Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup and Rustic White Bread

When the pumpkin was done roasting and being pureed I checked the time and decided that it was a little too early to start the soup.  Since homemade bread alongside homemade soup is a wonderful end to working outside on a chilly, drizzly day, and since I had plenty of time for it to rise before dinner, I decided to make some.  I chose this really easy looking recipe (it only has four ingredients) that I had marked ages ago from Smitten Kitchen's site.

It was as easy as it had looked.  Of course I still made adaptations, which I have a habit of doing.  I always have good intentions when I'm making a recipe for the first time.  When I start out I plan on following the measurements and instructions to the letter, and I nearly always end up modifying it somehow.  It seems that I can't help myself.  For this recipe I changed the method a bit (see Smitten Kitchen's site for the original version).

While the bread dough was rising, I started making the soup.  It was still a bit early but the Storm Sprite was sleeping, and when soup simmers gently on the stove for a while it allows the flavors to mingle even more.  I'm not sure where I originally saw this recipe, I do know that I've had it for a while.  This is another one that I modified as I went (it's a curse! I can't help it!).

When I think of pumpkins I never think of savory things.  My thoughts immediately jump instead to pies and breads and puddings and ice creams.  I am going to have to change this habit now, because this soup was delicious.  We all enjoyed it, even Little Man.  His bowl had frozen corn thrown in to help cool it off, and I may just add corn to the ingredient list next time.  It added visual appeal and I believe it would go nicely with the other elements of the soup.

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
2 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups beef broth
3 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 pound cooked ham cut into 1/8-inch dice
Garnish: sour cream and coarsely chopped lightly toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
InstructionsIn a food processor coarsely puree beans with the tomatoes.

In a large pot, cook onion, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over medium heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in bean and tomato puree. Stir in broth and pumpkin.  Simmer uncovered and stirring occasionally for 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving, add ham, stirring until heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Serve soup garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Rustic White Bread
2 cups warm tap water about 110 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup flour for dusting the loaves
Cornmeal for the pans
 InstructionsTo mix dough place 5 1/4 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add water and yeast and mix on low speed to form a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Incorporate the remaining flour a tablespoon at time if the dough is too soft.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning dough over so the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled. 

To shape loaves, press the dough down to deflate it. Divide the dough in half, shaping one piece at a time. Place half the dough on a well floured surface and press it into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate the dough 90° and roll it up again from the short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.
Dust pan with cornmeal. Working from the middle of the loaf outward, roll each piece of dough under your palms until it is the desired length.  Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/3 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled.
Preheat oven to 500° and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.

Right before placing the loafs in the oven, use a very sharp knife to make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf.  Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450°.
After loaves have baked for 20 minutes lower temperature to 350° and continue baking 20 - 30 minutes longer, or until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 220°. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.

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