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how do i do "navaja bread"

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
i am a 23 year old guy from germany. i've been to the US a couple of years ago and ate some specialty called "navajo bread" which obviously is some native americans food. maybe some of you already heard of that and i found some recipes via using google but i'm still not satisfied with the results. In Arizona it was used to be served with vegetables like beans, corn, lettuce and so on. unfortunately i'm not able to find such any more.

would be grateful if you can help me...


post #2 of 12
You're talking about fry bread. This is what the Indians did with the commodity flour given to them by the U.S. government. It is a universal food made by all the tribes. Before the Indians were moved to the reservations, they made bread mostly from corn meal. They would make what we call mush (much like polenta) which they would either fry or put on a hot rock to bake. Once on the reservations, they were given wheat flour and used it much in the same way they had corn meal. There are several different variations of fry bread. My neighbor is Ojibwa. She just takes frozen bread dough and fries it in oil. For a recipe and how to make it, got to It's the first recipe on the page. The Navajo sometimes put seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato and cheese on it. This is called an Indian taco and is sold by vendors at pow wows and rodeos all over the country. Some people eat it with butter and sugar, some with maple syrup and some with honey. In the western U.S. you will find it served with honey as an accompaniment to huervos rancheros (Mexican eggs), Good luck with it. There is a knack to making fry bread that sometimes takes a while to get before it comes out right. The dough has to be stretched until it's thin without working it so much that it gets tough.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
hey thanks for that precise description! gonna try it out!
post #4 of 12
The best ones are yeast based, but most commonly seen from-scratch recipes use a biscuit type base.

You can see in these recipes a lot of poverty and government hand out history.

As pointed out, flour, but you 'll also see powdered milk in most recipes and as I mentioned with the biscuit types, baking powder. Paul Prudhomme tweaked the powdered milk to a non-dairy creamer in one of his books and I think that's better than the powdered milk. That too is a calorie booster but see below.

Frying of course is the cooking method. That makes these a bit greasy and pumps calories way up which has been linked to obesity rates among various Native American groups, the Navajo in my state for example.

So, on to my current recipe. You'll note I skip the powdered milk and just use milk for liquid and skip the creamer since it's whole milk.

4 cups flour, additional 1 cup flour for shaping
1 scant tablespoon dry yeast or 1 packet
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 teaspoons salt, to taste
2 cups milk, warmed

oil for frying

I usually make this in the food processor since the kneading is FAST and easy, but you need a food processor big enough for the task, 9 or more cups.

Dry ingredients into the food processor, pulse a bit to mix. While processing, pour in the warm milk. Continue processing until the a lump of dough forms and the processor strains a bit. In larger processors, you may have different clues for doneness, but in my 9 cup, it's when the processor struggles a bit, usually around 45-60 seconds of processing.

This is a STICKY dough. Scrape it into an oiled bowl to rise. Cover the bowl. When it doubles, punch it down, about an hour in my environment. Flour your hands and a work area. Start forming thin disks of dough 6 inches in diameter. As this is still sticky, I usually raise these disks on silicone baking mats. Baking parchment works OK, as do oiled baking sheets. Cover and let rise 1/2 an hour or so.

Meanwhile heat oil for frying, 325 -350 is good. Fry a few at a time to not lower the oil temp too much until browned and cooked through. Best eaten HOT.

If you're in a rush, you can do this in the biscuit style. For the yeast, add just one teaspoon. This is for a bready yeasty flavor. Add 4 teaspoons baking powder. Do not mix in the food processor. Rather, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add cool milk and mix with a sturdy wooden spoon as for biscuits. You don't want to knead this dough like a bread dough. And it will be soft and sticky; you may need extra flour for shaping. Once shaped in disks, you can fry immediately.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 12
This sounds similar to the beaver tails you find in Quebec.
post #6 of 12
This is a very good mix for those who don't want to start from scratch Woodenknife Indian Fry Bread Mix, from the Badlands of South Dakota

it is used by many local restaurants and was served in the employee cafeteria at the casino I used to work for.
post #7 of 12
That recipe posted by greyeaglem is authentic Navajo frybread. Tuba City is the headquarters of the Western Navajo Tribal Agency in Arizona. The key is the powdered milk. Every Navajo I've ever talked to about frybread has told me the powdered milk is essential. Don't forget, this was a recipe devised by people who did not have refrigeration in the old days and who were surviving on commodity food being provided by the government, their traditional livelihood having been largely destroyed by government imprisonment. Staples included dry milk, white flour, lard, baking soda and coffee. Fancying it up may "improve" it for sophisticated tastes, but won't result in traditional Navajo frybread.
post #8 of 12
Very interesting thread, everyone.
It;s interesting to see how changes in the context - whether immigration or war or introduction of new ingredients from abroad, or in this sad case, confinement to what amount to prison camps, will affect the way people eat - creatively adapting old ways of cooking to new situations.
I imagine that the concern for calories was exactly the opposite in the old times, when most people had to worry about getting enough calories rather than too many, so foods were stuffed with whatever fats could be available. Hard to imagine that today. Nutritional guidelines of the old days - for example in institutions - gave a minimum number of calories necessary. So it's no wonder that this bread developed as it did.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #9 of 12
Off the subject here, but it's interesting how long it takes people to adapt to a new diet before they stop getting sick from it. The American Indian never really has adapted. They all (whether they farmed or hunted/gathered) had a low fat diet due to eating lean meat or fish, and therefore didn't worry about cooking in fat (usually bear grease). Their grain diet was primarily corn and acorns. After the reservations were established, the children were taken away to "Indian" schools where their hair was cut off, they were made to wear European style clothing and forbidden to speak their native languages. They were separateed from their families and taught about God in an effort to make them conform to white civilization. Indians were the original socialists. They took care of their old and their young. Everyone ate or no one ate. The Europeans thought them uncivilized heathens. The children at the schools were served a European diet, and a surprising number of them actually died from it. The Pima nation near Phatch's area has the highest incidence of diabetes of any ethnic group in the world. They used to raise their own corn, but their water supply was diverted and the U.S. government replaced the corn the Pimas used to raise with hybrid corn. There is a tribe in Mexico that is a first cousin to the Pimas that still raise their own heirloom corn, and they have no diabetes. This has been a subject of study for some time. The Indian community is now trying to move away from fry bread as a staple food because they know it is bad for them (like the average person tries not to eat too many doughnuts). I am a north branch Cheyenne, and I use the term Indian to refer to my people. Some Indians don't like this because of the legend that Columbus was lost and thought he was in India. India in Columbus' time was known as Burma, so if that were the case the misnomer would have been "Burmese". The term "Indian" actually came from Spanish holy men who called the native people "Los ninos en dios", or "children of God" which got slurred into "indios", or Indian. I kind of like that. Thanks for reading this.
post #10 of 12
Greyeaglem, many people forget how we got where we are. I am grateful for my SW US experience.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
hey you folks, thanks for all the answers.. i am utterly surprised how well u seem to be acquainted with that topic, respect! gotta admit, that i didn't read all the answers yet, but i will do now! just wanted to post this to say thaank you :D
post #12 of 12
I do this recipe as well, I am still trying to dial in my cousin's recipe, her's rose more than mine do. I grew up on a couple of different reservations, and both had Indian Tacos on the school lunch menu. Good stuff though, very good with honey butter.
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