Afghan Naan

You may be familiar with naan, a flatbread typically associated with India. But other countries and cultures enjoy their own version of this foundational bread — and Afghanistan is one of them. This recipe comes from Afghani blogger Humaira Ghilzai, who says, “In an Afghan home, naan is served at every meal, with or without rice. Slightly thicker than most flatbreads, it has a chewy inside and crusty outside with a hint of smoky flavors from the nigella seeds. Naan is a great accompaniment to a cup of tea and fried eggs or a bowl of shorwa, an Afghan meat stew.” As America welcomes more Afghanis, we hope this recipe will encourage us all to break bread together.

Prep
40 mins
Bake
18 to 22 mins
Total
2 hrs 45 mins
Yield
3 large flatbreads, about 9” wide by 15” long
A bowl of Afghan naan topped with black and white sesame seeds - select to zoom
A bowl of Afghan naan topped with black and white sesame seeds - select to zoom
Two slices of Afghan Naan on a plate next to a tomato salad - select to zoom
A crumb shot of a slice of Afghan naan - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

  2. To make the dough using a food processor: Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the plastic dough blade. Pulse for a few seconds to mix the ingredients.

  3. With the processor running, add the oil followed by the water. If the mixture sticks to the sides of the bowl, scrape it down and pulse some more. After a minute or two the dough will come together in a smooth mass and move around the processor bowl.

  4. To make the dough with a stand mixer or by hand: In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients. Stir in the oil, then gradually mix in the water.

  5. Knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and somewhat sticky. It should barely clean the inside of the bowl if you're using a stand mixer, perhaps sticking just a bit at the bottom.

  6. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it's nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  7. Preheat the oven to 450°F. (If your oven has one, use its convection feature.) Line three baking sheets with parchment.

  8. To shape and bake the naan: Set a bowl of warm water near your work area. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, gently deflate it, and divide it into three pieces (about 375g each).

  9. Lightly wet your hands in the warm water and gently work one piece of the dough into an oval about 14” to 15” long and 8” to 9” wide. As you stretch the dough you may need to dip your hands in the water to keep any stickiness at bay.

  10. Once the dough is shaped, use a bowl scraper or butter knife to cut three deep lengthwise slashes into the dough’s surface; be careful not to cut all the way through. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough.  

  11. Place the naan onto the prepared baking sheets. Cover and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

  12. Combine the nigella and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Lightly sprinkle the naan with the seeds, gently pressing them in.

  13. Bake the naan for 18 to 22 minutes; they should be golden brown and crusty on the outside.

  14. Remove the naan from the oven. Serve warm, cut into 3” strips or squares. To keep naan moist as they cool completely, wrap them in a large dish towel.

  15. Enjoy naan with fried eggs, shorwa, or feta cheese with a dab of cherry jam. A cup of cardamom black tea is a traditional accompaniment.

  16. Storage information: Store leftover naan, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage. Reheat naan in an oven or toaster oven just before serving.