Clearly I did not start my little project on January 1. When setting my start date, I failed to take into account our end-of-the-year plans. Husband and I decided we could cram-pack his week of vacation with visits to Baton Rouge and D.C. to see my younger sister and her husband and Aaron’s parents. Five flights later, we’re home, and I’ve started cooking!
Aaron wanted something light for dinner last night, so I settled on soup and salad. I also needed an easy dinner because, as we just returned home Sunday evening, I hadn’t yet grocery shopped. The soup, salad and dressing were easy-beasy and fairly quick. The French bread was easy, but not quite so quick, though I did use the quickest recipe I could find (3 hours). Apparently superb French bread takes 9+ hours, at least according to Julia Child’s recipe. I’ll save that one for a weekend endeavor.
Now to the recipes!
Let me first give credit for the recipe to the Steamy Kitchen blog. She gives some nifty tips for creating the “perfect” loaf, such as chucking a cup of water on the floor of the oven to create a nice steam in which the bread can bake. I did deter from the recipe slightly (for example, I used whole wheat flour rather than bread flour).
So, my interpretation of the recipe:
4 cups whole wheat white flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups warm water
First, I emptied 3-3/4 cups flour in a mixing bowl, dutifully placed the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other, then dumped in the hot water and mixed until combined.
I then turned the dough out on the counter and kneaded for six minutes, let the dough rest for seven minutes, then went back at it again for another seven minutes.
At this point, the dough was nice and supple (yes, supple). I formed it into a more-or-less ball, sprayed a bowl with olive oil using my super nifty and handy Misto Olive Oil Sprayer (bye-bye Pam), and placed the dough ball in the bowl, turning it once to ensure all surface area was lightly coated with oil. Finally, I covered the bowl with plastic wrap (I am sorry to say that I did not make the plastic wrap myself) and placed it in a “warm, dry place,” which turned out to be on top of the warming eye on the stove turned to low (our house is not what I would deem “warm” at this time of year). There the little dough ball sat for an hour, rising happily, while I rocked Bronson to sleep, sorted the mail, and tidied the kitchen (cooking from scratch is so time consuming!).
When the kitchen timer sounded, I returned to the kitchen, placed a baking sheet in the oven and turned the oven on to 425° (using the convection setting; without the convection setting, the temperature should be 450°).
Thirty minutes later, I checked that the dough had, in fact, gone all fatty pants on me and doubled in size, and I pressed on the surface to make sure it was elastic (i.e. made sure the dough sprang back to place). Doughy McDougherson passed the test, so I punched it down, split it in half, and formed two loaves. I covered them with a damp towel and let them take it easy for half an hour before making a few shallow slits along the top of each loaf and placing them on the baking sheet that had been heating in the oven.
Then I put them in the oven for a little steam. Steam? Yes. Steam. Steamy Kitchen lady recommends chucking a cup full of water on the floor of the oven before shutting the door (super fast!). The water creates steam in the oven, which thereby creates a nice crusty finish on the bread. Because I’m a big ol’ chicken pants, I used a cup of ice instead of a cup of water. It just seemed safer. Either way, next time (if there is a next time) I’ll try tossing more water into my oven because, while there was a crust on the bread, it was not as crunchy as I am accustomed to in a nice baguette. Further, the bread was a little dull in taste; a little more salt in the dough should fix that. All-in-all, not a bad bread for just three hours time.
Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman’s blog.
I love garlic. My husband loves garlic. Stands to reason we would love garlic soup, so I tried it out!
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
12 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere
So first I sliced up the onion and smashed the garlic (mmm, garlic), then threw them in a cast iron skillet with the teaspoon of oil to sauté (In the name of honesty, I didn’t measure the olive oil. I never do. It was likely more than a mere teaspoon).
After the onions and garlic caramelized, I added the white wine, covered, and cooked for 10 minutes. Next, I added the chicken stock, flour, and bay leaf, brought to a boil, then let simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
*Note: I made the chicken stock from scratch a couple of months ago, therefore I do not have photographs of the process. Fear not, I am making turkey stock this weekend and will post the recipe afterward.
Next, my husband removed the bay leaf and pureed the soup. (What? I was nursing the baby.) He did it in batches in the blender, but as soon as I make another pot of creamy soup, I am purchasing an immersible hand blender. So much easier (and fewer dishes to wash!). He then dumped the puree back into the pot, added the cream, salt and pepper. And just like that, the soup was d-o-n-e.
To accompany the soup, I made a mixed greens salad with cilantro dressing. We have to have some vegetables!
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 bunches cilantro, stems removed
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
After mincing the ginger, I dropped the garlic, ginger and cilantro into the blender and pulsed it a few times. Then I added the lime juice, vinegar, spices and sugar and blended until mixed.
Next, I grated the Parmesan cheese, then added it to the mix and gave it a good ol’ pulse or two.
Finally, I drizzled in the oil, sent the blender for a little whir, and voila!
A delicious dressing.
So, our dinner of soup, salad, and bread was… okay.
The salad was delicious. Hubby and I both very much enjoyed the dressing.
The soup was decent. I was really expecting more flavor from a garlic soup. Perhaps the cream masked the garlic? No kidding, I think I would double the garlic if I made this again. Did I mention I love garlic? And, as stated previously, the bread lacked salt.
Still, not a bad first meal.