Tag Archive: bread

Apr 01 2014

#FirstOnTheFirst: Homemade Naan

I’ve never met a bread I didn’t like.

While my palate could be much more refined than it is, there’s one thing that’s universal regardless of its cuisine of origin: bread. Flat or fluffy, soft or crunchy, bread in all its forms is wonderful.

homemade naan

Years ago, I took a History through Fiction course that focused on books set in Eastern Asian countries. The concept was simple: learn a little bit about a culture by the books set in and written by authors who have lived it. Memoirs of a Geisha, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, The Ramayana and A Passage to India were just a few of the works we read. The instructor, a former member of the CIA, always had the best stories to tell. Because of her, I came very close to minoring in Asian Studies. What would I have done with that? I’m not sure. But she captured my interest and had me wanting to know more. It wasn’t just the content–it was her teaching style that attracted me. I enjoyed every minute in her classes.

But back to the History through Fiction course. This was a night class at a regional campus for UCONN and, as such, took place right around dinner time. Our teacher thought it would be fun if we had an Asian-themed meal during one of the classes. This was before the explosion of options came to my town–no Thai, no Hibachi, and definitely no sushi. No Indian food either. If you wanted pizza or pasta, you could toss a stone and find a place to go, but there wasn’t a whole lot else to pick from. The idea of eating something other than Chinese take-out seemed quite exotic. And a little scary.

homemade naan

The class voted and chose Indian for our meal, which had to be retrieved 30 minutes away. (See! I told you! We were a barren wasteland then!) I had never seen Indian food before, so I had no idea what to expect. And, to be honest, I have no idea what I ate. The colors and aromas all mixed together in my memory. But I did learn one thing–naan is awesome. That night, I became addicted to it. And many years later, when I discovered it was available in the grocery store for enjoyment at home, I thought I had struck gold. Woohoo! It has become the base of many lunches and dinners (and breakfasts and snacks) ever since.

Like most other things, making naan at home is much more economical than buying it at the store. I managed 10 flatbreads with this recipe and it probably cost me no more than $2 to make. Hard to argue with that kind of value! They freeze well for later use and are great to have on hand for quick pizzas, sandwiches, dipping in hummus, and just plain eating. There isn’t a lot of active work involved, just some waiting for the dough to rise and then standing at the stove when cooking them off. It’s easy enough that I’ll probably show my nearly-9-year-old how to make them soon. She’s looking forward to it!

First on the First Homemade Naan

These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month:

I cannot wait to see their results! As always, I’m eternally grateful for those who take part in these challenges with me. It’s always more fun when you can share something new with great friends!

Next month’s First on the First challenge will be Mille-Feuille

Also known as Napoleons, these are little pastries that consists of layers of puff pastry and pastry cream and/or fruit. They’re delicate and delightful and I’m really looking forward to tackling them! Please do come back on May 1st to see how they worked out!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Naan
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 10
  • ¼ cup hot tap water (you don’t really want it above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or you’ll kill the yeast)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for the work area
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup warm whole milk (again, not really above 100 degrees Fahrenheit; a quick hit in the microwave should be sufficient)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Organic Smooth & Creamy Whole Milk Plain yogurt)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the yeast, stir, and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl or 4-cup measuring cup, combine the milk and yogurt. Once the yeast mixture is frothy, stir it into the milk/yogurt, then add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Turn the mixer on to speed 2, mix and then knead the dough for 5 or so minutes, until you get a smooth yet somewhat sticky dough. (You can add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time if, after kneading for a few minutes, it’s too sticky that it won’t clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be stuck to the bottom of it; if it’s too dry to come together, you can add more warm water 1 Tablespoon at a time–try not to do these unless absolutely necessary, as they can throw off the balance and mess up the dough.)
  6. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, transfer the dough ball to it, cover with plastic wrap, and set somewhere warm for 1½ hours (I usually set my oven to the lowest temperature then shut it off once it reaches that, so it’ll hold some warmth for proofing without being too warm).
  7. Once the hour and a half has passed, flour your work surface well and transfer the dough to it. Cut into 10 equal portions then let sit for 30 minutes so the dough can rest and relax the gluten a little.
  8. Melt the butter and get out a pastry brush.Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  9. Roll out the portioned out dough to ovals/circles roughly the size of your skillet.
  10. Brush the tops with melted butter.
  11. Place 1 in the preheated skillet, butter side down, then brush butter on the top.
  12. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the edges are dry and the surface is bubbly.
  13. Flip and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes. When done, the bubbles will be browned but the rest of the naan will still be pale.
  14. Remove to a plate or wire rack to cool.
  15. Repeat with the rest of the naan.
  16. Naan can be stored in a large zip-top bag for up to 3 days or wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

This recipe was adapted from food52.

Now that you have your naan, why don’t you make some onions and peppers naan pizzas…?

What’s your favorite Indian food?

Feb 01 2014

#FirstOnTheFirst: Steamed Bacon Buns

I have a confession to make: the first time I ate a steamed (pork) bun was last year. March, to be exact, when I attended the Tourism Australia luncheon. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first–it looked…anemic. Where was my golden crust? Why did it look under-baked? Why would I want to consume that? There was something wrong with it, for sure. But as everyone else dug in, I knew I’d look like a fool if I begged off. I had to try it.

Steamed Bacon Buns

I am so glad I did, because what a world that was opened up to me that day! Wow! Since then, I’ve had pork buns when I’ve come across them, but the opportunities have been few and far between. I don’t know of anywhere I go locally that I can get them. And my trips to NYC aren’t as frequent as I’d like.

So, when it was proposed that we make steamed buns for #FirstOnTheFirst, I was cautiously elated. Thrilled that I’d have a chance to make my own at home. Terrified that I’d be making my own at home. What business did I have embarking upon a culinary journey like this? I knew nothing about steamed buns. But I had to try.

Steamed Bacon Buns

Steamed buns are also known as bao. My favorite fillings I’ve found have been on the porky side–including these bacon buns–but they can also contain sweet bean paste, chicken, etc. Typically they are steamed in bamboo baskets, but I already have enough specialized kitchen equipment; I wasn’t buying more. I can tell you this–the steamer basket on your rice cooker is not the best option. Go with a steamer basket in a regular pot with a little water and cover–this works remarkably well and is quick, too. Leftover bao can be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for longer. You can re-steam them to freshen them up, or pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, making them a fantastic option for work lunches. Or breakfast. Whichever.

Steamed Bacon Buns

They do take some time, though. The dough needs to rise for 2 hours. And you can only steam so many at a time (in my case, 4). All told, it was about 3 hours from start to finish, and that was on a work night. I was tired at the end, but extremely proud of myself. And a bit addicted. It probably wasn’t a great idea to eat 1.5 steamed bacon buns and then start my exercise for the night. Oops. Next time I’ll stash them for the week following and spread the love out a bit.

Want to check out some more steamed buns? You know you do!

#FirstOnTheFirst Steamed Buns

Now… for my version. I discovered the cutest tutorial ever on my name is yeh and I couldn’t resist! Truly–you must check it out! The bacon caught my attention, that’s true, but those adorable little buns smiling and snoozing won my heart. I had to try her recipe–or, at least, a riff off of it. I’m so glad I was enticed by her cute little buns, for this is now a keeper! Some sweet heat balanced by soft pillows of dough and bacon, of course. This might be the best food ever. You owe it to yourself to try them!

Steamed Bacon Buns

Next month, we’ll be making Beef Wellington. I really need my head examined. If you’d like to participate in the insanity, check out the First on the First tab for details. We’d love to have you!

Steamed Bacon Buns
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 12
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup warm whole milk
  • ¼ cup Spectrum organic shortening
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces nitrate-free bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  1. Combine the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  2. Mix on low (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) until combined and watch that the dough becomes smooth and slightly sticky--it should adhere to the bottom of the bowl while kneading. If it's too sticky, you can add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, waiting until it's incorporated before adding any more. If the dough is too dry, you can add warm water 1 Tablespoon at a time.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes, then transfer to a clean bowl.
  4. Cover and keep in a warm, draft-free place to allow the dough to rise til doubled in size, about 2 hours. (I turn my oven on the lowest temperature for a few minutes, turn it off, leave the light on and put the bowl there.)
  5. During the last hour of the dough rising, combine the bacon, water, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, and red pepper flakes in a medium sauce pan.
  6. Cook over medium heat until it starts to boil.
  7. Remove 3 Tablespoons of the fluid, add to it the cornstarch, and whisk til combined.
  8. Pour back into the bacon mixture, stir, and continue cooking until thickened. Set aside to cool.
  9. Cut out 12 parchment squares for the next stage...
  10. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  11. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces.
  12. Flatten 1 piece of dough into a disc, put 2-3 teaspoons bacon filling in the center, and gather the edges up in the middle, pinching to seal, so you have a little packet of meat.
  13. Place on a prepared baking sheet and pop in the warm oven to wait until ready to steam.
  14. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
  15. Fill a large sauce pan with 2-3 inches of water, place in it the steamer basket, and place 4 parchment squares in the basket. Put buns on top of the parchment squares, cover, and cook on medium-high temperature, steaming for 10 minutes.
  16. Check that the exterior of the buns has hardened a bit and isn't sticky. Cook for a couple more minutes, if necessary, then transfer to wire racks.
  17. Repeat with remaining buns.
  18. Eat warm; if cooled, re-steam or microwave for 30 seconds before consuming.


Jan 16 2014

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Bun Cake

The cold continues…as in the one that’s plaguing my head and chest. When I’m not wishing I could sleep myself into oblivion, I’m wandering around in a foggy haze. Concentration is nil. Desire to do anything is about the same. Ugh.

I’m staying true to my plan, though. The 100 Days of Miles plan, that is. Even when a curve ball was thrown at me with a last-minute business trip scheduled for my husband (meaning no child care so I could go to the gym, even in the wee hours before work), I found another way to get it done. Today was Day 8 and I’ve totaled 14.2 miles so far. Not too bad considering where I was at when this started. AND the monkey wrench thrown into my plans actually brought about a very wonderful alteration to my training–the return of jogging intervals.

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Bun Cake

I’ve always found it easier to incorporate jogging intervals, a la Couch-to-5K-Program, while walk-jogging outdoors. Instead of having to fumble with controls on a hamster wheel, all I have to do is adjust the movement of my own two feet and–WHAMMO–I’m there. I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, then, when I took a quick spin around the neighborhood and found my feet moving to the beat of a jog. Across the street. A little further down the street. And then several more short bursts. The air was brisk, the daylight fading, and my spirits improved twenty-fold. There was my elusive bliss, found even without sustained 11-minute miles. I missed you!

The side effect was that I could not sleep. The adrenaline rush, partnered with the marked absence of my husband, made it impossible to sleep. So what did I do? Drink a warm glass of milk? Read a book? Nope. I made dough, waited for it to rise, and made chocolate chip cinnamon bun cake. That’s normal, right?

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Bun Cake

The twist to this cake is, quite literally, a twist. Instead of rolling strips into buns, you twist folded strips to create a cinnamon swirl on the exterior. Cute! Then make a spiral in the cake pan to create the cake. It looks fancy, but it’s really quite easy. A little messy, but you can throw the filling that falls out on top of the cake and that works just fine, too.

What will tomorrow bring? Probably more rounds of Emergen-C and smoothies to boost my immune system, a little bit of exercise to keep the streak alive, and an indulgence: this chocolate chip cinnamon bun cake. Because life is all about finding balance.

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Bun Cake

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Bun Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 16
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large cage-free eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup organic sugar
  • 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for work surface
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 packet Red Star Platinum Yeast (1/4 ounce)
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces full fat cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Combine the buttermilk, eggs, butter, sugar, 4 cups of the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and begin kneading.
  2. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup flour as needed to get a sticky, smooth dough that cleans the sides but remains stuck to the bottom of the bowl as it kneads.
  3. Knead for 5-6 minutes, or until you get a nice, smooth dough ball.
  4. Oil a large mixing bowl and transfer the dough ball to that. Cover with plastic wrap and move to a warm, draft-free location to rise until doubled in size. (I usually set my oven to the lowest temperature, let it warm up to about 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit, turn the heat off, the light on, and let the dough rise in there with the oven door closed all the way.)
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size (1½ to 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is), flour your work surface and dump the dough ball onto it. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
  6. Divide the dough in half, set one half aside, and roll out the other half with a floured rolling pin until you get a rectangle about 10" by 18".
  1. Drizzle half the melted butter over the rectangle and spread it out with a pastry brush until the entire surface is covered.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar over the rectangle.
  3. Sprinkle half the chocolate chips over that. Press in gently by running the rolling pin over the filling.
  4. Fold in half, gathering the two long sides together.
  5. Cut into 1-1/2" strips with a very sharp knife. Press down a little to set the filling, then take one strip and twist it so you get a ribbon of cinnamon along the length of it.
  6. Coil the first strip and place it in the center of one of the prepared cake pans.
  7. Twist the next strip and wrap it around the coil in the center of the cake pan, pinching the edges to seal them. Repeat with the rest of the strips until the cake pan is full.
  8. Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough and 2nd cake pan.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. Remove plastic and bake on the center rack in the preheated oven for 23-25 minutes, or until springy to the touch and lightly browned.
  12. Remove from oven, place plates over the tops of the pans and invert, transferring the cakes onto the plates. (If you do not do this immediately, the cakes will get stuck in the pans like glue. Not that I'd know anything about that...)
  1. While the bun cakes are baking, prepare the frosting.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the frosting ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Spread half the frosting over each cake while still warm from the oven.
  4. Serve warm or room temperature.

 How do you create balance in your life?

Dec 16 2013

Cheesy Garlic Crostini & A Little Help for the Holidays from Kraft #client #KraftHolidaySavings

Christmas is a time for family traditions.

Baking cookies together. Decorating the tree. Visiting Santa. And Christmas Eve. Since the kids came along, it became too difficult trying to visit everyone important to us on the same day–it was all so harried and rushed–so we divided it up. Now we can spend more quality time with our loved ones without worrying about rushing off to our next destination.

Cheesy Garlic Crostini

My mom, dad, siblings and spouses, nephews, and grandparent gather in our home for a simple family meal. Always a baked pasta dish, with a side of salad, and garlic bread, of course. Not just any garlic bread though–a special one worthy of the occasion. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is based on the one I’ve been preparing for years, made from Kraft Mayo, Kraft Natural Cheese Italian Five Cheese blend, and garlic. Spread it on slices of baguette, bake, and be transported by the ooey-gooey, garlic-cheesiness. This will make your season bright, whether you serve it as an appetizer or side. You may want to grab two baguettes, just in case.

Cheesy Garlic Crostini

Kraft wants to give you a little help for the holidays, too.

Not only will you find a huge collection of easy recipes on their site, whether you need a weeknight meal or a killer appetizer, but they have some great savings for you, too! Up to $20 in savings at Target*, to be exact. Because we all could use that kind of help at this time of year.

Kraft Mayo and Italian Shredded Cheese

After dinner, as my family and I munch upon dessert–cookies galore, oh, there are so many of them!–we’ll sit in contentment, appreciating each other’s company. This is just my kind of low-key, holiday gathering. Very little fuss, full enjoyment. And Kraft helped make it happen.

Cheesy Garlic Crostini

Merry Christmas!

Cheesy Garlic Crostini
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 12
  • ¾ cup Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil
  • 1½ cups Kraft Natural Cheese Italian Five Cheese blend
  • 1 Tablespoon chunky garlic paste (find it in the produce section) or 1 Tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 French baguette
  1. In a large bowl, combine the mayo, cheese, garlic paste, and paprika. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 3 days.
  2. When ready to make your garlic bread, move oven rack to top position and preheat oven broiler (my oven has hi and low broil, which I used low broil for this, but I realize not all ovens have those options; if yours doesn't, just watch the baking time more carefully). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Slice bread on a bias and lay out on baking sheet, cut side up.
  4. Spread garlic mixture on top of each side of bread and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until cheese is melty and caramelized.
  5. Serve immediately.

Cheesy Garlic Crostini

*Please note: Coupons are redeemable exclusively at Target.

From shopping for gifts to planning family dinners, it’s hard to keep up with all your holiday to-do’s. This year, Kraft is helping out with great weeknight meals and entertaining ideas to make the season a little bit easier. Plus, Kraft is offering up to $20 in coupons, redeemable exclusively at Target, to make food shopping easier and to help you have a happy holiday season.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Kraft. The opinions and text are all mine.

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