oasis

June 5, 2012 § 17 Comments

o·a·sis/ōˈāsis/
Noun:
1. A fertile spot in a desert where water is found.
2. A pleasant or peaceful area or period in the midst of a difficult, troubled, or hectic place or situation.

1. I am most definitely where water is found, here in Portland, Oregon; I haven’t seen too much of the sun and plenty of drizzly grey. After our sunny SoCal visit to see family, I’m visiting my daughter Laurel and her husband Alex, who share their small duplex with two big cats nicknamed Smooth Cat and Fuzzy Cat (a brother and sister duo who obviously wear very different style coats).

Alex built this crazy cat house for Smooth and Fuzzy out of scrap and recycled materials; it makes for very happy cats!

2. And I’m in a pleasant, peaceful though still occasionally hectic time right now, so baking the Oasis Naan with the Tuesday group was a nice diversion. Laurel herself is an accomplished and worldly cook and baker. Most recently her go to book on Indian food has been How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor. She selected and prepared the tandoori chicken with chaat masala spice mix, and a spicy dal of red lentils and kale. Alex manned the Big Green Egg wood-fired grill to cook the chicken and bake the naans, and opened a bottle of one of Oregon’s famed pinot noirs. It was a fun and delicious first dinner in their Portland home for me. Here’s how Oasis Naan fared for us…

Even though baker-authors Jeffry Alford and Naomi Duguid directions were for hand kneading, I elected to use the big KitchenAid mixer. Yup, Laurel has one just like her mom. And of course, I just had to make one of the cups of flour whole wheat. I used the flat beater for the first “100 strokes” since the mixture was more like a batter than a dough at the beginning.

Five cups total of flour went into the mix, the lowest amount so it was a pretty wet dough. But five minutes or so of kneading on speed 2 with the dough hook brought the dough together with a good amount of gluten development. Here it is before rising.

And here it is after a second rise. I actually let it rise a third time as we wanted to cook the tandoori chicken first so the naans had to wait an additional hour before baking.

Here are the naans, portioned and lightly rounded. The wet dough wanted to stick, so there’s some flour on the parchment paper. Since there so much more humidity in Oregon than Colorado, I used a tea towel instead of plastic to cover the dough at various stages. Notice the tight quarters; the wood bench is just slightly bigger than a 2×2 foot square.

On the generously floured bench I rolled the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and then pricked heavily with a fork.

Laurel keeps a heavy duty water sprayer on hand for creating steam when she bakes bread, so I used it to mist the top of the naans so the toppings of seeds and scallions would stay put.

Meanwhile Alex’s been cooking the tandoori chicken in the Big Green Egg. To save fuel and time, the baking stone is heating on a rack beneath the chicken (protected by a large drip pan), so cooking is by indirect instead of direct heat.

When the chicken is done, the stone is moved up to the top rack and heated some more for baking bread. We didn’t have quite enough fuel for the long cooking/baking time, so while the last naans finish, the temperature was low enough to put the chicken back on the grill for a quick reheat. This naan has black onion seeds (nigella or kalonji) instead of the cumin specified in the recipe. Since she’s travelled in Asia and enjoys cooking various world cuisines, Laurel has the most extensive spice collection I know.

Dinner is served – dal, tandoori drumstick, oasis naan and the Oregon pinot. The naan bread had some earthiness from the whole wheat and the extra bit of salt sprinkled on top brought out the flavors. The breads were crusty on the bottom, softer on top and chewy inside, so the Big Green Egg did a good job. It probably helped that the dough was wet since baking in an outdoor grill which is vented is much more drying than a conventional oven. A fun and delicious meal, and made with joy with family! Thanks, Laurel and Alex!

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