Soda Bread – A Quickie Accompaniment to Any Soup!

img_7840-2I have never been much of a baker, but over the last few months I have watched many  episodes of the Great British Bake show on Netflix and oh my!, what a delight! The best ever bake show on TV – EVER. I am totally inspired to bake crackers, breads, rolls and more. Paul Hollywood is the host of the show and he has a superb baking book out, which my husband picked up from our local library. Library I said? Yes, who knew that our local library had all the latest and greatest cookbooks! For the last 6 months or so we have been borrowing a few cookbooks each month and trying a lot of new recipes! What a great way to expand your knowledge on cooking and save money at the same time!

So I decided to start very simple, and make the easiest bread ever. Paul’s Soda Bread can be made while your soup is simmering on the stovetop. No proofing, no kneading, nada. Just mix the dry ingredients with the buttermilk and roll it out quickly in a ball and bake – voila!

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The Verdict of Paul’s Soda Bread

This soda bread is really good for a fast and easy bread. The taste really reminded me of what my mother use to make as biscuit sized buns – I think she used milk with vinegar instead of buttermilk though. This Soda Bread is really dense and great with a slab of butter. If you are looking for a fluffy bread to soak up soup – you need to look further though. That being said, this bread would be perfect with a stew or chile if you wanted to scoop yummy morsels on your bread.

Next time, I would personally make this batch into 8 buns (instead of one big loaf) because I really love how the crust is nice and hard – I want more surface crust! This is a perfect bread to mix up in 10 minutes and bake for 30 minutes…leaving 5 minutes to cool before digging in to have with my hot bowl of veggie soup.

For this recipe, Paul recommends adding fun ingredients like cheddar cheese or olives. I think next time, I am going to take his suggestion and try a white goat cheddar with chives and make smaller rolls. Can’t wait to make it again!

BTW – The next morning I heated a few pieces and slathered butter and a nice strawberry jam for breakfast – it was a perfect breakfast with coffee!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cups buttermilk

Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 390 F and line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.
  • Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well, then stir in the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Tip the dough onoto a lightly floured surface and shape it quickly into a ball. Flatten the ball a little with your hand.
  • Put the dough on the baking tray. Mark it into quarters, cutting deeply through the bread, almost but not quite through the base. Dust with a little flour.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is cooked through – it should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave it to cool on a wire rack. Soda bread is best eaten within a day of baking. It freezes well.

I found another version of this recipe online where Paul recommends two types of flours, you can find it here.

Parmesan Rosemary Crackers a Perfect Accompaniment For Tomato Soup

Over two weeks ago I was watching an older episode of the Great British Bake Off and it had the contestants making biscuits and crackers. They did a superb job of different crackers and it encouraged me to try some myself at home. It seemed easy enough for myself.

I tried making crackers on two attempts int he last week. The first recipe was fairly good, but I felt that I needed to tweak the original recipe. So on the second attempt I added a tad more salt as well as parmesan and dried rosemary into the dry mix.

And wow, these crackers are mighty fine I must say. They are keepers. The only thing I think that may be a challenge for anyone (and for myself) is trying to get every single cracker the same thinness. I guess practice will make perfect!

So tonight I made my Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup and had my crackers to dip into the yummy goodness! It’s been a long time since I had crackers and soup, it reminded me when I was a child! Yum, more crackers please!

I think I may try rolling the dough through my pasta maker in the future to see if I can get the thinness the same.

Parmesan Rosemary Crackers Ingrediants:

  • 1.5 cups flour (¾ cup white flour and ¾ cup whole wheat flour)
  • ¾ cup parmesan (shredded)
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Parmesan Rosemary Crackers Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 425°F: Place rack in the middle of oven.
  2. Line baking sheet with bakers parchment paper or dust a pan lightly with flour.
  3. Add shredded cheese, flour, sugar, and salt  into food processor, and pulse until it  resembles course cornmeal.
  4. Transfer dry ingrediants to a mixing bowl.
  5. Add the oil and water to the flour mixture.
  6. Mix the oil and water into the flour.
  7. Stir until a soft, sticky dough is formed. Add additional water one teaspoon at a time if necessary to incorporate all the flour.
  8. Divide the dough in half. Dust your work surface lightly with flour and set the other half on top. Pat it into a thick square with your hands.
  9. Roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 1/8-inch thick or thinner. I like to try and do it to about 1/16. You can use wax paper on top and bottom to make the rolling easier.
  10. Cut the dough into rounds with cutter. Keep the extra dough to re-roll. or twirl into breadsticks.
  11. Optional: brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle with seeds or other toppings or additional salt.
  12. Transfer the crackers to baking sheet using a metal pastry scraper or spatula. It’s fine to crowd the crackers close together.
  13. Prick each cracker with the tines of a fork or a skewer to prevent puffing during baking.
  14. Bake the crackers for 10-12 minutes, until they are all browned around the edges. Thinner ones will cook faster. While this batch is baking, roll and cut the second batch. I like to use Alton Browns tip to flip the cracker midway to even out the browning…perhaps at the 5 minute mark.
  15. Cool and enjoy with a soup!!

I did research on crackers and revised this recipe and tips from a few sources. I tried one recipe first and tweaked this one to include rosemary in the mix and I also doubled the salt and lowered the oven temperature as the cheese seems to burn more at 450.

Raw Almond Cheese – An Easy Peasy Lactose Free Soup Topper

Raw Almond Cheese

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Raw Almond Cheese (blanched almonds, lemon juice, olive oil, water, garlic, salt)

Recently, I picked up a great magazine at Choices: Vegetarian Special Edition – Healing Foods Cookbook. One recipe that caught my attention was the Almond Cheese. I’m always looking for different kind of soup toppers and ones that are casein-free (not cows milk), because I’m sensitive to it.

I was amazed to read how easy this almond cheese recipe sounded. The only thing I thought that may be a show stopper is time. Just like any cheese, you need to give it some planning and love.

So I took a stab at this recipe. I caught myself licking up the inside of the blender – it was so yummy! I personally like it way better in the raw (not baked) – the recipe recommended either way.

Outside of being a superb soup topper for my butternut squash soup, this cheese was used on my toast and on rice crackers with a red pepper jelly. So delish!

This cheese seems very versatile. I want to try it with different kinds of herbs and spices in the near future. Perhaps mixing in chives and using a dollop in a potato soap or with basil in a tomato soup. Both toppings would make either soup so nice and creamy without the cream per se.

When I did add it in my soup, after a few minutes, I found the cheese melted very nicely and was easy to swirl in like any cream product.

I’m definitely going to stock up with blanched almonds in my pantry to make this a lot!

Almond Cheese Ingredients (Raw Recipe):

  • 1 cup whole blanched almonds
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp  cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 – 1/4 tsp salt

Almond Cheese Instructions (Raw Recipe):

  1. Place almonds in medium bowl, and cover with 3 inches water. Let soak 24 hours. Drain, rinse almonds under cold running water, and drain again.
  2. Puree almonds, lemon juice, 3 Tbsp oil, 1/2 cup cold water in food processor 6 minutes, or until very smooth and creamy.
  3. Place strainer over bowl, and line with triple layer of cheesecloth. Spoon almond mixture into cheesecloth. Bring corners and sides of cloth together, and twist around cheese, forming into ball and squeezing to extract moisture. Secure with rubber band. Chill 12 hours. Discard excess liquid.

 

Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread A Great Dinner Date For Soups

Gluten-Free Bread

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Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread

Ah, rustic bread – I love you so. Nothing beats having some freshly baked rustic bread to dip in a warm comforting homemade soup.

Just over three weeks ago I attended a class at Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store in Langley, BC and was taught how to bake a great gluten-free rustic bread. The course was “Wheat Free Gluten Free with Pastry Chef Tina Bacon”. Gluten-Free, oh my! I must admit that was pessimistic because I have tried many gluten-free breads from either Whole Foods, Donald’s Market or other specialty bakeries, and most seemed very hard, stale and heavy. All to be thrown in the garbage after reaching mid-loaf.

But this recipe has turned me into an optimist with regards to gluten-free breads! I also tried this recipe this past weekend with sun-dried tomatoes and oregano (instead of olives) and my girl friend Char has given it thumbs up!

The Verdict Of Crusty Gluten-Free Bread?
I love cooking but not normally into baking per se. But I am positive that I will make this rustic gluten-free bread in future and with different flavors, herbs / and or spice to go with my soup of the day. This bread recipe is not hard and heavy. It comes out especially nice right out of the oven! Also, I love the fact that you can make the bread dough and keep it in the fridge for 7 days and bake it when needed!

I decided to take Tina Bacon’s recipe and add chopped walnut stuffed olives into the dough and call it Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread.

Ingredients For Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread:

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
  • 3 cups tapioca starch
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons xanthan gum
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2-2/3 cups lukewarm water
  • 12 almond stuffed large olives, chopped

Instructions Crusty Olive Almond Gluten-Free Bread:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and honey. Whisk in warm water that is approx 110°F –  120°F.
  3. With a wooden spoon gradually add flour, stirring after each addition.
  4. Stir in chopped almond stuffed olives.
  5. Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest about 2 hours on counter.
  6. Wrap bowl airtight and refrigerate minimum 2 hours and up to 7 days.
  7. When ready to bake a loaf, line a pizza pan or baking sheet with parchment. Cut off about 1/4 of the dough and with wet hands quickly shape into an oval.
  8. Place on the prepared pan and smooth surface with your fingers.
  9. Loosely cover with plastic and allow to rest 90 minutes. It won’t rise much.
  10. After one hour of resting preheat oven to 450F.
  11. Just before baking use a sharp knife to cut 1/4″ deep slashes diagonally across loaf.
  12. Slide loaf with parchment onto the oven rack and bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown and firm.
  13. Transfer to a rack to cool before slicing.
  14. Serve with a nice bowl of soup! (BTW – Tomato soup will go well with this Olive Almond Rustic Bread.)