Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup with Homegrown Sourdough

This month's challenge was the realization of a dream that got me baking and the very inspiration behind the blog title Rise and Shine. Set out a bowl of flour and water and let the mix catch the very yeast that lives in your home. Feed it, care for it and turn it into food for your family. It blows my mind-I love it!

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

This challenge also gives me a chance to showcase one of my favorite recipes of all time: a simple soup that comes together in 15 minutes, is incredibly delicious and highlights this terrific country bread by using it as a thickener.

Jennifer's recipe for French Country Sourdough required me to do many things I have never done before, including but not limited to: Growing my own bread starter, kneading dough that is wet and sloppy with the use of no extra flour, rising dough under a wet bowl, and "proofing" in a towel lined basket which resides temporarily in a blown up garbage bag.

Want to give Jennifer's recipe for French Country Sourdough a try? Here's your link! Give it a go and try not to give up. It's not easy but with patience, it is incredibly rewarding. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Homegrown Sourdough things you should know:

~Jennifer's recipe will give you very exact amounts of flour and water to feed your starter. I found it hard to accomplish as I don't own a kitchen scale and her recipe was clearly originally measured by weight. After doing some research I began feeding my starter approximately equal amounts of flour and water (though not even close to exact) and that's when things got easier and a whole lot less intimidating.

~My starter wasn't growing well at first though I didn't know it. It was creating a few bubbles, but what you are looking for is a lot of bubbles-almost foamy in fact. That's when you know your starter's alive and will give your bread a good rise.

~If your house is really dry and chilly, as mine inevitably is in December in Duluth, try growing your starter inside your oven with the light on. The light creates just enough heat for the yeast to thrive.

~When making the bread, feel free to add a little extra flour here and there if you think things are way too wet, though keep in mind sourdough is meant to be a wetter bread dough than you're used to. This country bread will spread out on your sheet pan almost like a disk. Bake it anyway and (if your starter is alive and well) watch it rise beautifully in the oven. Just don't expect it to be 8 inches tall like your traditional loaf-it's not meant to be.

~I had one majorly inedible fail when trying this bread (imagine a frisbee of dried glue). I also had one miraculous achievement after I was so convinced I had another loaf of garbage on my hands (the unbaked bread nearly went in the trash). That second time around, I stuck it out and was glad I did! Despite some hiccups in the process, I created a beautiful loaf of rustic bread that transformed a regular meal in my house into something wonderful and new for my family.

This soup is super easy to make and tastes amazing. I love making it in the winter when one of my best vegetables options are canned tomatoes. If you don't want to use your homemade sourdough, you can use any type of french baguette.

Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup:

Olive oil for pan and for finishing
One medium red onion, roughly chopped
Five cloves garlic
1/3 cup fresh basil
1 teaspoon capers
1/4 cup kalamata olives
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 small/medium anchovy fillet
1 large can whole tomatoes, with juice
2 cups chicken broth

2 or 3 slices french country bread, gone stale or dried in a 250F oven. For bonus goodness, rub the surface of each slice with a halved clove of fresh garlic.

Cover the bottom of a soup pan generously with olive oil over medium heat. Cook red onion, stirring here and there, for about 10 minutes until beginning to brown. Roughly chop garlic, basil, capers, olives together. Throw the mix in your soup pot along with your red pepper flakes and anchovy (press the filet into the hot center of the pot and begin it's process of breaking up into the sauce-it will gradually dissolve in the next steps). Turn your heat up a notch or two. Cook, stirring, for several minutes until the garlic begins to brown slightly. Add the whole can of tomatoes, crushing each tomato by hand into the pot. Boil rapidly on medium-high for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are thick and fragrant. Add chicken broth and boil for 2 minutes.

Break up your stale bread in bite sized pieces into the bottom of your soup bowls (more bread, or less, depending on how thick you want your soup to be). Pour the hot soup over the top of the bread. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil.

Serves 6.

Eat fresh and enjoy!


  1. I'm definitely intrigued by this soup idea; I'll have to try it!

  2. I definitely want to try the soup! It looks like a great way to use up any bread that's hanging around a day or two after baking.

  3. That soup looks so good! I can't wait to give it a go!

  4. I feel the same way about the concept of a natural starter (water + flour + time = food) - so cool! Your bread looks great and the soup sounds delicious :)

  5. The soup looks yummy! Happy New Year!


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