Serious Eats: Recipes

Classic Cookbooks: Tuscan Tomato Soup and Homemade French Bread

The first time I really sat down and read Entertaining was when I was planning my wedding. I opened it looking for ideas and closed it thinking, “Yes, I could make all the food for our wedding, wouldn’t that be personal and fun?” Everyone talked some sense into me, thank goodness, and my self-catering ambitions were quietly dropped.

Don’t let this story deter you. Among the delusion-inspiring accounts of “Desserts for Forty: Soirée Dansante” and “Cocktails for Two Hundred: Country Fare,” one can find in this book ideas for relatively simple dinners at home. Last week I made tomato soup and French bread. I was too tired to make the green salad I had planned, but with a piece of Gruyère the soup and bread made a very pleasing meal indeed.

A note about the bread: this was my first attempt at a baguette, so I don’t know all the tricks. What came out of my oven was yummy and homemade, but it was nothing like French bread: no air pockets, no special texture, lost its crustiness overnight. Stewart says her recipe is based on Julia Child’s, and I cut the recipe in half (the quantities given below are for the half-recipe). I look forward to playing around with this. She shows you how to form the bread into baguettes, wreaths, branches, braids, and rolls, which is lots of fun. I made two fat little branches and a baguette and was very impressed with my handiwork, even if it was not-quite-ready-for-prime-time.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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