“Soup is life, soup is love.”
–The Dalai Lama, probably
I told you all that I’d make a part II for that roasted chicken recipe, and I’ve decided to be accountable. Because it’s soup… and I was making it anyway, and it’s something to be shared. Is it not?
Something about standing over a simmering pot of soup with bread in the oven makes me feel like a cook for a very fine house, somewhere in Europe a very long time ago– which is admittedly much more rosy in my mind than I’m sure it would have been in reality. Or, if it’s been a bad day… I’m probably a witch standing over her cauldron. Either way, it’s an imaginative, soul-building experience that I turn to as often as possible. And this may be unique to me, but oftentimes after spending hours cooking something, I don’t want to eat the food once it’s done. I have no clue why that is, but I know that it doesn’t apply with soup. Many meals lose appeal to me just after cooking it, but soup never has! It’s a warm, comforting reward for my work. Enjoying a bowl of soup is the food equivalent of someone wrapping a soft blanket around you after a long day. And this recipe is THE softest of blankets. Nothing spells out comfort better than chicken noodle soup.
And, please, do not be scared of this bread. It is easier to make than it looks! The technique is similar to what I described in my sourdough recipe, but it’s less time and hassle… and there’s no starter needed. Even if you have trouble forming it just right, you will still end up with a delicious loaf, no matter how it looks. Eventually I’ll get around to making a video on the kneading method I use, but there are hundreds of variations out there that will work just fine. Be warned, though: once you have created your first successful loaf of bread, the alchemy of gluten forming can become addictive. At least flour is cheap, right?
Rustic Chicken Noodle Soup
For the noodles:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 pinch baking powder
2 T cream or half and half
For the soup:
1 T olive oil
4 quarts chicken or vegetable broth (I use mine made from a chicken carcass and vegetable scraps)
5 stalks celery
1 large leek
1/2- 1 large white or yellow onion
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
2-3 c. cooked, chopped chicken (either the leftovers from your roasted chicken, or two boneless, skinless breasts, cooked and chopped or shredded)
My broth had plenty of fat and herbs already, but if you’re using plain storebought, add:
1 T olive oil
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. black pepper
salt to taste
For the Noodles:
Whisk together all dry noodle ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and create a “well” with the back of a spoon. Add the egg and mix together with a fork or your fingers until the texture resembles fine crumbs. Add the cream 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. The dough should be very dry and somewhat crumbly, but should hold together with enough kneading. Once you have a ball of smooth, dense dough, use your hands to flatten it into a disk, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest about 10 minutes. After the dough has rested, roll it as thin as you can, cover, and let rest again. Repeat this process until you are able to get the dough to about 1/8 in. thick. Transfer the dough sheet to a cutting board, and use a very sharp knife to cut into noodles about 1/4 inch wide (length is up to you). Let them air dry at least one hour. Once noodles have dried, add to boiling soup and let cook ten minutes or until tender and fluffy.
For the Soup:
While the noodles are drying, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot to medium heat. Finely chop onions, carrots and celery. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of the pan, and add chopped vegetables. Stir fry vegetables over medium-high heat until onions are translucent and carrots have browned slightly on some edges. Add broth. Bring broth and vegetables to a simmer and cook until carrots and celery are almost soft–the veggie version of al dente. Wash your leeks thoroughly and slice thinly. Add to simmering broth and cook for 5 minutes. At this point, taste your soup and add herbs, salt, and pepper as needed. Sometimes a pinch of cayenne or a squeeze of lemon can be all the difference in the world.
Turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Add dried noodles all at once, and boil until soft, about ten minutes. Add cooked chicken and parsley, and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Taste again and adjust as needed. Serve hot with crusty bread!
Overnight Crusty Bread — Cheater “Sourdough”
3 1/2- 4 c. bread flour*
1/2-1 t. dry yeast (1/2 t. if relatively fresh, 1 t. if fairly old)
1 3/4 c. warm water
2 t salt.
In a large bowl, combine 3 1/2 c. bread flour with yeast. Add 1 1/2 c. warm water and use your hands to combine until the mixture has no pockets of flour or water left. It should still be a bit lumpy and quite wet. If the mixture is at all dry, add more water and mix/knead it in. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest at least 10 hours (more if it’s cold), or overnight.
After the dough has rested, it should be significantly larger, with lots of air bubbles on the surface and throughout. Before touching the dough, remove plastic wrap and add sprinkle the salt on top. Then pour over the last 1/4 c. of warm water to quickly dissolve the majority of the salt before punching down the dough and roughly mixing it in. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, dry, non-porous, and NON floured surface. You do not want to add extra flour if you can help it. It should be quite sticky. Knead the dough (you may need to utilize a scraper for assistance) until the excess water and salt are fully combined, and the dough is smooth and elastic (while still quite wet.) Form a “ball” by stretching the edges of the dough towards the center and turning over.
Cover the, probably a bit flattened, ball with plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes. After resting, remove plastic wrap and stretch the four “sides” (I know it’s a circle, but just pretend) toward the center, and repeat until you feel the dough becoming more stretchy. Cover and let rest again, repeating the rest-knead cycle two more times or until the dough has enough gluten development to hold its shape for a few minutes without completely flattening. At this point, flour your work surface, and reshape the dough into a ball, stretching until the outside until it feels sort of tight and smooth.
In a medium-sized bowl, place a kitchen towel, smooth side up (if there’s a “fuzzy” side), and sprinkle liberally with flour. Turn the dough ball upside-down and place in the bowl, covering with the excess towel fabric to rise one last time. Preheat the oven to 450, with your dutch oven inside. Let the bread rise until the oven is heated, at least 30 minutes. Uncover the risen dough ball and turn it onto a square of parchment paper (make sure to cut a square or rectangle large enough to have some excess on the sides).
Remove the dutch oven from your preheated oven, and remove the lid. Carefully place the dough ball in the oven, holding the edges of the parchment paper, so you don’t burn yourself. Use a razor blade or clean X-acto knife to cut an X into the top of the bread. If you don’t score the bread, it will crack naturally on top, which is just fine as well. Spritz the dough ball with a fine mist of water, and replace the lid on top. Place back into the heated oven and reduce heat to 400. Bake for 30 minutes, and then remove the lid. Bake until the top reaches a desired brown-ness, at least 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest at least 20 minutes before slicing.