Saturday, 26 May 2007

Forsaking sleep for the sake of pain

Posted by Bonita


No, not actual pain but pain. It was bread day this morning, and while it was a Saturday morning perfect to sleep in, I got an early start to my day. Too early some may say, having set my alarm to 6:00 am. I think I might have turned it off at some point when it went off…maybe after the first snooze button attempt, yet 22 minutes after my alarm went off, I was able to roll out of bed and get my still-slightly-groggy butt down to the kitchen (without making a racket, a huge feat for a huge klutz like myself).

I’ve really been craving for a good loaf of French bread lately, and what better way to have French bread than to make your own French bread? I got my sponge started last night so that it would have time overnight to ferment. After checking my sponge two hours after I had it made, I realized that the original bowl I had used would be too small. I would end up with sponge all over the kitchen counter by morning if I had just left it like that, so I scraped all my sponge into a much larger bowl (which definitely was a good call when I saw how much it had risen overnight!). I quickly got my dough together and put aside to proof.


What’s so great about French bread is that it tastes so good on its own. You usually don’t need anything else to go with it. French bread needs to be enjoyed as a stand-alone. If it can’t even achieve such a simple task, than frankly, it’s not a very good “French” bread. However, there was no way I would just serve bread for lunch either, so what would be better to serve a rustic loaf with a rustic soup? Minestrone was my pick, since it would be nice and light, healthy and would help my mom a great deal my using up some of the vegetables that have been cluttering our produce box in the fridge. The recipe I ended up using is a combination of two recipes I was looking at, one by Giada de Laurentiis and the other by Ricardo Larrivée. Substituted here and there with what I had on hand, but in the end, soup turned out pretty well. Definitely made for a hearty (yet healthy) meal for lunch, and went very nicely with the fresh baked bread.


The bread also turned out great. Sure, it didn't look as beautiful as the ones you would get at a professional bakery (I'll definitely need to work on my slashing technique!). However, the interior of this bread was definitely softer than other breads I have made in the past, thanks to the sponge. My only qualm is that my crust, which came out all crusty out of the oven, soften as it cooled on the rack (**cries**), so I’ll either have to try the “pan-of-water-in-the-oven method” next time (rather than spraying water) or leave it in for a few extra minutes and see if that’ll make any difference. I loved the look of the bread after it was cut, with the holes. Would be great if there were even more holes, but that just means it leaves more room for me to experiment in the near future. Still, it was a great tasting bread, despite the soft crust.

I’ve also finally had the guts to get a sourdough starter going, so I’m crossing my fingers that my starter will work out. Hopefully I can make a loaf of sourdough some time next week! How long it has been since I’ve had sourdough!

Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis and Ricardo
Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 100 g thinly sliced pancetta, roughly chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 can (19 oz) white kidney beans, drained and well-rinsed (see N.B.)
  • 1 to 2 cups green beans, cut to 1" length
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (see N.B.)
  • 1 piece rind of Parmegiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, to serve
  • Chopped fresh basil, to serve
  1. In a soup pot over medium heat, soften the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta and garlic in the oil, between 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and Parmigiano rind.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, green beans and kidney beans. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano rind. Adjust the seasoning.
  4. Sprinkle Parmigiano and basil on each serving.

N.B. The white kidney beans can be replaced with red kidney beans, according to your own preferences. For the tomatoes, I used a 28 oz-can since that is what I had on-hand at home, but a 14-oz can will do just as well (it'll just be less tomato-ey). You can also add small pasta to the soup, which I had decided to opt out.

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