Baguette

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Today was a perfect bread baking day. We had the first snow flurries of the season. And it isn’t even November. As soon as the bread came out of the oven we had to slice into it, smear on a little butter and munch away. I got the heel of the bread, my favorite. Known in Finnish as the “kantapää.”  My grandfather had to have bread with every meal and in between meals. I remember my grandparents slathering very generous amounts of butter on their bread and then sprinkling it with salt. That was probably in the days before salted butter but even so. Must be where I acquired my love of salt. The baguette is French, not the bread of my childhood, but very simple and very good. There are only four ingredients.   The most time consuming thing is letting the dough rise multiple times. Here we go.

2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 2/3 cups water (Divided)

3 1/2 cups  unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

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Sprinkle yeast into 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and stir to dissolve. Whisk together the flour and salt in a larger bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast.  Use a wooden spoon and draw enough flour into the yeast/water to form a paste. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it froth for 20 minutes.

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I have favorite cotton “bread” towels that I always use.

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After the twenty minutes have passed mix in the remaining flour with a wooden spoon and add the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time, just until you have a nice soft, sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Try to avoid adding extra flour as you knead.

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Put your nicely kneaded ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with your bread towel and let it rise in a warm place free of drafts for about 1 1/2 hours.

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Punch down, re-cover and let rise 45 more minutes.

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Punch down, re-cover and let it rise about 45 more minutes until double in size. That’ll be the third rising.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape. Each should be about 12 inches long. Place them on a lightly floured baking sheet, re-cover and let them rise until doubled in size, about 50 minutes.  Preheat oven to 475.

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Cut several diagonal slashes in each loaf.

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Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

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Slice and enjoy.

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You can have your bread and eat it too.

A few posts back I roasted tomatoes and used them to make pasta sauce. Those same tomatoes with a little olive oil would be delicious on this bread. Or just dip a slice into some olive oil seasoned with fresh ground pepper and a little grated Parmesan.  That will be especially good if you’re lucky enough to get the “kantapää.”

Potato and Corn Chowder with Ham

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Soups are a favorite of mine to make and to eat especially as the weather starts getting cold.   I had ham left over from last night and not a lot of time so this was a perfect soup to make. One of my favorite soups since childhood contained many of the same ingredients as my potato chowder but instead of ham it had fish. We called it “kala mojakka” (Finnish for fish soup).  Sometimes the only parts of the fish the soup contained were the heads but they gave the best flavor to the broth. This from the days when nothing edible went to waste. To me, any soup was “mojakka”. My grandmother made it best.

Potato and Corn Chowder with Ham. It’s what was for dinner tonight.

2 stalks of celery

2 leeks (white and pale green portion only)

1/2 sweet red or orange bell pepper

1/2 large sweet onion

3-4 cloves of garlic

4 T butter

2 T flour

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups diced potatoes (redskins or Yukon)

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup diced ham

1 cup half and half

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Rough chop onion, celery, pepper and leeks.

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Dice the potatoes and rinse well.  (I prefer not to peel the potatoes.)

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In a Dutch oven or heavy kettle melt the butter and sauté the vegetables (onions, celery, pepper and leeks) over medium heat until they are tender, 5 minutes or so.

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Thin slice the garlic and add to the sautéing  vegetables.

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After adding the garlic sauté another minute.  Add in the flour and stir until incorporated with the vegetables.  Stir in the broth, the diced potatoes, the cayenne pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

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Add corn, diced ham and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in one cup of half and half.

Continue to simmer until thoroughly heated.

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Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a little shredded sharp cheddar cheese and some fresh parsley.

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Enjoy!  I told you it was easy and not very time consuming at all. Once again this is a recipe that can be modified based on personal preference or just based on what you have on hand. The soup is excellent with no meat or you can substitute sausage. Cook the sausage ahead of time and put on paper towel to “degrease.”  Add the sausage near the end of the recipe in place of the ham.

I like to serve this soup with homemade croutons but I had no bread. Crackers had to do tonight. I have two bowls of leftover soup. It’s what will be for lunch tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I can make some good bread to go with it. Maybe.