Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tuscan Bread Soup

A few days ago I made some whole wheat yeast bread. It's been a number of years since I made yeast bread, and I made a few mistakes. So what I ended up with was a good tasting bread that rose, but fell during the baking process. I'm a good cook and can make terrific quick breads, but yeast breads have always been tricky for me.

I was talking to Lydia, the Amish farmwife we visit, and she confesses to messing up with bread too--especially whole wheat bread. I was glad to hear that others have the same sorts of problems I do. Makes me feel a tad less like an idiot.
At any rate, what to do with this weird bread? It tasted fine, so I didn't want to give it to the ducks or the dogs or even my compost. I then remembered a recipe for a basic Italian bread soup, I believe from Tuscany. Here's my basic recipe:

Tuscan Bread Soup

1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic minced (we like garlic, you can use as much or little as you like)
2 stalks celery, chopped
olive oil
1 can chicken broth (or homemade stock if you have it)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chili beans (or black beans, white beans or no beans)
handful of lambsquarters leaves (or any green you have on hand)
chunks of bread--toasted first if you prefer
parmesean cheese
oregano, thyme, parsley, lemon pepper, hot red pepper flakes

First, remember this is a soup. Soups are the ultimate in flexible cooking. Whatever you've got handy is what you add to the soup. The basic recipe here is bread, tomatoes and water or broth. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. I wanted a tomato-y, brothy yet filling soup with lots of herbs in it. So that's what I did, but you can do it however you want. If you have some stale bread that you don't want to toss, this is a nice warming soup for wintertime. It tastes great and the hot pepper flakes will make sure it warms you.

Saute the onions, garlic and celery in a tablespoon or so of oil. Add the chicken broth, some water, diced tomatoes, beans, greens if you've got some, Italian herbs whichever you prefer, a bouillon cube if you want to enhance the flavor, and bread. In about a half hour, you've got a good soup. Serve it with some parmesean cheese sprinkled on top. YUM.

Here's the basic recipe. Add what you like, but the tomatoes and the bread make this soup what it is. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

I've been baking yeast bread for 30+ years. But, when I started making all whole wheat bread it was a failure. Then, I read as a footnote in some recipe book to use Vital Wheat Gluten and baking powder. For 2 loaves I use 1/4 cup Vital Wheat Gluten and 1 teaspoon baking powder. The loaves come out light, well risen and just yummy.

On the other hand, when my bread fails, I use it for bread pudding, coutons, french bread, and Tuscan soup,etc.

Patricia said...

Vital Wheat Gluten? That's a new one to me. Thanks!

Wretha said...

Your recipe inspired me to make my own version using what I had on hand.

Into the pot went:
1 can of chicken stock
1 can of chicken
1 can of carrots (juice and all)
1 onion, cut up and sauteed
1 tablespoon minced garlic sauteed
some salt, pepper, dried parsley

I sauteed the onion and garlic until softened and slightly browned, then added all the other ingredients, I simmered for a while. I had some left over homemade bread (I use a bread machine, it takes most of the guess work away), my hubby liked it with the bread, I preferred adding crackers, I guarantee it was GOOD EATS!

Today we will be having homemade pizza, the dough will be made in the bread machine. :)


Patricia said...

Hey Wretha--maybe I'll get lucky and find a good used bread machine this year. I've never had very good luck with yeast breads. Now soup, soup I can do!

Wretha said...

I did get lucky, a friend gave her bread machine to me, she said she didn't have the counter space for it and just didn't use it any more. It looks brand new and works great. The biggest problem I have is the inverter I use in my off grid system is not good for bread machines or anything with a computer chip or clock (when I plug in my alarm clock, it runs way too fast), I don't have the funds available to buy a pure sine wave inverter... so I make bread at my neighbor's house. :)

Hope you can get a bread machine, maybe for Christmas, they aren't really that expensive any more.