Bread and Soup Note:
More Savory
12 March 2018

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a pair of recipes from Paul Hollywood’s Bread, and what a success I had when I followed them. My next step was to incorporate them in a menu with fried chicken, and perhaps a salad. Yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, I added the chicken, but I held off on the salad because I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to eat any, and still have room for dessert. Dessert was going to be an angel food cake. I am forever using egg yolks and saving the whites in a large Grey Poupon bottle. The bottle was full, and I was resolved to put its contents to good use. 

Because we were too busy for me to do any cooking in advance, I planned to do everything one after the other. Even though, I knew, it would make for a long stint in the kitchen, I felt that I grasped what I’d be doing well enough not to have to give it much thought, and, indeed, there was never a moment of scrambling.

I got the cake out of the way first, of course. I hadn’t made an angel food cake since we moved down to this apartment several years ago, and I couldn’t remember where the tin was. It wasn’t with the other round tins; it wasn’t on top of the kitchen cabinets, nor at the back of one. I was about to give up. It was only when I went looking for a large loaf pan that I found it. A matter of gestalt: the angel food tin is the only one in a cabinet full of them that doesn’t have a 90º corner. I had learned not to see it when I reached for a loaf pan or the madeleine molds. But there it was. 

I follow James Beard’s recipe for angel food, and it is very simple with a stand mixer. First, you beat up the whites, with cream of tartar, sugar, and the flavorings (vanilla and lemon), and when they’re stiff, you reduce the mixing speed to the slowest possible and sprinkle in the blend of cake flour, salt, and more sugar. Baking takes about fifty minutes. The result on Sunday was a lighter cake than any I could remember, and altogether not rubbery. Quite a lovely finish, in the event. 

While the cake was in the oven, I brined drumsticks and thighs. When the cake was done, I whipped up a batter, following a recipe from a Cook’s Illustrated collection, of flour, cornstarch, water, and seasonings. The chicken sat in that until it was time to fry. 

Then I started the bread, also in the stand mixer, and while it was rising, I cooked the soup vegetables in a bit of butter and brought them to a simmer with a tub of Agata & Valentina’s extraordinary chicken stock. When the bread was ready to shape into rolls, I turned off the heat under the soup. While the rolls rose in their tins, I puréed the soup in the Cuisinart and then pushed it through a sieve. Now all it needed was a little bit of milk and a little bit more cream, and a nice saucepan for reheating over a low flame. I would garnish it with snipped chives just before we sat down. 

When the rolls went into the oven, I ought to have started the chicken, but, superstitiously, I waited until our guest arrived. Having a guest was very much a part of the experiment. What I’ve wanted here is not a simple dinner for Kathleen and myself but a more copious, yet still somewhat rustic production for friends. Because of the chicken, we sat down an hour after our guest arrived, which was regrettable on Sunday but which won’t be a problem next time, in a couple of weeks, when a very old friend who used to work with Kathleen will be in town. (She lives in Honolulu.) They won’t miss me for a minute. Nevertheless, I may start the chicken when the rolls go into the oven, just to see how long I can keep things sitting once everything is done. 

It all made for a good dinner, although I have learned two things about the Hollywood recipes. The first is to serve smaller portions of the soup. It is unbelievably filling, and people can always ask for more. The second is that Hollywood calls for far too much Stilton and bacon in his rolls recipe. About a third of his quantities (150 grams of cheese and 90 of cooked bacon) might still be somewhat excessive. Oh, and a third thing: freeze half the dough. 

What I also found to be true, alas, although it didn’t involve learning anything, was that this is not a meal to make right after you’ve cleaned the kitchen. Happily, I hadn’t just cleaned the kitchen. But if any health inspectors were to show up…

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