Bread and Soup Note:
Essence of Savory
23 February 2018

Last month, I mentioned Paul Hollywood’s Bread, and, at the end of the entry, I wrote that I was looking forward to making his Stilton-and-bacon rolls, the recipe for which he pairs with one for celery soup. This afternoon, I gave both a try, and I was wowed by the result. 

The rolls and the soup are easy to make together. Hollywood’s proportions yield a very light roll, but any dinner-roll recipe will do. Begin by starting the dough and letting it rise. Then prepare the soup vegetables — celery, leek, and a potato — and cook them for a few minutes in a knob of butter. Add broth, bring to the boil, and simmer gently. When the potato pieces are tender, turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool. To hurry this along a bit, strain the soup over a bowl, reserving the solids in the strainer. If the strainer is fine enough, you can use it for the penultimate step, which is sieving the puréed solids into the liquids for reheating.

But that comes later. Now it’s time to cook some bacon. The recipe calls for 90 grams of cooked bacon. I wound up with about half that and was satisfied, but next time I’ll cook six thick slices, which ought to do it. When the bacon is cooked and drained, crumble it on a work surface along with 150 grams of Stilton cheese. When the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and so forth.

Hollywood offers detailed steps, and clear pictures, for shaping the rolls, but I decided to proceed as though I knew what I was doing. I pressed the dough out into a rectangle, as though I were working with pizza dough, and sprinkled a third of the crumbled cheese-and bacon mixture onto the middle third of the dough. Then I folded the two outer flaps over it, and poked at the resulting packet with my fingers. Then I rolled this out into a rectangle again and repeated the process. And I did it a third time. Now I rolled the dough out into a log, as evenly cylindrical as I could manage, and I cut it in half. I cut each of the halves in half. And I did this, too, a third time. There were now sixteen pieces of dough. As I would do with dinner rolls, I rolled the pieces into balls and arranged them, eight each (one in the center, surrounded by seven), in buttered layer-cake tins. Hollywood bakes the balls on parchment paper, but cake tins take up less oven room. 

While the rolls undergo the second rise, purée the soup solids for about four minutes. Then push the purée through a fine sieve into the liquids. For me, this step is more mindless than tedious. I scrape the ever-dwindling solids back and forth across the bowl of the sieve. Soon enough, the remaining solids firm up, and when they form a mass that’s not much bigger than a golf ball, I throw them away. While the rolls bake in a 375º oven, reheat the soup with a dollop of heavy cream. Snip chives into soup bowls. 

Depending on appetites, this combo will feed five or six people — amply, if you add a light salad. Although not much thicker than milk, the soup is extraordinarily filling, and so are the rolls, which of course make the ideal utensils for swabbing the bottom of the soup bowl. So perfectly suited are the flavors of the ingredients that they melt into an essence of savory.

By the way, the roast squash that I spoke of in the earlier Hollywood entry does indeed make a very good soup. Ordinarily, I make a squash soup with onion and apple, currying the cooking butter and working on the stovetop. Roasting the squash in cumin and olive oil, with a dash of pepper flakes, yields a deeper, darker soup. If you can’t decide which one to make, let the rest of what you’re doing make the decision for you. Is your stovetop going to covered with other cooking vessels, or will your oven be tied up? 

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