone’s socks off when they hit the table. They can also spend some time on the grill if you’ve got an outdoor dining thing happening, or you can quickly cook them off in a cast iron pan or griddle directly before serving the meal, pretty easy if your main dish is roasting in the oven (maybe a tagine – amazing!).
So now you might be questioning – so is something as incredible as naan really that easy to make at home? Well I can assure you that it is shockingly easy to get DELICIOUS naan-like flatbread at home. I’m saying naan-like because when I was researching recipes, the proofing time for naan was from 3-5 hours, so I assume any recipe with a shorter proofing time shouldn't claim to be naan. But I'm no naan expert so maybe proofing time isn't the biggest deal. Anyway, I was not so interested in a 3-5 hour proof, so I shifted my search to recipes that had similar ingredients to naan (basically flatbreads that included yogurt) to see what kind of proof time they were working with. I found some promising contenders and started to get the picture of how this recipe comes together.
So after my bit of research I thought I would try to mix it up and see if a whole-wheat version would work using the no-knead method I saw across a few recipes. I also wanted to see how adding some herb and garlic would work out, since at Indian restaurants the garlic naan is always my jam. It seems to me that in a restaurant context, they’re grilling the bread in their amazing oven and then swiping it with a buttery garlic/cilantro mixture and then giving it one more minute in the hot oven to get the garlic slightly crispy. Since I only have a stovetop, I have to fold my garlic in so that I don’t burn it in the pan. The results were a crispy chewy naan-like flatbread that doesn’t feel like a compromise in anyway way and was actually kind of hard to stop eating it.
So outside of impressing everyone at your dinner party, this is just a really easy bread to have on hand for quick or special meals. They accommodate a mezze plate with hummus, cheese and raw veggies beautifully. They’ll go fantastic with any kind of egg, and will be a beautiful addition to soup, South Asian curries and Middle Eastern stews or tagines. I can also imagine these with grilled meat and vegetables a la at home kebab! It’s bread, so the possibilities are endless!
Shockingly Easy Homemade Naan-ish Flatbread
Yield: 8 flatbreads
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar (I used dark brown, but any sugar works)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2/3 cups water
½ cup plain yogurt (low-fat or full-fat will work)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1½ cup all purpose flour
4 cloved garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
If you haven’t used your yeast for some time, test it out first. Using a whisk, combine the 3/4 cup water with the 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of active yeast in a large mixing bowl. Put it somewhere warmish for 10 minutes. When you return it should be bubbly, if it doesn’t bubble, then sadly it’s dead and you’ll have to replace it before continuing. If you know your yeast is good, skip the 10 min wait.
Next, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ cup yogurt into the yeasty water mixture and whisk to combine. Then add the 1½ cup all purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat and the minced garlic and cilantro and hand mix this together to combine. It will become somewhat shaggy and sticky dough. Cover it with a damp kitchen towel and leave it somewhere warm to proof. I sometimes use the microwave, as it’s a draft-free space. Leave it to rise for 1 hour. (Did you get that?! No kneading! It's rest time - the best time!)
Sprinkle some flour on your clean working surface and turn out your risen dough onto the floured surface, then sprinkle some flour on top. With a bench scraper or a floured knife, cut the dough into 8 pieces. Preheat your skillet or griddle on medium heat. If you have one of those large griddles that fit over 2 burners, use that! Just before cooking, shape 1-2 balls of dough at a time, pressing and stretching them out with your floured hands – you can do thin round disks or make more oblong naan looking shapes. You can stretch them fairly thinly as the dough will rise again when it hits the hot pan; assume it will double its thickness in the pan. Don’t form the dough too early as it will stick to your working surface, roll and stretch them out just before cooking.
Add 1 teaspoon of oil to coat pan and lay down as many flatbreads as your pan can hold. I have a small pan so I did one at a time. Once the flatbread is on the pan, you will quickly see the raw dough change color from raw (white opaque) to cooked (1-3 minutes). Lift the bread with your spatula to check that you’re getting good browning on the first side, and flip when you’re happy with the color development. Remove from the pan when the second side is browned to your liking. Continue to form and cook, adding a bit more oil to the pan for every flatbread. Enjoy right away or store wrapped up in the fridge (5 days) or freeze for later! They warm up nicely the next day in the toaster!