Wednesday, October 14, 2009

baby it's cold outside bread and soup

Brrrrr. It is already cold here in Halifax.

We've been baking a lot of bread this fall, inspired by
Bittman's no-knead bread. I like Smitten Kitchen's write-up, that was the one that really inspired me to try the recipe. The boyfriend has particularly loved making bread, and he keeps turning out loaves, each one better than the last.

The only suggestion I can add to this now classic recipe is to use parchment paper instead of the kitchen towels! We've already thrown out two towels because they were irredeemably sticky. We've even tried this recipe with a multi-grain bread flour. Not quite as light and fluffy, but still very good.

It will probably remain our everyday bread, but I must confess, I have a new favorite. And it was because we had all this multi-grain flour that I searched and discovered this recipe from the February Gourmet (R.I.P) for Cracked-Wheat Topknots. Readers, they are delicious. We each ate three yesterday, and the remaining six today! And I have another dozen in the oven now! I made half the recipe, and used only Robin Hood Multi-grain Bread Blend as it already has all-purpose flour in it. Since the boyfriend is lactose intolerant and allergic to eggs, I used lactose free milk, Smart Balance spread, and glazed them with milk instead of eggwash. Next time I'm going to try olive oil, since I don't really like the idea of using margarine, even a glorified one.

The batch in the oven now look even better than the ones for yesterday!

Last night we ate it with a modified version of this soup, a Basque Tuscan fusion soup of kale, potato and white beans. It's for dinner again tonight.

Sorta vegan cracked-wheat top knots
adapted from Ruth Cousineau's recipe from the February 2009 Gourmet (R. I. P)

makes 1 dozen rolls
takes 6 hours

3/4 cup boiling-hot water
1/4 cup medium bulgar (cracked wheat)
1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. warm water
2 1/4 cups Multi-grain bread flour
Large grain sea salt
All-Purpose flour for kneading

In a small bowl, cover the bulgar with the 3/4 cup boiling hot water and 1/4 tsp. salt and let stand for 40 minutes.

Proof the yeast with the honey and warm water until foamy, 5 minutes.

Heat the milk and butter (or butter substitute), just until the butter (or substitute) is melted.

Once the yeast is proofed, add the flour and the remaining 1 1/4 tsp. salt.

Drain the bulgar, and add it and the liquid mixture to the yeast/flour and stir until it is a sticky mess. Turn it out onto a surface covered with A-P flour and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it is smooth.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and turn it over until it is all greased. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and leave to rise in a warm place until double, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (nb. I let my bread rise in my oven, which I had heated to 150 (the lowest possible temperature), and then let cool. it worked really well, esp. since my apartment might as well be an ice box)).

Once the dough is risen (like christ on easter), prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Punch down and divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. I do this by first dividing the dough in two equal parts, dividing each of those into 2 more parts (for a total of 4), and then dividing each of those quarter balls into three more.

Take each little ball and roll into a 12 inch snake. If you greased the dough properly for its rise, than you won't need additional flour. Tie the dough snake into a knot, tucking the ends around any which way you prefer. (no two of mine look the same). Space each topknot about 2 inches apart, and let rise for another hour to hour and a half.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

Brush rolls with milk and sprinkle with the sea salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until your house smells so good you can't stand it anymore.

Cool until they (barely) don't burn your fingers.


Tuscan/Basque white bean and kale soup
adapted from a Gourmet (R.I.P) recipe from February 2004

Makes 4 dinner-sized servings
Takes 2 hours

1/2 cup dried white beans
2 cups water
olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 1/2 qts water

3 fresh parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf

1 clove
1/2 pound potatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound kale, roughly chopped
1 medium-large tomato, chopped
some basil

Bring beans and 2 cups of water to a boil. Turn heat off, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

In a heavy pot (I love my le creuset knock off), saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add the smoked paprika and saute until it is fragrant.

Add the water, beans, parsley, clove, and bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes.

Add potatoes and kale, and cook a further 10 to 15 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Toss in some fresh basil at the end if you have some.

Serve soup with topknots. Look, mine are out of the oven now.


  1. i also added a chopped up carrot with the potatoes and kale. and the soup was even better today than yesterday

  2. yum. i need to find white beans...

    do you know if the bread would work with gluten-free flours?

  3. love your blog, my friend!

    love the stew...I may try it and add parsnips, my favorite vegetable.

    I made soup tonight, too (carrot-ginger)! must be something in the air.

  4. Rads doing a food blog! Match. Made. In. Heaven!!!!!! Already added to my Bookmarks Bar.

  5. Hi Kyle,

    You should totally try the Bittman bread with gluten-free flours. I'll be they make some kind of gluten-free bread mix. The rolls are really good because of the bulgar, can Sonrisa eat that? So they are really soft inside, but with these nice wheaty bursts!

    I'd love to hear how it goes.

    Everyone, stay tuned, Diwali is coming up!!!