Even though I debated turning on the air conditioning in the 80 degree heat today, the leaves falling in the yard will no longer let me pretend it’s still summer. Time to trade in the beach towel and flip-flops for cozy sweaters and the hand-knit socks from my mom. I am looking forward to fire-crackling nights, spiced cider…all “the things” that come with fall and winter. This includes the heartwarming smell of freshly baked bread.
As I mulled over my “Things To Do” list (as obnoxious as it sounds, I have a short-term version and a long-range version), I am excited for some upcoming running events, a bit irked with myself that I haven’t worked harder on the book I’ve been writing, interested to try new dinner recipes I’ve researched, thrilled to watch a new season of “The Great British Baking Show,” and yet something still seemed missing.
The idea for my new Winter Challenge was one that has been in the back of my mind since hearing about it from one of the British bakers a couple of seasons ago, but until now has not been able to take flight. To make a long (probably boring) story short…the classes I teach were interested in trying some food from a region we’ve been reading about: The Himalayas. My son suggested making Sherpa Stew, though the best version (or so I’m told) has yak in it, and I have not yet found that in our meat department. And so I opted to try my hand at naan bread (without the tandoor oven), unleashing the brilliant idea to spend this winter making every type of bread in the world.
So far, so good! My naan bread turned out to be absolutely delicious, and the possibilities with it are endless. Traditionally, naan (I think the word itself means “bread,” if I am not mistaken, so saying “naan bread” is actually redundant) is paired with curried dishes, though the first batch of mine did not last long enough to be paired with anything, quite honestly. Naan can be used as a flatbread with any number of toppings, brushed with butter and garlic (or any spice, for that matter), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for a warm, sweet dessert, served as a wrap, dipped into soup, used to scoop up hummus or other dipping delights. The list of options is, fortunately, as long as the winter ahead.
While I will be sure to post some fun naan options in upcoming months, I surely cannot stop there! The trouble I’d been having was simply figuring out exactly how many breads there actually are in the world. I’ve seen lists that claim there are 29. I’ve seen a top 100 list. I’ve found an A-Z list. After way too much time going down that rabbit hole, I decided to just keep baking until I can’t find any more.
And so, amid the falling leaves and crackling logs in the fire, one phrase comes to mind for this new challenge in my kitchen: “On your mark…get set…Bake!”