22 September 2011

Homemade Naan. Yuum.

I build a shrine to You, oh Glorious Cookbook. Unto thy radiant splendor I shall bow, reveling in thy gracious promise of a bread that does not need to rise overnight, whose dough can be kept in the fridge for 10 days, and whose need to be kneaded is nonexistent.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’ by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

So that you will continue to grant my family with loaf upon loaf of delicious breads, I swear to sacrifice to you all that I am able, Oh Magnificent One. Please specify that which you would have me surrender unto thee.

My children? Oh Cookbook, my love for them abounds too greatly for me to relinquish them to thee. Please forgive me. Instead, I grant thee several hours of innocent and youthful toil. Up three flights of stairs, my dutiful children shall carry pound upon pound of flour, faces aglow in hopes that they will soon blissfully nibble the crumbs of your offerings.

My wardrobe? I have anticipated your needs, my Beloved Cookbook. The Ides of September have barely passed, yet the cool autumnal breezes have transformed my kitchen into a small-scale bakery. Your pages beckon me with promises of warm bread, crusty on the outside and chewy in the middle. Already my clothes are one size larger than they were but one fortnight past. Hence, my wardrobe is thine.

My wallet? But sir, surely you understand that my monies are all but depleted, due to the delightfully excessive amounts of flour that your recipes have required. In addition, I have upgraded to King Arther Flour, if only to bring out the grandeur of your baked grains. I have not been disappointed by the quality of the new and expensive flour. You are so totally worth the extra two-bucks-per five-pound-bag.

Oh Magnificent One, now that I have succumbed to your desires, please grant me permission to spread your Word. Allow me to sing the highest praises of the most recent recipe that your pages have imparted to me: naan. Also, please allow me to stop kissing your ass and close my Thesaurus window so that I can stop coming up with fancy words to describe you and your breads.

Thanks dude. And thanks for the naan. It's phenomenal.

Naan, a traditional flatbread of India and other South Asian countries.


~from ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’ by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

For the dough: (This is the basic “Boule” recipe for many of the breads in the Magnificent Cookbook. I also used it to make Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls, and the fresh loaves of bread mentioned in the Meat Butter post.)

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipes is easily doubled or halved, and you can keep the unused portions of dough in your fridge for up to 10 days. (Note- The authors explain things in much greater detail than I have provided. You should just get it.)

3 cups lukewarm water

1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (2 yeast packets)

1 ½ tablespoons kosher or other course salt

6 ½ cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour

1. Warm the water to just slightly wamer than body temperature.

2. Add yeast and salt to the water. Don’t worry about dissolving it completely.

3. Mix in the flour using a wooden spoon or a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Kneading is unnecessary. You’re done when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches.

4. Allow to rise. Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours. Longer times, up to 5 hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough anytime after this period.

For the Naan:

¼ pound (peach-size portion) of dough

1 tablespoon ghee or any neutral-flavored oil (I used olive oil)

Butter for brushing on loaf if ghee is unavailable

1. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a ¼ pound (peach-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Using your hands and a rolling pin, and minimal flour, roll out to a uniform thickness of 1/8 inch thick throughout and to a diameter of 8 to 9 inches.

2. Heat a heavy 12-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet over high heat on the stovetop. When water droplets flicked into the pan skitter across the surface and evaporate quickly, the pan is ready. Add the ghee or the oil, pouring out excess fat if necessary.

3. Drop the rolled dough round into the skillet, decrease the heat to medium, and cover the skillet to trap the steam and heat.

4. Check for doneness with a spatula at about 3 minutes, or sooner if you’re smelling overly quick browning. Adjust the heat as needed. Flip the naan when the underside is richly browned.

5. Continue cooking another 2 to 6 minutes, or until the naan feels firm, even at the edges, and the second side is browned. If you’ve rolled a thicker naan, or if you’re using dough with whole grains, you’ll need more pan time.

6. Remove the naan from the pan, brush with butter if the dough was cooked in oil, and serve. (I made a raita dip to put on the naan, and then I gorged myself on pounds and pounds of naan and raita, and then I became too full to breathe, and I will be repeating that process as soon as possible.)

You don't even have to turn on your oven!

12 September 2011

Child Labor Day Cake

Last Monday I decided to celebrate Labor Day by making my three-year-old daughter labor for me. I informed her that she would be baking me an eight-layer chocolate cake with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream frosting, and then we would be even, for everything.

Of course I helped her, what kind of mother do you think I am? It was a delightful joint effort that I hope she remembers for all of her sweet days on this beautiful earth or at least for a month.

Oh, what fun we had! I made her do all the stuff I hate.

Like buttering the cake pans. How I dearly despise buttering cake pans. Don’t ever tell my kids this, but my #1 reason for having children was to be able to someday delegate that loathsome chore. My friends, that day as arrived. I cannot describe the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders now that one of my children can complete this slimy and horrid task. It makes everything TOTALLY worth it, even the ring of fire. If you don’t know what that is, don’t google it. It will be awkward for you when next we meet.

“Alice, will you please butter and flour the cake pans for me?”

“Why, Mom?”

“Because I made you. Please just do it.”

Notice that I said please. Because I am nice.

“Oh, and also, can you cut this pound of butter up and add it to the meringue?”

“Sure, Mom. I love you. You’re the best. Thanks for letting me touch butter with my bare hands.”

“No problem, kiddo. You owe me big time, though."

Look how slimy her fingers are! EEEEEWWWWWWWWW!


"And if you're nice to your little brother while the cakes are baking, I'll let you frost the cake, too!"

"How am I EVER going to get these cakes frosted?"

And this is the part where you probably expect me to post the recipe.

Ok. I am lazy. Obviously. I make my kid bake cakes for me instead of baking them myself. Therefore, I’m not going to type out the somewhat-involved recipes for the cake and the buttercream. If you want the recipes, please leave a comment, and I’ll figure out a way to get them to you. Alternatively, you can wait a few years until Alice learns to type and then I’ll command her to type those beasts out and email it to you.

Here are the components:

Cake: “Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake” from America’s Test Kitchen’s The New Best Recipe

Filling: Smucker’s Raspberry jelly, or any jelly that doesn’t have lumps.

Frosting: “Vanilla Buttercream Frosting” from Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl

General directions: Bake the cake, doubling the recipe. I know. I’m crazy. Cut each of the four cakes in half so you have eight layers. (Don’t let your three-year-old do that.)

Put your first layer on the cake plate. Cover it with frosting. Spread raspberry jam on a different layer, then turn that layer upside down and place it on the first layer, so the raspberry layer is touching the buttercream layer. Repeat. Repeat many, many times, until all eight layers are stacked. It is your choice whether to frost the sides of the cake or leave the glorious bounty of the eight layers visible for all to see.

And of course, make someone else do the dishes. You deserve it.