Monday, January 18, 2010

Soupy Sunday

Not only the weather but in the kitchen, too. There's only one thing better than tomato soup and artisan bread for lunch on a blustery winter day. Today certainly qualifies as blustery. Windy, rainy, gray, and cool. I can't say cold because it's in the mid-50's.

What one thing is better, you ask? Homemade tomato soup and homemade artisan bread. And I haven't taken food pictures in a while. It is time.

I've really Martha'd myself. No, wait, to do that I'd have had to grow the tomatoes and sow the wheat. Never mind. I think I could probably do both these recipes in my sleep. I've made the tomato soup two or three times and it is simple. On the America's test Kitchen website, it's the "Creamy Creamless Tomato Soup."

The bread was even simpler, ingredient-wise, but sneaky. I tossed the first batch because it never rose. I'm almost certain that my yeast was old and dead. The second batch didn't rise as much as I'd hoped, but both times I felt the dough was just a teensy weensy bit too dry. The second batch rose (enough) after I let it sit overnight so I baked it this morning. Hmmmmm...the smell of fresh baked bread in the morning? There's no word for it, just a sound of drool.

Let's be clear: I do not have a professional oven with steam injection. My oven runs 100 degrees too hot, is a piece of crap, and I got this result anyway. It tastes as good as it looks. I started another one tonight. I can do this from memory. Well, mainly because I've prepared three in the last three days. A scale is very handy, and I added an ounce more water because I am convinced that the house is so dry the flour just needs that extra bit. Unlike the summer, Virginia does not have a high humidity problem and, because we have forced air everything, our abode is pretty dry. Nor-easter's not withstanding.

Both recipes (and the one for the croutons) are from the guys at America's Test Kitchen, aka Cook's Illustrated aka Cook's Country. I don't get what the difference is but the food is so good that I don't care. The soup is a little involved. It helps justify what we spend on kitchen equipment. In this case, dutch oven and blender. We simplified by using the stick blender which does a perfectly adequate job of whizzing the soup into smooth tomato-y perfection. I can't recommend the KitchenAid stick blender highly enough. There's a place for blenders, and a place for sticks. This recipe suggests using a blender, but using the stick leaves you with fewer dishes to clean, and I don't think it took any more time to get achieve soup smoothie.

Canned whole tomatoes (shocking, I know), white bread, onion, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, brown sugar (just a tiny bit), olive oil, chicken stock. That's it. We've used plain canned tomatoes, we've used tomatoes canned from a friends garden, and we've used a combination of canned whole and diced tomatoes. Someone had a hankering and we had what we had in the pantry. All of them were fine. In fact, in the first version all I had on hand were whole toms with basil. I plucked the whole basil leaves out but there was still a tiny bit of basil flavor and it was nice. We've used Pepperidge Farm country white, sourdough bread, and Inn Keeper's Whole Grain bread. I thought the whole grain bread would leave lots of seeds but they got whizzed, too. If you tasted them all side by side you could probably tell the difference, but I think it's probably marginal.

I cut the crusts from the bread thickly and used them for croutons. Toss with oil, season with salt and pepper, bake them at 400 for a few minutes until they look good and golden or dark golden, let them cool, serve with soup.

Almost No-Knead Bread
Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

This looks like a fun project: Macaroon Knitted Purse


  1. Oh, yum!!!! I like both of these recipes and watch out, Michael. Next Sunday it's gonna be tomato soup and Almost No-knead Bread, whether it's cold and rainy or not. And it is very likely going to be, as this has been our Winter. Rain, rain, wind, and more rain.

  2. Okay, this morning my bread is rising in the skillet (don't have parchment paper so am using foil--hope that works as well as the paper), it rose overnight, even though this house gets cold at night. Mine was dry, too, but the directions said "form into a shaggy loaf", so that didn't bother me. I kneaded the dough directly on my new countertop, which was a joyful occasion because I hate using the big plastic board to knead on, it slips around all over the place. So we shall see how this bread comes out. Later today I will make the soup, though I don't have that stick blender you talk about. I think I'll ask for one for Christmas! Wish me luck on all of the above and I will report later on my success.