This morning– like many other recent mornings– found me awake in my bed begging for mercy from the bitter cold, urging the dog to cuddle in closer for a few extra degrees of bodily warmth. I’m wondering to myself why I didn’t turn on the heat last night, or at least pull out an extra blanket. The thermometer just outside my door reads 35 degrees, and while I’m fairly sure it’s accurate, the sun blazes in the window, telling a different story. One of the things I love about fall is the way the sun rises over the planet with vigor, promising to do the best job it can of providing a blanket of warmth as a respite from the crisp morning air. As I look out the window I’m greeted not only by the golden light of morning, but by the carpet of fallen leaves covering the ground steps away from my feet. The air is still this morning and the leaves remain on their branches, for now. I anxiously await the falling of more. I love watching their dance and gentle cascade as they dangle from their branches for those last few seconds before they are freed and begin the graceful descent towards their positions on the ground.
I’ve just finished arranging ingredients in my bread machine for the first time. I ordered one this weekend and it arrived a few days ago, but I’ve been overwhelmed with work and underwhelmed at the notion of taking the necessary time to carefully measure out ingredients- a task which took just a few short minutes.
I’ve never baked bread before, aside from the common quick-breads that I look forward to during the holiday season. Like today’s fall sun, the expectation of bread provides a warmth all its own- artificial at best, however. This bread is baking in a bread machine, not an oven or wood fired stove, and I don’t have any fond familial memories of mom or grandma presenting us with bread baked from the oven as my husband often reminisces upon. Even so, there will be bread, and it will be my first time baking it.
While I wait, I get to work peeling carrots and slicing them into thin rounds. I appreciate the relative quiet– interrupted only by the cadence of my knife hitting the board and the intermittent hum of the bread machine. Later this morning I will cook the carrots with some onions and chicken stock, steam some black japonica rice, and combine it all for a piping hot bowl of carrot rice soup to enjoy with my predictably delicious and hearty slice of French bread. Now if only I had a fireplace…
Share the recipes you ask? Of course I will!
French Bread- 1.5 lb loaf (from the Breadman instruction manual and recipe guide)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (80 degrees)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Carrot-Rice Soup (Lundberg Farms recipe)
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups chicken broth, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 1/4 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup light sour cream (optional) or plain yogurt
Cook and stir carrots and onion in margarine in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add 2 cups broth, tarragon, and pepper. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes. Combine vegetables and broth in food processor or blender; process until smooth (optional, I prefer to only process half and leave half chunky in saucepan, then mix them all). Return to saucepan. Add remaining 2 cups broth and rice; thoroughly heat. Optional dollop sour cream on each serving of soup.
I couldn’t be happier with how the bread turned out. The outside had a thick crust just like a French bread from the bakery. In the future I may use the machine to mix/knead the bread but form it into a the traditional loaf to bake in the oven so as to avoid the funky machine shape. When I sliced into the loaf, I was greeted by light and fluffy, hot, steamy bread.
I’ve made this carrot soup so many times that I don’t even use a recipe anymore. Today I substituted fresh oregano from my herb garden for the tarragon (sometimes I use marjoram). No matter the substitutions I make, I always include the white pepper. It provides an added level of warmth to the soup that you just can’t achieve with black pepper. The bread and soup made such a hearty lunch. M will be thrilled to have leftovers for his lunch tomorrow!