Monday, January 25, 2010

A fireside supper

Hearty cranberry-raisin-nut bread and savory pumpkin soup are the perfect ingredients for a cozy lunch or a casual dinner by the fire.

We use the fireplace constantly in the wintertime, and dipping this crusty bread into soup is an easy meal to eat sitting on the floor or the sofa.

Bread-making really intimidates me, but this is a straight-forward recipe, and it makes a perfect breakfast. And the soup is just combining ingredients and heating them up.

Cranberry-Raisin-Nut Bread
Makes two loaves
  • 2-1/4 cups warm water (about 110°), divided
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing bowls and pans
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Butter a large bowl.

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over 1/2 cup of the warm water. Add one tablespoon honey, and stir until yeast is dissolved. Let sit for about 5 minutes, until foamy. If the yeast doesn't foam, it's not fresh enough.

Transfer to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add melted butter, remaining warm water, remaining honey, salt, and 3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until combined, about a minute. Mix in cranberries, raisins, and pecans. Add remaining four cups of flour, one cup at a time. Dough will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove dough from mixing bowl, transfer to a floured surface, and knead with well-floured hands. Use the heels of your hands to compress and push the dough away from you, then fold it back over on itself. Turn the dough and compress and fold again. Do this for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth and only slightly sticky. If you can stretch the dough thin without it breaking, you're done kneading.

Shape dough into a ball, and place into the buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot, and let rise about an hour, until it's doubled in size. Punch the dough back down.

Butter two loaf pans (I used 9"x5" glass pans). Preheat oven to 400°.

Place dough on a floured surface, and cut in half evenly. Shape each half into a 9"-wide triangle (the length of your loaf pans). Fold the ends in, and press to seal. Place each roll into a loaf pan, and arrange it so that it fills the pan nicely. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise 45 minutes or an hour, until the loaves are half an inch to an inch about the tops of the pans. Brush the tops with melted butter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

Remove loaves from the pans a few minutes after you take them out of the oven.

Pumpkin Soup
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • 30 ounces (one giant can or two large cans) pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup molasses or 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • goat cheese or blue cheese, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except cheese, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with blue cheese or goat cheese.


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