Oven-Baked Zaatar Naan

Zaatar Naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

In Sanskrit, tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven, was referred to as kandu. 

The word originated from the middle Persian tanûr is traced back to the Akkadian (2334 - 2218 BCE) word "tinūru, which consists of the parts tin "mud" and nuro/nura "fire" and is mentioned as early as in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh.

It's a Semitic word known in the Dari Persian as tandūr and tannūr, in Armenian as t'onir, in Georgian as tone, in Arabic as tannūr, in Hebrew; tanúr, in Turkish; tandır, in Uzbek; tandir, in Azerbaijani; astəndir, and in Kurdish as tenûr, according to a Persian dictionary. 

Breads, chicken, and other foods are commonly cooked in tandoors, reaching 900 F/480 C, throughout Central Asia and the neighboring regions and Southeast Asia, including India and Pakistan. 

"Small mud plastered ovens with side openings closely resembling present-day tandoors have been excavated at Kalibangan, an Indus valley site" from the 1550 BC -3500 BC Harappan civilization period in northwest India," writes K.T.Achaya in 'A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food.

While naan and the terminology/word tandoor were brought to India by the Muslims in the 13th and 16th centuries, the archaeological excavations point to the earlier use of clay ovens as a method of baking and cooking in India. 

Left: Naan puffed on a pizza stone inside 550 F/288 C oven Right: oven-baked naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick


Peek into Cast-Iron Garlic Naan, the first post in the naan series. It might help with understanding the stove-top technique and naan's history. The cast-iron naan post also gives different visuals and links that might be helpfu in making the oven baked naan belowl.

The oven-baked naan doesn't have the dramatic blisters it forms when the naan cooks on the cast iron like in this Cast-Iron Garlic Naan, but it puffs beautifully in the oven without much fuss. 
 If you keep kosher, serve naan with parve, non-meat vegetarian or fish, dishes, like daal.

Oven-Baked Zaatar Naan
makes 8

this is recipe can be doubled


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 oz (1 packet) dry yeast
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar

Topping for a Mediterranean style naan:

2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil


Mix 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4 cup lukewarm water in a measuring cup. Add the yeast to the lukewarm water/sugar, cover, and let proof (bubble, foam, and rise) for about 10 - 20.  

Combine the flour, salt, and oil in a large, wide mixing bowl. Use your fingertips to form a crumbly mixture. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the proofed yeast, yogurt, and milk, and start combining with the flour. Knead the dough (in the bowl) for up to 10 minutes or until smooth and pliable. The dough will be soft and tacky (slightly sticky). Shape the dough into a round loaf.

You can also knead this dough in a mixer with a hook attachment.

Brush a clean bowl with olive oil or ghee and place the dough inside. Flip the dough in the bowl to coat the entire surface of the dough with a thin film of oil. Cover with a kitchen towel or (recycled) plastic wrap and proof the dough (let the dough rise) for an hour in a warm spot or until it doubles in size.

Preheat a pizza stone or unlined cookie sheet (or any oven tray) in a 550 F/288 C oven, or at the highest temperature setting your oven reaches, up to 550 F/288 C.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, forming them into balls (approximately 85 grams/3 oz each ball). Cover with a kitchen towel.

Working with one dough ball at a time, lightly dust the rolling surface with flour, then roll it out to a 2 - 4 inch round, flip and continue rolling out to 8 inches in diameter. Pull one end of the rolled-out naan to elongate into a traditional teardrop shape or roll out with the rolling pin to a 7 X 11 oval shape. 

Carefully transfer the rolled-out dough to the hot pizza stone. Within 2-3 minutes, the naan will bubble and puff and few dark spots will appear underneath the puffed dough. Check for golden/dark spots, and turn it over with a heat-resistant spatula and bake for 1 -2  minuets longer to until a few golden/slightly dark spots form on the flipped side. 

Transfer the baked naan to a plate; brush with olive oil, sprinkle with zaatar according to taste, and serve. 

Or transfer the naan to a plate and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with zaatar according to taste before serving.

Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. 

Ensure the oven door is closed while rolling out the next naan to maintain 550 F/288 C temperature. Heat gets lost when opening the oven door, which will affect the puffing of the naan and the baking process. 

Refrigerating and Freezing:

Ideally, naan is best served immediately from the oven but can be refrigerated overnight in an airtight container and reheated in a 350F/177C oven, wrapped in foil. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with zaatar before serving.

It can also be frozen in an airtight container with parchment paper dividing each naan for up to a month. Reheat frozen at 350F/177C oven wrapped in foil. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with zaatar according to taste before serving. 

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