Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Creamy Corn and Zucchini Soup with Sourdough Bread

Yesterday I made bread again. (I did warn you.) This time, I made Pain de Campagne from Daniel Leader's Local Breads, except I made it with all regular bread flour, rather than adding a bit of rye and whole wheat. It's made from a sourdough starter, a liquid levain, which only took a week to be fully ready to use. Not bad, really.

I was pretty pleased with the turnout this time, but it was interesting along the way. I'd heard that sourdough rises late - meaning it sits around the first half of the rising time and then gets on its way - but it was still unexpected. During the second rise, after my loaves were shaped, I didn't notice much change in height. I'd been careful not to let too much of the gas release when I shaped them into loaves, but I expected something to go on in the next hour and a half. It may be a bit difficult to see from the picture, but these loaves are not very tall...maybe an inch or so. After leaving them for even longer than the suggested 1 to 1 1/2 hours, I decided to go for it and accept my failure if nothing happened in the oven.

During the first 3 minutes of oven time, it's really important to introduce as much steam as possible to the bread. This keeps the top of the bread from forming a crust too early, which allows it to rise longer. Often, I can literally watch the bread rising during this period, which I find absolutely fascinating. I still had some hope that my sourdough would jump up during these first few minutes and I wouldn't have to stick my head in the sand, but after the final introduction of steam, I still hadn't seen more than maybe a quarter inch rise in the oven. So discouraging. I walked away.

Five minutes later, I returned to two lovely, tall loaves. Not Empire State Building tall, of course, but it wasn't that kind of a loaf. They'd somehow risen after I walked away, probably intentionally waiting for me to turn my back. It was a nice surprise.

Like all good sourdoughs, the bread has a very chewy, connected feel. Substantial yet well-risen. Lots more good holes that the last loaf, too, which was a result from long rises as well as making slits in the top. If you don't make slits in the top, the membrane of the upper crust suppresses the leavening inside, while slits will allow it to jump up in certain areas, creating a less uniform rise. Just what I was looking for. I'll have to try that with the Ciabatta again, where I hope to find a more dramatic increase. I can't wait.

Now to the soup.

Since I keep making bread, unless I want to eat myself to death, I need some lighter meals. Soup is the obvious choice, especially being a girl. I found inspiration from Rick Bayless (not really surprising, is it?). He has a lovely recipe in Mexican Kitchen which I didn't follow whatsoever but was a really good inspiration. My sister Michele recommended it to me, and it involves blending corn and milk together and straining them, which is the only part of the recipe I was interested in, based mainly on what was available in my house.

Being a lover of creamy soups, this hit the spot without being too heavy or too starchy. It's slightly thick naturally, sweet, and simple enough. And to top it all off, it's really good made with frozen corn (choose a quality product, please), though I'm sure it's wonderful with fresh corn. So here's the recipe, though I'll admit right off that I didn't measure everything out exactly out, but the measurements should be quite close.

Creamy Corn and Zucchini Soup

1 1/2 T. olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano chiles, chopped
5 cups sweet corn, thawed if frozen
5 cups whole milk (it won't be really creamy unless you use whole least go for 2%)
1/2 c. chicken broth (if you have it could leave this out or add more milk)
2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/2" squares
Kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the celery, garlic, and chiles. Sauté for about 5 minutes with a pinch of salt, until softened and the garlic is quite fragrant (slightly roasty), but not burnt.

Set the pan off the heat, then scoop the sautéed ingredients out of the saucepan, leaving the oil behind, and place them in the blender along with the corn and 3 cups of milk (you may need to do this in two stages as your blender will be quite full). Blend until smooth.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and set a strainer over the saucepan. Pour the blended corn mixture back into the saucepan, straining it as you go, and stirring the mixture back into the oil to keep it from burning. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for one minute and season with salt. Add the zucchini and continue to cook, just barely simmering, until the zucchini is done to desired consistency.

Serve. Tonight!


Di~ said...

Hi Rachel:
I made a blueberry muffins recipe tonight, they turned out flat! Could it be because I used butter instead of margarine, the baking powder could be old??? hmmm They are good tho' I'm stumped.
~D Spack~

Rachel said...


Muffins get their leavening from egg whites and baking powder, so if you used the right amount of eggs, there are really only two other possibilities: the baking powder wasn't working (because it was old or because you let your batter sit for quite a while before baking), or the ingredients were too heavy for the leavening. Have you used the recipe before?

Butter is just a bit heavier than margarine, but I use it all the time in muffins, so I doubt that's an issue.