One of my favorite reasons for living in Minnesota is the changing of the seasons. After the lush heat of summer and autumn’s blaze of glory, I welcome the quiet of winter. There’s something calming about the black-and-white landscape and the downy quilt of snow that gently settles over the earth.
Wintertide with its sharp cold and bitter wind calls for hearty food. Who better to provide it than Minnesota cooking guru Beatrice Ojakangas. In her new release, “The Soup & Bread Cookbook,” Ojakangas shares more than 100 satisfying soup and bread pairings.
The James Beard Cookbook Hall of Famer’s love of soup dates back to her childhood when her mother gave her some words of advice: You can never go wrong ordering soup. And then, of course, there should be bread to go with it.
Ojakangas has been sampling soup ever since. In her new cookbook, she takes the reader along on her “soup travels,” providing delicious tastes from throughout the world and teaching how to make them at home. Her recipes are rooted in the rhythm of Minnesota seasons — from hearty winter fare to the cool, refreshing soups of summer. Inspiration for her soups, stews and chowders come from farmers markets and local organic grocery stores.
I love the idea of pairing soup and bread. Seriously, is there anything better? I so enjoy curling up with a good cookbook. I read them like novels. I devour the photos, savor the list of ingredients and imagine the play of tastes across my tongue. I seldom actually make anything, but I hold dear the idea that I could.
When it comes to perfect pairings, Ojakangas has hit a home run. How about New Potato Spring Pea Soup with chive-dill batter bread, Spicy Mango Melon Soup with Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, Chicken and Dumpling Soup with Dutch Raisin Bread, or Asia Lemon-Ginger Soup with Sesame Sunflower Breadsticks? Hmmm, so good.
Whatever your taste buds crave, Ojakangas has a winning combo for you. The Splendid Table, public radio’s culinary culture and lifestyle program, has offered the best recommendation for the cookbook: “banish the Campbell’s from your cupboard forever.”
Interested in tasting a recipe before splurging on the book? One of Ojakangas’ pairings that I think will appeal to Leader readers is German Potato Soup with Pumpernickel Soup Bowls.
GERMAN POTATO SOUP
Soup served in a bread bowl has been a novelty on restaurant menus for as long as I can remember. It can really be done with any bread with a firm crust and with any soup. This combination is inspired by the classic Bavarian pairing. Makes 6 servings.
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 cups basic chicken stock or two for one beef stock or low-sodium store bought
4 large boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup whole or 2-percent milk
1 cup shredded cooked corned beef
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
Pumpernickel soup bowls (see next recipe)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and potatoes. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sour cream and milk. Add a little hot soup to the mixture; then stir the mixture into the pot of soup. Add the corned beef to the soup and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cheese.
3. Ladle the soup into the bread bowls and top with the toasted lid of the bread bowl. Garnish with parsley and serve.
PUMPERNICKEL SOUP BOWLS
You’ll need to make these bread bowls before you cook the soup. Allow about 4 hours to prepare them or make them a day ahead. Makes 6 soup bowls.
1/2 cup plus 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 package (1/4 ounce) or 1 scant tablespoon of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 cup unbleached bread flour
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, plus melted butter for brushing on the loaves
1. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the warm water, the yeast and molasses. Set aside until the mixture begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
2. In a food processor or bowl, combine the whole wheat, rye and bread flours, dry milk, caraway seeds, salt and butter. Stir in the 1 1/4 cups warm water along with the yeast mixture to make a stiff dough. Add more water if necessary to make a dough that is soft and pliable. Or, process the dough in the food processor until it comes together in a ball and spins around the bowl about 25 times. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turn to coat, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts. Shape each part into a round ball Place on 2 greased baking sheets and let rice until puff, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Brush the loaves with water and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean and dry, 25 to 35 minutes. Brush with melted butter and cool completely on a rack.
7. To serve, slice a shallow cap off the top of each loaf. Remove the soft interior of the loaves and reserve for another use. Brush the cut side of the cap with butter and toast under the broiler until heated through.