Let them eat bread
The meditative process of bread-baking is simple: Combine flour, yeast, and water, knead, allow to rise, knead again, rise again, bake. While simple, it takes a fair amount of time and care to create a lovely loaf of bread. Simple doesn’t always mean quick and easy. Sometimes it’s the simplest of tasks that we find the most overwhelming or confusing because to accomplish them, we need to slow down, pay attention to our intuition, and follow it.
I still lack the intuition of true bread bakers, but armed with a recipe and an openness to learning and acceptance of an imperfect loaf, the spiritual effects of bread baking are not lost on me. I find it calming to knead a ball of dough for ten minutes, to stick around the house waiting for it to rise or proof. And of course, the smell of a freshly baked loaf is a quiet but satisfying reward for an afternoon’s work.
I bake this Finnish Rye Bread every time I make a squash soup. It’s sweet and hearty and perfect for dipping.
Finnish Rye Bread
Adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess
1 1/2 cups rye flour
2 cups bread flour (all-purpose also works)
1 package rapid-rise yeast (or 1 Tbsp fresh yeast)
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
Put the flours, yeast, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together. Then slowly add the water, mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment on a standing mixer, until you’ve got a messy lump of dough. Add one tablespoon of the melted butter, just mixing to incorporate it. Knead, by hand or with a dough hook, until you form a smooth, dense ball of dough, adding more water or flour as necessary.
Using the melted butter, oil a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning once or twice to coat it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise. I tend to prefer the results of a long cold rise (such as overnight in the fridge), but you can also leave it out on the counter as long as it takes to double in size.
When doubled, punch it down, knead a few times more and shape it into a round loaf forming a tight skin across the top. Set it on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 375F. When the dough is finished proofing and looks puffy again (it takes 30 minutes to an hour), bake it for 45-55 minutes until it makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the underside.
Brush the cooked loaf with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve with a butter and a hot soup, such as the one below.
Spiced Carrot and Squash Soup
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger, minced
3 small to medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp coriander1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
Salt and pepper
Special equipment: hand blender (can also use a regular blender)
This is a soup that I make using intuition. You can, too, adding more or less of the spices to your taste. It produces a gorgeous, rusty orange color that's especially warming on a cold, rainly March afternoon.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté for five minutes or until soft and golden, turning the heat down if they start to brown. Add the carrots and ginger and cook for a few more minutes before adding the squash. Stir everything together and then add the spices, stirring to coat the vegetables and toast the spices. After 1 minute, pour in the stock. You may use more or less depending how thick you like your soup. I usually add enough to just barely cover the vegetables, adding more later to thin it out if needed.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer until the carrots and squash are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat and begin blending with a hand blender, until the soup is smooth and creamy. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can blend in batches with a blender. Just be sure to only fill the jar half way and allow the steam to escape while blending, else the top will fly off, sending soup everywhere.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, adding more of the spices as necessary.
If you want especially luxurious soup, stir in some cream at the end.