My Sourdough Bread Baking Journey

Just like millions around the globe, during the pandemic, I too jumped on the sourdough bandwagon, thanks to a dear friend who gifted us the sourdough starter that she painstakingly developed over a month. And so began my sourdough bread baking journey

Now, I won’t delve into the technicalities of the process for making the sourdough starter because I honestly don’t have in-depth knowledge about it! My husband takes care of that process, end-to-end. He starts by feeding the starter to activate it, and then prepares the levain, an offshoot of the mother starter created by feeding a portion of its discard, so that I can use it to bake bread. But, at a high level, from what I understand, to activate the mother starter and to make the levain for successful sourdough bread, you need to discard a portion of the existing starter before feeding it (i.e., adding fresh flour and water in layman’s terms).

Left: Mother Starter, Center: Levain, Right: Discard

Don’t Discard the Discard!

The step to discarding a portion of the starter before feeding it is quite necessary and unavoidable for a couple of different reasons:

1. It helps refresh the acid levels (i.e., the sourness) in the starter.

2. It assists in managing the overall growth in volume of the starter. 

When feeding a small amount of the starter in between bread baking cycles to keep it alive or active, the quantity of discard is very little, but over time it can accumulate to a significant quantity. Moreover, if you are baking regularly, the amount of discard from preparing the levain can be quite substantial!

Although the discard is a portion of the starter, it is less bubbly in comparison and not strong enough to make the bread rise. However, it is a thick, pasty mixture of just 2 ingredients used to make the starter – flour and water, and that makes it versatile enough to be used in recipes that call for these two ingredients. Does it make sense?! So, please don’t discard the discard; instead, use it to make some delicious sourdough naan!

Sourdough Discard Naan Two Ways - Stove Top & Pizza Oven

Naan: The Quintessential Indian Bread

There’s truly nothing better than warm, fresh naan to accompany delicious curries or wrap around smoky tandoor-grilled meats! This versatile flatbread, known for its soft, pillowy texture and slightly charred, blistered exterior, is a staple in Indian cuisine, gracing tables at home and in fine dining restaurants. Its chewy and satisfying texture not only pairs well with a wide variety of Indian dishes but also serves as an excellent base for pizzas, wraps, or naanwiches (sandwiches made with naan flatbreads). Naan can be made with all purpose flour or whole wheat flour or a combination of the two and can be plain or infused with flavors like garlic, butter, or herbs and spices.

Sourdough Discard Naan Two Ways - Stove Top & Pizza Oven

Making Naan at Home

While naan is typically baked in charcoal or wood-fired tandoor ovens at restaurants, it is surprisingly easy to make restaurant-quality naan at home. You can cook it right on the stovetop using a hot cast-iron skillet or in a pizza oven that can reach tandoor-like high temperatures. Of course, I didn’t invent these stove-top or pizza oven techniques for making naan at home, but I can vouch for their effectiveness after trying and testing them multiple times. 

Sourdough Discard Naan Two Ways - Stove Top & Pizza Oven

Sourdough Naan

Making the dough with the sourdough discard is a straightforward process. To the pasty flour and water mixture of the discard, add more flour and a few basic ingredients like warm milk, Greek yogurt, baking powder, and salt. After the shaggy dough has had a couple of hours to rest in a warm spot in the kitchen, it’s ready to be rolled into naan! You can roast the rolled naan on the griddle without any toppings to make plain naan, or you can add a variety of toppings to create flavored naan. Some of my favorite toppings include:

Herbed naans (a mixture of minced garlic, green onions, cilantro, and Serrano chilies)

Herbs + shredded cheddar cheese

Herbs + shredded cheddar + crushed dried ghost pepper (very spicy!)

Sourdough Discard Naan Two Ways - Stove Top & Pizza Oven

Now, I’ve tried both the yeast and yeast-free recipes for making naan at home and I must say that I personally prefer the taste of sourdough naan. I love the distinct hint of sourness you experience when biting into it. Additionally, it lacks the sweet or eggy taste that sometimes results from using specific ingredients in non-sourdough recipes. The slightly sour, fresh aroma that fills the air as you cook sourdough naan on the stove is simply intoxicating. So, pull the discard out of your refrigerator and use it to make naan. I promise you, you’re going to LOVE it. 

Sourdough Discard Naan Two Ways - Stove Top & Pizza Oven

Don’t sweat it if you don’t have the sourdough discard! You can still follow my recipe by using instant yeast. I have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen. With all the ingredients ready to go, let’s get rolling, shall we? 

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Sourdough Discard Naan Two Ways – Stove Top & Pizza Oven


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: 8 1x

Description

A step-by-step guide to crafting the beloved Indian bread, Naan, presented in two cooking methods: stovetop and pizza oven. My dough recipe repurposes the sourdough discard, but you can easily substitute it with instant yeast.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup sourdough starter discard (100% hydration, unfed) (alternatively, you can use 1 envelope or 1/4 oz. or 7 g or 2 1/4 tsp of instant yeast)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (use 1/2 cup more, total 1 cup, if using instant yeast)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (use 1/4 cup more, total 1/2 cup, if using instant yeast)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (use 1 cup more, total 3 cups, if using instant yeast) + more for rolling the naan (see Variations)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • salt, to taste

Optional Toppings, as needed

  • ghee or butter
  • minced herbs like cilantro, mint, green onions
  • minced garlic
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • minced green chilies
  • crushed dried red pepper or ghost chili pepper flakes

Instructions

MAKING THE DOUGH

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sourdough discard, warm milk and the Greek yogurt. If you are not using the sourdough discard, simply whisk the warm milk and Greek yogurt together.
  • Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, instant yeast (if using) and combine into a shaggy dough. If you are using sourdough discard, omit instant yeast.  
  • Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  • After about 2 hours, the dough will poof up a bit and will have a few visible bubbles. It will be a bit firm and will also slowly spring back up if you push your finger in it (see Notes).

ROLLING THE NAAN

  • Before starting with the dough, get any of the toppings you want to use for the naan, like herbs, garlic, cheese etc. ready.
  • Take a small bowl and fill it with some water.
  • Also, preheat a heavy cast iron pan or a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Dump the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth into a round ball.
  • Flatten the ball of dough into a disc, about 1 inch thick and using a sharp knife or a dough scraper, divide the disc into 8 triangular pieces.
  • Using a small amount of flour to dust the surface and the rolling pin.
  • Roll each piece into about 1/4″ thickness.
  • Using your fingers or a pastry brush, apply a thin layer of water to the top side of the rolled out dough.

STOVE TOP METHOD

  • Place the rolled dough over the preheated cast iron pan, with the top side with the layer of water down.
  • Immediately press the herbs and garlic on the top side, using a wooden spatula.
  • Cook for about a minute, until you see large bubbles forming all over the top side.
  • Carefully lift the pan and turn it upside down over the flame to directly grill the top side of the naan.
  • (This will also work for an electric coil stove but not for an induction cooktop. If you don’t have either a gas or an electric coil stove, simply flip the naan and grill the other side on the pan itself)
  • Grill over the direct flame for about a minute.
  • Once both the sides are grilled, the naan should automatically release from the pan and come off very easily.
  • If using cheddar cheese for topping, sprinkle it over the naan after you finish grilling the top side over the flame, before transferring it off the pan. The heat of the naan will melt the cheese almost instantaneously.

PIZZA OVEN METHOD

  • Preheat the pizza oven to 950 °F/ 510°C
  • Transfer the rolled out naan with the toppings facing up onto a pizza pan. You can place 2 naans on the pan at a time and slide it inside the oven.
  • Let the naan closer to the heat poof up and char for about 30 sec – 1 min. Then rotate the pan halfway around and let the second naan do the same.
  • Carefully remove the pan out of the pizza oven and using a pair of tongs, flip both the naans to the cooked side with the toppings facing down.
  • Follow the same process to cook the other side.
  • Take the pan out of the oven. Let the naan rest for 1-2 mins before transferring them to a serving platter.
  • If you want to use cheese for topping, sprinkle grated cheese right after taking the pizza pan out of the oven, while the naans rest on it, before serving. The cheese will melt with the heat from the naan.
  • Serve immediately (See Notes for storage instructions).

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

MAKING THE DOUGH In a large bowl, whisk together the sourdough discard, warm milk and the Greek yogurt. If you are not using the sourdough discard, simply whisk the warm milk and Greek yogurt together. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, instant yeast (if using) and combine into a shaggy dough. If you are using sourdough discard, omit instant yeast. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.

Step: 2

After about 2 hours, the dough will poof up a bit and will have a few visible bubbles. It will be a bit firm and will also slowly spring back up if you push your finger in it (see Notes).

Step: 3

ROLLING THE NAAN Before starting with the dough, get any of the toppings you want to use for the naan, like herbs, garlic, cheese etc. ready. Take a small bowl and fill it with some water. Also, preheat a heavy cast iron pan or a skillet over medium-high heat. Dump the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth into a round ball. Flatten the ball of dough into a disc, about 1 inch thick and using a sharp knife or a dough scraper, divide the disc into 8 triangular pieces.

Step: 4

Using a small amount of flour to dust the surface and the rolling pin.

Step: 5

Roll each piece into about 1/4″ thickness.

Step: 6

Using your fingers or a pastry brush, apply a thin layer of water to the top side of the rolled out dough.

Step: 7

STOVE TOP METHOD Place the rolled dough over the preheated cast iron pan, with the top side with the layer of water down. Immediately press the herbs and garlic on the top side, using a wooden spatula. Cook for about a minute, until you see large bubbles forming all over the top side.

Step: 8

Carefully lift the pan and turn it upside down over the flame to directly grill the top side of the naan. (This will also work for an electric coil stove but not for an induction cooktop. If you don't have either a gas or an electric coil stove, simply flip the naan and grill the other side on the pan itself.)

Step: 9

Grill over the direct flame for about a minute.

Step: 10

Once both the sides are grilled, the naan should automatically release from the pan and come off very easily.

Step: 11

If using cheddar cheese for topping, sprinkle it over the naan after you finish grilling the top side over the flame, before transferring it off the pan. The heat of the naan will melt the cheese almost instantaneously.

Step: 12

PIZZA OVEN METHOD Preheat the pizza oven to 950 °F/ 510°C Transfer the rolled out naan with the toppings facing up onto a pizza pan. You can place 2 naans on the pan at a time and slide it inside the oven. Let the naan closer to the heat poof up and char for about 30 sec - 1 min. Then rotate the pan halfway around and let the second naan do the same.

Step: 13

Carefully remove the pan out of the pizza oven and using a pair of tongs, flip both the naans to the cooked side with the toppings facing down. Follow the same process to cook the other side.

Step: 14

Take the pan out of the oven. Let the naan rest for 1-2 mins before transferring them to a serving platter. If you want to use cheese for topping, sprinkle grated cheese right after taking the pizza pan out of the oven, while the naans rest on it, before serving. The cheese will melt with the heat from the naan. Serve immediately (See Notes for storage instructions).

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

How to Freeze the Dough?

You can freeze the proofed naan dough for up to 3 months tightly sealed in a plastic wrap and stored in a freezer safe bag or refrigerate it for up to 2 days in an air-tight glass or plastic container. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight. Bring refrigerated dough to room temperature by letting it sit on the counter for 1-2 hours before rolling out the naans.

How to Freeze the Naan?

You can freeze prepared naans for up to 3 months or refrigerate for up to 5 days by wrapping them tightly in aluminum foil and placing them in a plastic bag. Warm refrigerated and frozen naan directly in a toaster or an oven preheated to 350°F

Recipe Variations

Make whole wheat naan by substituting all purpose flour with atta (Indian-style unrefined whole meal wheat flour) that is easily available in Indian stores or on Amazon

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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