Homemade Naan

Can you believe that I never had Indian food until college? Growing up in a small Midwestern town will do that to you. But now Indian takeout is one of my absolute favorite things. Besides the warm flavors and spice combinations, the fact that so many Indian dishes are vegetarian is a nice bonus for a couple of people trying to exclusively purchase humanely raised meat.

But of course I couldn’t limit myself to simply ordering Indian food whenever a craving struck. As much as I liked being on a first-name basis with the BiteSquad folks, I really wanted to try making some dishes myself. Related side note: my sister got me a mortar and pestle for Christmas, which basically means I’ve crossed the threshold from tinkering home cook to obsessive recipe tester. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, my first foray into homemade Indian food was naan. I’ve already cracked the code to pita, vetebröd, and challah, so bread seems to be my natural entry point into new cuisines. Naan was a great place to start, since it didn’t require the purchase of any crazy spices or new cooking utensils. This recipe is surprisingly easy! If you can make pizza dough, you can make naan. And it’s absolutely heavenly right off a hot skillet.

Homemade naan

Homemade Naan

  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 2- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the tops
  • freshly chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

In a medium bowl, stir together yeast, sugar, and lukewarm water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Whisk in salt, olive oil, greek yogurt, and egg until well combined. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in 2 cups of bread flour. Turn dough onto a floured counter and knead until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour as needed.

Place dough in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Divide dough into 8 even pieces and form each piece into a ball.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Roll one ball of dough into a circle about 6 inches wide and 1/4-inch thick. When the skillet is hot, place the piece of naan in the center of the skillet and cook until large bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is lightly browned. Flip the naan and cook the other side until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and place on a plate. Brush with melted salted butter. Repeat the steps of rolling, cooking, and brushing with melted butter until all the naan is cooked. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro (optional) and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef via Budget Bytes.

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DIY Chocolate Syrup

I’m the strange sort of person who doesn’t really like chocolate ice cream. Despite this character flaw, I adore vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup. I’ve even been known to stir the two together until I get a soft, milkshake-like consistency that looks suspiciously like chocolate ice cream. But it’s not. Because I don’t like chocolate ice cream.

I used to love those bottles of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, until I ruined them for myself by reading the ingredient labels one day. So now I make my own. I lovingly call this “dark chocolate syrup,” as it has a richer, more complex flavor while still retaining the key elements of its industrial cousin: namely viscosity, pourability, and shine. (I’m not really a food scientist; I’m making this up as I go along.)

Anyway, this is a fun recipe for food DIY-ers. With a handful of ingredients and 10 minutes, you can wow your friends and enemies (who are still friendly enough to be invited to your house) by topping some homemade ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce. Stir it together, or don’t. Either way it’s a beautiful thing.

DIY chocolate syrup

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DIY Chocolate Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cocoa powder until you’ve broken up most of the clumps. Whisk in water and salt and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract, and cool. Transfer to a bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Source: Slightly adapted from 52 Kitchen Adventures.

Honey Vanilla Ice Cream

Hidden away in my pantry is one of my prized possessions. Tucked between a jar of baked baking soda and a container of dutch-process cocoa powder hides a tightly sealed plastic bag containing over three dozen plump, aromatic vanilla beans. I bought them online a few months ago to replenish my supply of homemade vanilla extract, and every once in a while I open up the bag just to take a whiff and smile. I know, strange.

Lately I’ve felt the urge to actually start using them up, so I’m putting vanilla beans in everything. The subtle flavor is fantastic, but there’s something about the cute little speckles in a vanilla-flecked dessert that really makes me sing. So I stopped my recent peanut butter ice cream frenzy in flavor of an old classic (ha).

Of course, I still wanted to try something a little different, so I made this ice cream with honey instead of cane sugar. I had a bunch of questions: would the honey dissolve all the way? Would the ice cream still be creamy? Would it freeze harder or softer? Would it taste better, or bitter?

In the end, I fell in love with this ice cream. It churned up beautifully and met all my honey- and vanilla-loving desires. Subtle, yet sweet, this ice cream is outstanding on its own but also acts as a perfect vessel for all your favorite toppings. Spoiler alert, I have a recipe for one of those coming up next!

Honey vanilla ice cream

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Honey Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 4 cups half & half (I used lactose-free, as usual)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir together half & half and honey in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pods into the saucepan and then stir in the pods along with a pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until  hot and steamy but not boiling.

Meanwhile, lightly whisk together egg yolks in a small bowl. Pour a small amount (about a cup or so) of the hot half & half mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (This tempers the egg yolks so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.) Pour the tempered egg yolks into the rest of the half & half in the pan and place back over medium heat. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. When the ice cream batter has thickened, pour it through the sieve and into the bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Place the vanilla bean pods you caught in the sieve back in the ice cream batter to steep. Chill the entire mixture in the fridge for at least eight hours. Remove vanilla bean pods and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let ripen in the freezer for at least two hours before serving.

Source: Slightly adapted from Ted Allen.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Do you have something for your sweetheart? If cooking and baking is your secret Valentine’s weapon, please drop everything and make these truffles right now. Peanut butter, chocolate, and pretzels, the perfect combo of salty and sweet. Oh yes.

These truffles are sure to please all the loves in your life: kids, friends, partner, mailman, golden retriever with a stomach of steel. I’m kidding, please don’t give your pets chocolate. Anyway, making these truffles is almost as easy as picking up a heart-shaped box of chocolates at your local drug store, but you’ll get the warm glow that comes with saying, “Look! I made you something!” Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some chocolate to eat.

Peanut butter pretzel truffles

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Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Stir together peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter until creamy and well combined. (You can use a mixer, but it’s not necessary.) Add pretzels and stir until they are completely incorporated into the peanut butter mixture. Using a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop (or your hands), scoop the mixture into about 3 dozen evenly sized balls. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Chop the chocolate and carefully melt it in the microwave or over a double boiler. Remove the truffles from the freezer and carefully dip each truffle in the chocolate until completely covered. (I generally use a fork to dip the truffles.) Gently shake off excess chocolate and place each truffle back on the cookie sheet. Let cool until fully set.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Source: Annie’s Eats.