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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I could blather on about butternut squash soup and paint a pretty picture of chopping farm fresh vegetables in the warmth of a cozy kitchen while the cold winds blow outside in the blueness of Winter but I know what you really want is the recipe, right? So, without further adieu, I present you the...



1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
2-3 slices thick cut smoked bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stock, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 poblano chili, roasted and skin removed
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted and skin removed
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 kaffir lime leaf (not essential but it give it a Thai flavor)
1 TB madras curry powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

ROAST THE SQUASH - Preheat oven to 400˚
With a sharp chef's knife halve the squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and (toast them for a snack!) or discard. Place the halves cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake for about an hour or until flesh is very tender when pierced with a knife. Once the squash is cool enough to handle scrape out the flesh and set aside.

While the squash is roasting char the peppers over an open flame or under a broiler until the skin blackens. Place peppers in a container, bag or bowl covered with a plate and steam for about five minutes. Rub off skin under running water then chop and set aside.

Heat a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot to medium and add the bacon and cook until browned. Remove all but a tablespoon of fat then add the carrots, celery, onion, peppers and garlic. Saute until softened then add the spices and cook a minute or two, stirring constantly. 

Add the squash, bay leaves, kaffir if using, and chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a medium simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until flavors develop and everything is nice a soft.

Once you're happy with the flavor, remove the kaffir and bay leaves and process with an immersion blender or whiz the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. There's no rule you have to do this if you'd prefer it chunky. It's a very forgiving soup! Adjust salt at this point and serve with a dollop of crema (Mexican sour cream) or just regular sour cream. A sprinkling of fresh cilantro would be great...or nothing at all. It's up to you! Pictured, it was served with hot Italian sausage and collard greens (what I had on hand) but most of the time I like to eat it with toasted home baked sourdough bread topped with mashed avocado. Makes a healthy satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sourdough Sesame Seed Hamburger Buns

Ever wanted to make your own hamburger buns?

Yeah, me neither. I'm kidding. But I hadn't thought of it until I had a dire need to do something with the growing supply of sourdough starter accumulating in my ice box. Because as of late, I've decided to get back to baking and made my own starter. As a result have a LOT of it. So, in an effort to purge my increasing supply I opted to make burger buns since we love burgers. 

Highbrow "artisan" burger joints tend feature fancy fresh baked brioche buns. Shiny and browned to perfection. They look fancy but you can make these at home. They're easy!

I've found a recipe that produces flavorful, light yet sturdy buns and makes good use of my excess starter! That being said, sourdough starter it is not required. But it is worth the effort to make it as you'll have many, many other wonderful uses for it. Plus there's the bragging rights. Here's an excellent video on how to make your own. Enjoy the eye candy on the way to the recipe below.

(adapted from a recipe in The New York Times for Light Brioche Buns)

1 cup warm milk
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sourdough starter (optional)
1 TB sugar
1½ tsp salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour
2½ TB unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg beaten with 1 TB water
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (or sprinkle on desired amount)


Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; combine the milk, yeast, sourdough starter if using, sugar, salt and 1 egg. Mix briefly to combine. Add the flour to the bowl, and mix until incorporated. Mix in the butter. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes. The dough will be soft and tacky, but adding too much extra flour will make the buns tough.
(Of course you can do this all by hand but in my case I opted for machinery).

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a dough scraper or a sharp chef's knife to divide the dough into eight equal parts. Gently form into a tight ball using the stretch and fold technique and place on the baking sheet, 3 inches apart. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 1-2 hours, until puffed up and nearly doubled.

Set a large metal pan of water (2-3 cups) on the lowest rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F with a rack in the center. Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake the buns about 15 minutes rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

You needn't limit your enjoyment to burgers alone...these make excellent sandwich buns!