Naan Bread, Taco Soup, and a Small Blizzard

naan bread dough, ready to fry

Today, March came in like a lion. The winds were 20 mph, and the gusts were a whole lot gustier. We were supposed to get one to three inches of snow, but at least six inches blew in off Lake Superior, and flurries are still coming and going. Around two o’clock this afternoon, a light pole fell over onto the Bong Bridge and blocked traffic from Duluth to Superior. Fortunately, it didn’t fall on a vehicle.

In my yard the snow piled up on existing drifts, turning hills into mountains. I will need a Sherpa, oxygen, and snowshoes to walk around my yard. When I opened my back door, I pushed it slowly, using it as a plow to move a drift just enough so I could reach around and grab the shovel. I cleared a path across the deck for the dogs, who unfortunately need to go potty outside, and do other stuff, like walk around the house to smell for bunnies. They come back inside looking like four-legged abominable snowmen, and I have to towel dry them and dig ice balls out of their feet.

I worked this morning, which left my afternoon wide open for cooking — something I feel compelled to do during a snowstorm. Perhaps it’s a primal instinct, meant to ensure I survive the brutal winter elements while I’m inside my house with central heating, electricity, and running water. First, I made taco soup in the crockpot. Nice and simple. This gave me time to make naan bread.

frying the bread

Why did I decide to make naan bread? Reading made me do it. I’ve read Behind the Lens and Double Exposure written by Jeannée Sacken. Her novels are about the adventures of photojournalist Annie Hawkins, who travels to Afghanistan. They are page-turning adventures with twists and turns and danger and romance, but they are also filled with the sounds, smells, and tastes of Afghan food, and naan bread is mentioned often. After reading the second book a few months ago, I decided I needed to make naan bread. On Sunday, I bought the ingredients.

sort of six-inch circles

I made bread once before when I was sixteen and babysitting for my younger cousins. And it turned out perfect. It was so good — just the right color and height and texture and taste — that I never made bread again. I figured I had nowhere to go but down. My next loaf of bread would have surely been a brick. But naan bread is mostly flat, so I was encouraged. The naan bread could be dipped in the taco soup or torn into bits and dropped into the soup.

My first attempt at activating the yeast was a failure. My water was warm enough, but when I put that warm water into a cool metal bowl, the water temperature dropped, and the yeast fizzled instead of bubbling. I had to throw it out. After some internet research, I tried again. This time I used my Pyrex measuring cup. I warmed it up with warm water, then I put warm water in the cup with the yeast. It bubbled up and doubled in volume, just like it was supposed to do. I mixed the other ingredients in and kneaded the dough on the pastry mat. I covered the dough and let it rise for an hour and a half, while I attended a Zoom write-in.

Triple play: soup cooking in the crockpot and dough rising in a bowl under a dish towel while I write.

After the naan bread dough finished rising, I divided it into eight sections, rolled each one into a flat six-inch circle — more or less — and fried each piece. I set off the smoke alarm, but only once. I made a mess out of my kitchen. When I finished there were dishes all over the countertops and stove, and I found flour on the floor. I don’t know how I can cook something and make so many dirty dishes and create such a mess. I guess it’s a gift.

When my husband came home, there was no evidence of my afternoon cooking spree. The kitchen was clean and the dishes were done. (I even managed to read a bit and take a nap.) He looked at the plate of naan bread on the counter and asked, “What are those?”

“That’s naan bread. I made it this afternoon.”

“Yeah, right. You went to the grocery store and bought it,” he said.

“Nope,” I said, “I even took out the rolling pin and pastry mat and put them in the dish rack, so you would think I made them from scratch.”

He looked at the dish rack overflowing with bowls, pans, and measuring cups, and he laughed. He knew I’d been cooking and baking. He also doesn’t understand how I can cook something and make so many dishes and such a mess. Some talents are inexplicable. But he liked the naan bread and soup, happy to have a hot home-cooked meal after snow blowing.

8 thoughts on “Naan Bread, Taco Soup, and a Small Blizzard

  1. WoooHoooo! perfect blizzard day write! Blizzard’s ARE best for snuggling in, cooking large and basking in success (shoveling can wait ). Your husband had to buck the drifts to go to work, so a warm home, hot food and a fulfilled wife ( the bread rose and the soup was good )=survival with panache. PLUS you made a potty path for the dogs. Yeah! Vickie!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Naan bread. You are brave. I’m afraid I’d set off more than the smoke alarm if I tried that. The blizzard sounds impressive. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m originally from Superior. I haven’t been there for many years. The Bong Bridge didn’t ring a bell. I had to look it up. I remember a draw bridge between Duluth and Superior.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hot soup and bread on a snowy day. Can’t beat it. We actually had a blizzard dive through last night here in Tucson. Snow covering everything. Sure could have used your soup and naan. I appreciate the yeast tip!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Your post today made me laugh and reminded me of an essay I wrote in 2002. This is it.

    It is one of the essays included in our book “Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets”.

    HOW TO BAKE RAISIN BREAD by Diana Kinared

    Disclaimer: You don’t have to put raisins in this bread if you have a husband or children who don’t like little brown squishy morsels in their bread. So, if you have a snoop peering over your shoulder at this recipe and you hear a whining 10-year-old voice say, “Oh Mom, you’re not going to make us eat raisins, are you?”, this recipe can be called Breakfast Bread. You may substitute walnuts or pecans if members of your family prefer a nutty flavor with their morning tea.

    Ingredients and Supplies

    4 ¼ C. white flour with 1 C. wheat flour

    3 mixing bowls, two large and one small

    1 pkg. active dry yeast

    Wooden spoon

    ¼ C. warm water

    Measuring cups

    2 C. milk, scalded

    Measuring spoons

    ¼ C. white sugar

    Bread pan, greased with shortening

    2 t. salt

    Three clean cloths

    2 T. cinnamon

    One dishrag

    1 C. raisins

    Rolling pin

    ½ C. brown sugar

    Bread board or pastry cloth

    ¼ C. shortening

    Small sauce pan

    Plus additional white flour

    Assess the ingredients required and go to the supermarket to acquire what is missing from your kitchen. Modern cooks, being primarily masters of the microwave, may be short on flour and yeast in the pantry. Those two ingredients are central to the outcome and should be carefully selected. Stay away from cake flour. The bread resulting from use of cake flour may be fine grained but can become pasty or gummy. Regular white flour is acceptable but mixed with one cup whole wheat flour, the bread has more flavor and a nicer texture. You should not use all whole wheat flour, however, because it has less gluten and will result in a coarsely textured bread that tends to fall apart easily especially in the toaster, starting a small fire usually on the morning you are late for work.

    Buy dry yeast in a package with an expiration date of at least six months. You could be dissuaded from this task so give yourself some leeway as to when you actually begin. Usually dry yeast is sold in three packs for those who have the tendency to kill the yeasty spores on the first or second attempt. More on that later. Do not purchase the cake style yeast. Only professionals have the skill to handle that product.

    Back in your kitchen with all the ingredients and necessary bowls and implements at the ready, select a small mixing bowl and activate the dry yeast according to package directions. Make sure the water is not too hot because that will kill the yeast outright and your bread will be an unappealing lump of baked dough.

    In a small pan scald the milk. That means heat it almost to boiling. The trick is not to let it boil which takes constant and critical observation. The milk will begin to throw little air bubbles to the surface when it is “scalded”. More than one or two air bubbles and you have boiled the milk and will have to start over.

    Combine the white sugar, salt and shortening with the hot milk and let it cool. Stir half the flour into the wet mixture and beat well. Add the softened yeast. Add the remaining flour until you have a sticky lump. Take the “plus” part of the flour and spread it generously over a large bread board or pastry cloth. If you don’t have either of those you may use the bare counter but first take a clean washrag and wipe off the cat prints and stray feline hairs from the countertop. You do not want your mother-in-law to find cat hair in her raisin bread or she may remark on how the bread was satisfactory, but she is worried about the health of her son and grandchildren who were forced to eat animal hair with their breakfast bread. Then sotto voce she will add that she always knew you would be an inferior daughter-in-law, but no one would listen before the wedding. Let the dough “rest” about five minutes then knead it mercilessly for eight minutes. Shape it into a ball and drop it into a greased bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Set in a warm place (again not too hot or the sensitive yeast will refuse to perform) for one hour to rise.

    Clean up the kitchen from phase one.

    When the dough has puffed up like a marshmallow on steroids, it is ready to be kneaded once again. De-bowl the puffy lump, plunge both hands into the warm fleshy dough and begin to knead. Kneading is the fun part of baking bread. You can really let go. You can pretend the dough is the soft belly of your favorite tiny child and caress it gently, rolling it over and over. Or you can pretend the dough is the pudgy face of someone who annoys you and give it a good going over, punching, pinching and stabbing its eyes out with your fingers. Refer back to mother-in-law’s comments. Aggression with bread dough is a good release and is always acceptable.

    Try your best to ignore the phone that will start to ring at just about this same time you are immersed in kneading the dough. Rest assured it is probably a telemarketer or your neighbor describing the epidemic of aphids in her rose garden. If you can’t resist answering the phone, put a clean cloth over the dough. When you finish your phone conversation, wipe the sticky dough from the receiver and get the cat off the counter again. This process could be repeated up to three times before the dough has been beaten into shape. Use the rolling pin, floured lightly, to press the dough out into a pillowy rectangle. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the surface of the rectangle and scatter it with raisins or nuts or both. Then roll the dough into a loaf shape and place it in a greased bread pan. Let the loaf rise for one hour in the pan in a warm place covered with a clean cloth.

    Clean the kitchen from phase two.

    Preheat the oven to 400°. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and the fresh baked smell wafts into all the crannies of your home.

    Timing is essential. The oven door should be opened at the same time as one or more members of your family comes home, thereby producing the maximum reward for your efforts in the ah’s, yum’s and hugs of a hungry hoard. If you are especially dedicated, you can mix the dough before you turn in at night and get up an hour or two before your family in the morning to time the finished bread with the awakening olfactory senses of early day. That type of dedication earns extra stars in your crown in heaven over and above mortal appreciation.

    There is a short cut. After you have read this recipe, you can go to the Walmart and buy a bread machine for about $99.99 and, at Safeway, buy a box of Pillsbury Raisin Bread mix and follow directions on the box. (You can pick out the raisins before stirring up the mix.) Again, timing is critical. The oven should be preheated and five minutes before the bread maker finishes put a greased bread pan into the oven. When the pan is good and warm, put the finished loaf from the bread machine into the pan and set it on the counter. Cover with a clean cloth. Hide the bread machine and throw away all evidence of prepackaged mix. Get out a small amount of flour to sprinkle on the countertop, maybe a little on your cheek or nose, for effect. You will earn as many raves from your family when they arrive home and you will have had time to write a short story instead of cleaning the kitchen two times. Forget the stars in your crown entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s