04 November 2007

Tandir Ovens and Hard Red Wheat for Naan

The Carpet Wars had an interesting part about hard red wheat that had been shipped from the US to Afghanistan. The trouble was that the dough made from this wheat wouldn't stick to the sides of the tandir and the naan kept falling into the fire before it was cooked. No matter the consistency of the dough, it wouldn't stick.

This totally surprised me since I have never heard anything like this before. I understand that the protein and gluten content of hard red wheat is higher than other types of wheat. I understand that the way you make your dough might make a difference, and certainly the temperature of the oven, but the type of wheat just doesn't make sense to me. I've used hard red wheat for nan a lot of times and it sticks to my bread stone, which is at least fairly similar to a tandir. I wouldn't worry about the naan falling off it the stone were tipped on its side in the oven.

Can anyone shed any light on this one? What type of wheat is normally used in Afghanistan? Or did the humanitarian suppliers just not know how to bake naan? I almost wonder if they didn't have their ovens hot enough.

And while I was trying to learn more about this, I did learn more about the history of the tandir. The name apparently comes from the Semitic word nar which means fire (that's why it's called a tannur in most of the Middle East) and spread from the Middle East to Central Asia and India. There is disagreement on that point though; maybe they originated in Persia or Central Asia instead and spread in both directions. Whatever way they went, they're entrenched in the entire area.

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