Naan Bread

A few years ago we had the opportunity to live in Japan with our little family. One of the highlights for me was sampling all of the unique cuisine. Not only did we eat delicious Japanese food, but we tried many different ethnic foods. One of our absolute favorite restaurants was a local, family-owned Indian restaurant. With maybe 8-10 small tables in the room, the smell of curries wafting through the air and naan bread the size of your head to lap it up…I can almost taste it all today. I still dream about the garlic-cheese naan I ordered every time, hot from the tandoor oven, to this day. 

Most delicious curries!

After our youngest was born (in Japan) one of the first meals I ate, aside from my clinic stay, was this amazing naan bread. All of our kids were always happy going to eat there because they could eat as much delicious naan as possible. When we moved back stateside, we searched for an Indian restaurant that lived up to the hype and memories. Sadly, we haven’t been able to find one and plane tickets for a family of six to Japan for dinner aren’t in the budget.

Instead I got creative and cooked it up myself. The first time we sank our teeth into this naan bread, dripping with garlic butter and oozing with cheese evoked all the memories of our favorite Indian restaurant in Nagoya, Japan. Even though this recipe isn’t quite as traditional (I subbed milk instead of yogurt and used a griddle instead of a tandoor oven), I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Yield: 12 pieces of naan

Time: 15 minute mix, 2 hour rise, 30 minute rise, 4 minute cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups milk (warmed)
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 3-4 Tablespoons melted butter

For garlic cheese naan:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 slices Havarti cheese (or other creamy/melty cheese)

Directions

  1. Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove (be sure it feels like a baby’s bathwater…not too hot). Add the instant yeast and sugar to the milk.
  2. Pour the milk mixture into a mixer (or bowl to knead by hand) and add the salt and all purpose flour. Knead for 5 minutes in a mixer or about 8-10 minutes by hand. The dough should be smooth and form a ball. Let the dough rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Separate the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape into a loose ball. Cover and let rest for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, preheat a griddle to 400 degrees or warm up a frying pan. You could also use a pizza stone in a hot oven (450-500 degrees).
  5. Roll out each ball of dough into a circle (about 6-8 inches in diameter). You may have to let the dough rest for 10 seconds and then continue rolling depending on how thin you want your naan bread.
  6. For plain naan: Grill on the griddle about 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown spots appear on the bread. Brush with melted butter and serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. For garlic cheese naan: Roll the naan into a 6-8 inch circle. Put a square slice of cheese in the middle of the circle and fold the naan over the cheese, pinching the edges closed as you go. Continue rolling it out if needed with the cheese inside the naan bread. It will be more in the shape of a rectangle. Grill about 2 minutes per side. Add the minced garlic to the melted butter and brush on the naan bread. Enjoy warm!

This naan is delicious dunked in some vegetable curry, butter chicken or chicken saag. If you go the extra step and add in the cheese and garlic butter it will take your meal over the top! Even better than the flavor of this naan bread are the memories they evoke when we smell it, taste it and reflect on the wonderful time we spent as a family abroad.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Have you ever had Great Harvest bread? I remember going as a kid to their bread counter and enjoying a giant slice of bread slathered with butter. My favorite slice was always their honey whole wheat bread. I’ve loved it since first bite…the hint of honey, subtle nutty flavor of the wheat and the tender crumb. 

When I started making my own bread I wanted to find a recipe that could conjure all of the same feelings when I sank my teeth in. Through trial and error I landed on this recipe. I love it for the simpleness of the ingredients (only SIX). It makes delicious toast, sandwiches, breadcrumbs and an even healthier alternative to french toast. 

When I make this recipe, I always make 5 loaves of bread. I use my Bosch mixer, which can handle big batches. Making extra loaves gives me the flexibility to share a loaf, snack on a loaf and freeze a few loaves for later consumption. I don’t buy bread at any local grocery stores. This recipe has become my routine and is so quick to make once you get in the habit. I’ve listed the recipe for you as a small batch yielding 1 loaf or as a big batch yielding 5 loaves. You can adjust the recipe as you need to for your family size and purposes. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Recipe Notes: I recommend using a machine for kneading the dough if you make a large batch. If you have a KitchenAid mixer and want to make a large batch, check the total cups of flour your mixing bowl holds before using this recipe. You may want to adjust the smaller recipe to fit in your KitchenAid (double or triple it).

This recipe relies heavily on the taste of your whole wheat flour. Choose a whole wheat flour you love the taste of and your bread will be incredible. I use hard white wheat flour from our local mill. If you can find a hard red wheat, you may like mixing that with a white wheat for best flavor/results. 

The vital wheat gluten is a big reason why this bread is so tender. It helps soften the “coarseness” of the whole wheat flour. I buy a big bag on Amazon because I make this recipe A LOT.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Yield: 1-5 loaves 

Time: 15 minutes mix, 2 hours rise, 37 minutes bake (about 3 hours)

Ingredients

One loaf of bread

  • 1 ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼  cup honey
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon vital wheat gluten (this helps softens the crumb–you can try leaving it out but it won’t be as soft)
  • 2½-3 cups whole wheat flour

5 loaves of bread (I make this in my Bosch mixer)

  • 6 cups warm water
  • 4.5 T instant yeast
  • 5 t. salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ cup vital wheat gluten (this helps softens the bread crumb–you can try leaving it out, but it won’t be as soft)
  • 13-15 cups whole wheat flour 

Instructions

1. Mix the warm water, yeast, honey and salt together. Add half of the flour, then the vital wheat gluten and then the rest of the flour. You are looking for readiness of dough as you add your flour. If the dough can form a ball when you roll it between your fingers and is still a little bit sticky (that’s okay), then you know you can stop adding flour. Knead the dough for 5 minutes (mixer), 10 minutes by hand.

2. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. Turn it out onto a workspace and separate into loaves (if making more than one loaf).

Beautiful dough ready to separate into pans; a bench scraper is a very helpful tool when working with dough
Loaves are ready for the oven

3. To shape the dough, form a small rectangle about the size of your bread pan (use your bread pan as a guide). Starting closest to you, roll the dough up tightly, pressing in at the seam with every roll. After it forms a cylinder, pinch the seam closed. Place dough into bread pan and let rise again, about an hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 37 minutes. Brush tops of bread with butter. Enjoy warm OR…slice the bread for sandwiches/toast/to freeze. I let it completely cool before slicing with a bread knife.

Let your loaf cool before slicing to use as sandwiches, freeze or enjoy toasted

I often make this while my kids are at school. When they walk through the door in the afternoon and the smell of bread hits them, I love watching the smiles that light up their faces. We usually eat an entire loaf the same day I bake it. It makes for a perfect after school snack, grilled cheese for dinner or toasted with a bit of butter or jam. Give this recipe a try. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Flour, Water, Yeast & Salt

Why I love bread and why I want to share that love with you

When I was a child I used to dream about bread. My obsession probably began living in Germany at a young age with a “Baeckerei” around every corner. Fresh baked bread was so delightful with a pat of butter (unsalted all the way). I loved picking up a local “broetchen” (small, circular German bread roll), adding my favorite cheese and going to town. My mom would pack my lunchbox with daily salami and butter sandwiches on crusty bread and to this day it’s one of my go-to comfort foods. 

Me (right) with my sister in our dirndls, as children living in Germany
Brotchen and Butterkaese, my favorite comfort food

As I aged I started my own culinary journey. I was mesmerized by the simplicity of flour, water, salt and yeast. I spent countless hours making homemade pizza on a rectangular baking sheet, dissecting my family’s ancient bread machine and mixing up creations in my childhood kitchen. My best friend and I had dreams of opening our own bakery by the ocean one day…oh the dreams of a teenager! 

Crazy teenager…heading to college 🙂

When I was in college, baking took a bit of a back seat to my studies, but I never lost the desire to bake and create even in a little dorm kitchen (banana bread anyone?!). I married shortly before graduating and then the real fun began…setting up my own kitchen and learning how to bake when I wasn’t teaching elementary school. We welcomed our daughter over ten years ago and I quit my day-job for a new day-job with her at home. My daughter was not quite two when we moved away from family and the western United States to begin a new adventure in Kentucky; the beautiful Bluegrass region.

Shortly after we were blessed with twin boys and even though we survived off freezer meals for the first year of their lives (luckily I have photos to remember that time…everything is so hazy), I continued baking. I spent hours willing my twins to sleep while researching how to grow my own natural leaven and then baking loaf after loaf of sourdough bread with toddlers running between my legs. I started teaching my kids the wonderful world of flour, water, yeast and salt as we created loaves and gifted them to those we loved or knew could use a pick-me-up. This small act of service helped us make friends and feel at home in our new state.

Our young family was given the opportunity to live abroad in Japan and we learned so much from the beautiful culture, kind people and opportunities to travel. We sampled delicious pastries, breads and treats from Japanese bakeries and learned to love rice, noodles and fish. I navigated the world of “hard and soft” flour and learned how to bake a batch of cookies using Japanese ingredients (lots of consumed cookie dough in that trial and error process). My bread baking days took quite the back seat for the year and a half we lived abroad because ingredients were so hard to come by, not to mention $$$. We welcomed our final baby boy during our last few months in Japan and celebrated with delicious naan bread from our favorite local Indian restaurant. 

Moving back to Kentucky brought new challenges with growing kids, making friends, a new house and teaching my kids to love whole wheat everything again; in Japan it was hard to come by. We spent our first summer with the kids out of school baking together every week and I taught my kids the basics: how to smell the ripeness of the yeast, where our flour comes from (our local mill) and how to knead a loaf of bread. Passing this tradition of bread baking to my kids and tasting the love from the hands that have kneaded and worked the bread is part of what makes bread so comforting. Bread takes time. Time to mix. Time to knead. Time to rise. Time to shape. Time to bake. Relationships take time.

Which brings me to today. Why start a blog today? 

My goal is to share with you tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way, and am continuing to learn, and empower you wherever you may fall on the baking spectrum–novice to expert. Get in the kitchen. Grab some flour, water, yeast and salt, and bake. Bake with your kids, your families, your significant other or by yourself. Create the memories. Make the messes and enjoy the experience of a fresh-baked loaf of bread. Ask questions and follow along as we use this space to share recipes, memories, tips, traditions and culture around a little bit of flour, water, yeast and salt.

Happy Baking

-Amy