Friday, May 15, 2009

Smoked Turkey Soup with Fresh Baked French Bread

Yesterday we woke up to a Northwest spring day - grey, rainy, and that muffled quiet that feels like a giant blanket has been thrown over the world. A perfect day to make bread and soup.

Most of those of us of the barbecue religion have myriad baggies of leftover meats in the freezer. It's because it's just as easy to smoke large quantities of meats as one item. And because practice makes perfect. I had some smoked turkey just begging to be thrown in the pot with the many not-so-fresh-picked vegetables in the bin.

My son Xander decided we were making "Lemon-tongue bread", and, not knowing how to make that, we turned to Julia Child for her basic French bread recipe. I craved the crunchy exterior and soft inner chew of French bread. I knew Julia's recipe in The Way to Cook would serve it up right. She is (was) so thorough in her explanations. The key to French bread? Three risings. Good thing we started early.

We made the dough by hand (Julia's recipe calls for a food processor, but I can't find my dough hook. Xander likes to play with it), kneading it until smooth and elastic, and set it in a covered bowl on top of a warm oven.

After it doubled, we punched it down (big fun for X), folded over and kneaded it again and set to rise. After punching it down a second time, we divided it into two loaves, kneading a bit more, and folding and pinching it into place. We dusted the bottom with cornmeal and let the loaves rise a bit more before baking. I don't have a bread baking stone so we baked it in our large cast iron pan.

I've made a vow to bake more bread. In part because the grocery store bread I like is now $5.99 a loaf. (!). It's also because baking bread is as good as any meditation and something I can do with a baby in the sling and a 3 year old. No resolutions here, like "I must bake bread once a week!", because that would surely nix any hopes of future bready yumness. Just "more often". And because my bread baking lately has been "next to never", I've already made good on my vow.

The soup was easy. I made a simple stock with the thigh bone, some onion ends, celery and carrots. After straining, I added new carrots, celery, leftover smoked turkey, some thyme, salt and pepper. When the loaves were on their third rise, I cooked off some rotini pasta to add to the soup at the end (otherwise it gets mushy).

You know what? By the time dinner was just about ready, the sun came out. We ran to the park to get some fresh air and shake off the rainy day. Daddy put the bread in to bake so when we came home good and hungry, everything was ready to eat. Mmmm.

Care to share your favorite soup or bread recipe? E-mail me and I'll post it sometime in the coming weeks: