March 7, 2010

The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks Winter Squash Bread and Soup

I've been meaning to make Winter Squash Bread - or Butternut Squash Bread - for a while now. We received so many butternut squash in our CSA box I needed to do something besides roast it, or make it into risotto (both good options) and this bread made a huge impression on me the first time I made it. The bread has a lovely texture due to the addition of cornmeal, and dark, crunchy crust, it is heavenly. It tastes great slathered with butter, or sliced thick and toasted. I was happy to roast and puree one of our 4 squashes (all varying in size) to make this bread again.
I have not managed to make as much bread from scratch as I intended in my baking resolutions for the year, but the smell of bread baking in the oven has reignited this goal. I'll be posting more bread recipes for you soon (the easy bake cOven club is baking bread for the month of March). I think bread making is a skill not many possess but all of us should try at least once. This one is especially forgiving. It is a little softer to knead and allows you to shape it however you like. I made one large round loaf and quite a few small dinner rolls to accompany our soup.
I've expressed my love for soup to you all. Without fail, I continue to make soup for dinners, even on not so cold nights. My goal for this soup was solely to not let the swiss chard go to waste. We received a bunch of chard in our CSA box as well, and sometimes M and I don't experiment enough... and it gets all yellow-y and slimy in a little bag in the fridge. To the compost it goes all too often. It doesn't have a lot of flavor, and the thick leaves take some effort to cook. In the newsletter that accompanies the fruits and veggies, they usually include a few recipes, and this time there was a soup recipe that caught my eye. Swiss Chard with White beans. I took a little creative liberty and turned the soup into something we might enjoy a little more than broth with beans and leafy greens. Swiss Chard, white beans, roasted chicken, garlic.
It turned out to be a very simple soup that was quite tasty. I'm still not in love with swiss chard, but at least it made an appearance in a meal instead of our composting bin. I hope all of you are better at using up the veggies in your fridge than we are sometimes, and that you might experiment with a winter vegetable like swiss chard - especially if you haven't ever eaten or cooked with it before.
Winter Squash Bread
You can use any type of winter squash you wish, I used Butternut Squash since we had so many
1 1/2 C warm water (110-115˚F)
1 package yeast
1/4 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T kosher or sea salt
1/2 C cornmeal
5 1/2 - 6 C all purpose flour
Mix the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of the sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes or until it gets bubbly and expands. Add the brown sugar and eggs and whisk well. Add the cornmeal, salt, and two cups of the flour and continue whisking until it is smooth. With a wooden spoon, mix in the remaining flour 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until the dough isn't too sticky. Turn it out on a floured surface and knead quickly for 5-10 minutes until the dough holds its shape and is smooth and elastic. Oil a bowl lightly with olive oil and toss the dough in, coating the whole surface. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until it has doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Punch the dough with your fist - this is quite fun - so it deflates. Take the dough out of the bowl and cut it into two equal parts. Shape the dough into rounds or logs and place them on a greased baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Let rise again for 30 minutes covered loosely with plastic wrap. Place in the middle rack of the oven and immediately turn the oven to 350˚F. Bake 45-50 minutes or until the dough sounds hollow when tapped and the crust is nice and brown.
Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup
1 bunch swiss chard - about 1 lb rinsed, stems sliced thin, and leaves cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
6 C chicken broth
2 cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
1/2 C chopped roasted chicken (ours was leftover - but buying a pre roasted chicken from the grocery store would be just fine! or leaving it out entirely for a veggie option is fine too)
1/2 C parmesan cheese
In a large stockpot, heat about 1 T of olive oil and add minced garlic and chard stems. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the leaves and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes - or until slightly wilted. Add in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Add beans and chopped chicken pieces, and pepper to taste. You can add salt too, but the chicken broth usually has a lot of salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the cheese and stir to melt. Serve with a big slice of bread and extra parmesan too if you wish. Adding some crushed red pepper to the chard and garlic while it is sauteing would be good too.

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