Kelly Unger ’93 owns a popular cooking studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our writer joined Unger for a hands-on baking class that was sprinkled with culinary tips and recipe ideas so you can level up your kitchen skills, too.
By Karen Cicero; Photography by Kristina Gibb, Fall 2023
It’s a rainy Friday afternoon, but there’s nothing dreary about The Rooster & The Carrot, Chef Kelly Unger’s cooking studio in Bucks County. “I feel like I’m in Europe again,” one seasoned traveler tells me as we mingle in a well-equipped, airy space that gives off major French country vibes.
For the next two hours, we’re going to take an often-sold-out hands-on baking class with six other students—most of whom expressed their delight at landing one of the coveted spots. Unger, who graduated from Moravian University in 1992 with a business management degree, runs an überpopular series of cooking classes in a renovated building adjacent to her home in Doylestown. Some are demonstration-style (you watch her do all the work), but for many, like this one, you roll up your sleeves, put on an apron, and handle the ingredients yourself.
Unger calls all of us over to the studio’s centerpiece—a massive kitchen island where there’s a stool and small baking tray lined with brown parchment paper waiting for each of us. She explains that we’re going to be using the trays to make Cream Biscuits, using a recipe that doesn’t require yeast. “All the magic comes from the baking powder,” she says. It’s a relief for a few of us (myself included) who confess that we’ve had drama when we jumped on the pandemic bread-making bandwagon. We’re also thrilled to hear her response to another question about whether we’re going to need to weigh our ingredients on a kitchen scale. “Only if you want to be a Michelin chef!” she says. “We’re all about family cooking.” Phew!
A natural storyteller, Unger dives into the fascinating background for the class’s second recipe—Naan au Fromage, or cheese-stuffed naan. While traditional Indian cooking doesn’t include flatbread with cheese, some Indian restaurants in Paris added the twist. A cookbook author did some detective work to figure out what kind of cheese they use, and Unger shows us what it turned out to be. Not Brie. Or Camembert. Or Roquefort. As she holds up a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, the room erupts in laughter. .
“How long can you keep baking soda once it’s opened?” asks a student as the class mixes dry ingredients for the biscuits they are making. “Six months,” replies Chef Unger.
Back to Her Roots
Bringing people together over food is what drew Unger to cooking in the first place. After graduating from high school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, she headed off to the esteemed Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. She received a culinary degree in 1988. “I could have stayed another two years to get my bachelor’s, but I wanted a broader management degree,” she says. At Moravian, she was a self-described “nontraditional” student taking night classes while holding down a job. “I especially enjoyed my marketing classes at Moravian—so much so that I dropped cooking after graduation and took a job as a marketing director for a nursing center,” she recalls.
After working in her position for about five years, Unger put her career on the back burner for her husband’s job and to raise her two daughters. “We moved around a lot early in our marriage,” she says. In 2014, a friend asked her to teach cooking classes at a farmers’ market. “I fell in love with the culinary world all over again,” she recalls.
I’m a one-woman show, and all the knowledge I have about running and marketing the business came from my time at Moravian,” she says. “It helped me critically analyze my options and make decisions.”
—Kelly Unger ’93
When the farmers’ market gig ended, she taught classes in people’s homes for about six months before launching The Rooster & The Carrot Cooking Studio in 2018. “This building used to be a horse stable. Everywhere there’s a window, that was a stall!” she says.
In addition to the cooking classes, Unger maintains a food blog, which focuses on farm-to-table eating and seasonal ingredients. “I’m a one-woman show, and all the knowledge I have about running and marketing the business came from my time at Moravian,” she says. “It helped me critically analyze my options and make decisions.”
Unger runs one to two classes a week, except during summer when she focuses on testing recipes for future classes. For instance, she recently made a pumpkin pie out of phyllo dough that will appear in a fall session. Puff pastry is also a key ingredient in one of her favorite dishes to teach—an Apple Camembert Tatin (recipe at the end of this story).
A Cream Biscuit plated with jam and apple slices makes for a lovely breakfast.
For today’s class, Camembert makes an appearance only as a snack along with sliced radishes that look almost too pretty to eat. We munch while we work. Unger explains mise en place, a French term that basically means you have to get your act together—lay out your ingredients and do all the prep work—before you start the cooking process.
Unger did this for us. To save time, she prepped all the biscuits’ dry ingredients in a bowl for each of us. She instructs us to mix them together, giving encouragement (“you’re good”) and guidance (“you need to dip your hands in more flour”) along the way. “It’s going to be such an easy dough to work with,” she promises. “You’ll love it.” As we stir, we pepper Unger with questions, like “How long can you keep baking soda once it’s opened?” (six months) and “What’s a good store-bought vanilla extract?” (Watkins).
Not long after, we’ve each created little balls of dough that we’re going to flatten and eventually shape into three homemade biscuits. She gently guides us to press down with our palms and keep the dough an even size. We use a bench scraper to divide our dough into three pieces, and then double-check the edges. “If it’s higher on one end than the other, it’s going to bake unevenly,” she says. She also warns us not to touch the cut side of the dough with our fingers. Five minutes later, everyone has their dough on the baking sheet ready to pop in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Students roll out the dough for their Cheese-Stuffed Naan.
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
While the biscuits are cooking, we turn our attention to the naan. Earlier in the class, Unger had demonstrated the dough-making process. Since the dough has to rest for two half-hour periods, the class isn’t long enough to make it in real time. I write down a fantastic tip that may make my next solo attempt at bread making be more successful: “You always want to make sure your yeast gets going before you add your salt,” warns Unger. “Salt stunts the growth of your yeast.”
In front of the mixer, Unger fields our string of questions about an ingredient she used in the recipe that was somewhat unfamiliar to the group—clarified butter. Someone asks what I am thinking: “Can you just use regular butter?” while another person wants to know how to make it or, better still, where to buy it.
Unger explains that she made the clarified butter (basically butter minus the milk solids) by melting regular unsalted butter on low heat for about 15 minutes and then letting it stand for about five minutes. “I skimmed off the foam from the top and poured the liquid into this jar,” she says. The milk solids that have settled to the bottom of the pan may be discarded.
As for whether you could skip this step and use unsalted butter, the short answer is, Yes and no. Clarified butter has a much higher “smoke point” than regular butter—meaning that it won’t burn as fast when cooking. “You could use regular butter to make the dough, but you couldn’t fry the dough in regular butter—you’d need grapeseed oil,” Unger says. The lazy cook in me silently likes that idea or buying a jar of clarified butter at the supermarket, where it’s usually called ghee.
Once the dough is prepared, each of us reaches for the rolling pin we brought from home. After giving the dough a few rolls on our well-floured surface, we place our Laughing Cow cheese on top, fold over the dough, and roll some more. We’re all astonished that you can barely notice the cheese anymore. Soon, each of us takes our naan-in-the-making to one of the cast-iron skillets (Lodge is Unger’s preferred brand), where it puffs up and browns in a matter
Fruits of Our Labor
About 90 minutes into class, the biscuits are out of the oven and everyone has a plate of warm naan in front of them. We pass around jam for the biscuits, which are slightly sweeter than the buttermilk kind you might associate with Thanksgiving. The consensus is we love them—and think they’d pair well with tea.
The naan, however, is the real show-stealer. “It tastes like the most delicious, comforting grilled-cheese sandwich,” pipes in a fellow student. I find myself instinctively nodding in agreement as I graciously accept a to-go carton to bring the rest of the biscuits and naan home to my family.
By the time I arrive at my house—more than an hour after class has ended—the naan isn’t warm anymore, but it still has a major wow factor. “That’s really delicious!” says my daughter, eating the rest. “We have to make it ourselves!” Thanks to Unger, we know how (and if you check out the recipe below, you will too)!
To learn more about The Rooster & The Carrot Cooking Studio, Chef Kelly Unger’s recipe blog, her menu of classes, and how to register for a class, go to theroosterandthecarrot.com.
Taking just a half-hour from start to finish, these yeast-free biscuits will make even a regular weeknight dinner feel extra special. You can double—or even triple—the recipe if you’re having company.
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes 3 or 4 biscuits
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup (5 ounces) heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a fork.
- In a measuring cup, mix the vanilla extract into the cream. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or cutting board and sprinkle with flour. Flatten with your hand and fold the dough over on itself. Flatten again, repeating one or two more times.
- Pat the dough into a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Cut into three or four even pieces using a bench knife. Place on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with butter. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until light brown on top and cooked through.
1200 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018