Thursday, January 19, 2012

Recipes: French Bread and Chicken Soup

Today I thought I'd share a couple of our favorite recipes.  The first one is for French Bread.  I originally found it in a Taste of Home magazine but found out it's from a fellow blogger.  Here's the recipe on Taste of Home  http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/French-Loaves and here is the blog http://www.mykidskitchen.net/ .
I realize you now have the recipe but I thought I'd add some of my pictures and some tips I have found helpful!
French Loaves
Before I start mixing I turn my oven on at 350 degrees farenheit to prepare a warm spot (the stovetop) for my dough to rise.

I have started using my KitchenAide with the bread hook attachment to make the bread but I still end up dumping the dough out and kneading it some more on the counter because my dough tends to climb the hook and I just like to get my hands on the dough because I can feel when it's at the right texture.  It's smooth on the outside but stretchy when you pull it apart.   I find that I get the texture I want, crisp crust and chewy inside, when I knead the heck out of the dough!
So I put the salt, sugar, yeast and warm water into my mixing bowl and mix gently to break up the yeast.  Then I give it a minute to make sure the yeast is going to start eating the sugar, causing little oxygen bubbles.  Does everyone remember that from Home Ec class? 
Once I have made sure the yeast is alive I begin adding flour and mixing.  I normally end up needing all of the flour in the recipe plus a little more as I knead it at the end.   I mix it as much as I can in my mixer and then dump it out on my counter and start kneading it.  When I knead dough I fold the ball of dough over towards me and then push it away with the heel of my hand then fold it back towards me again.  I keep adding flour as needed so it's not sticky but not so much that it's not moist on the inside.  The outside of the dough is smooth and slightly powdery.  I return my dough to the mixing bowl and cover it with a towel.  I have a smaller-sized towel that my grandma gave me that I like to use and I store it in my mixing bowl.  Place the bowl in a warm, but not hot area to let the dough rise.  As I noted earlier, I had turned on my oven to warm up the top of the stove.  At this time I turn the oven back off and the residual heat from my oven keeps the dough warm.  Let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Yes, that's 6:26 am.  Don't get too excited.  I only wish I got up this early all the time to bake bread.


Dough after it has risen
That is some happy gluten!  I like to see this because it means it's been kneaded properly!

 After the dough has risen, cut it into two similar sized pieces.  Then take one piece and flatten it a little or sometimes I hang it from one side to stretch it out a little. 

Then I roll the dough into loaves.  I roll it tightly at first so I won't get big air pockets in my bread. 

When I get to the end I pinch the dough together and tuck the ends in and pinch the ends together as well. 



Then I flip it over, seam side down on my baking sheet.  Let the loaves rise for another 30 minutes, keeping them covered.

Somewhere in this half hour I turn my oven back on to the baking temperature of 450 degrees farenheit.  The recipe calls for a sprinkling of cornmeal at this point.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't...  When the loaves are done rising I put them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden-brown. 




Chicken Soup
I use this recipe as a guideline for my soup and then make it to suit what ingredients we have or like in our soup.  This website has LOTS of good recipes for healthy, homestyle foods and I also use their laundry soap recipe.
This recipe uses a whole chicken  http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/homemadechickensouppics.htm  and produces it's own broth, but I think you could easily use leftover chicken or pieces of chicken. 
I didn't get pictures of my soup making this time. I was in a hurry preparing to travel out of town, so maybe next time I can get some pictures.  I had one of the chickens my parents butchered.  I've cooked two or three of them and they tend to be pretty fatty so I decided to cut most of the skin off of this one and also removed the neck.  I think raw (and sometimes cooked) chicken is disgusting but since nobody else is around to make me dinner I just buckled down and did it.  Once you get going you kind of forget what you are doing and focus more on just getting it done.  So I now had my whole chicken, no skin, no neck and rinsed in cold water and I put it in my big enamel ware soup pot and covered it with cold water, added 1 1/2 Tbsp of salt and put it on to boil.  With the lid on I have found I can keep it on med-low to keep it simmering without having it overflow.
As the chicken cooks I cut up an onion, a bunch of carrots and some celery.  Sometimes we add peas or beans depending on what sounds good and what we have in the freezer.  I throw it all in a bowl and keep it in the fridge until the chicken is done.  And I normally cook the chicken for 2 hours instead 4 because I like the meat to have a bit of a firmer texture than if it's cooked until it's falling apart. 
Once the chicken is done, if I can, I lift the chicken out of the pot and put it in a bowl to pick apart.  If it is coming apart and can't be lifted then I pour it into a colander inside of a pot. (Don't pour your broth down the drain by accident!)  Then I like to pour my broth through a mesh strainer because like I said before, I get a little grossed out by chicken and I want to get all the little "bits" strained out.   If you have time you can put the broth in the fridge so the fat turns into a solid and can be skimmed off the top. 
Ok, so where are we?  Broth in the soup pot.  Add the veggies, poultry seasoning, and chicken bouillon to broth and simmer about 20 minutes until veggies are tender.  In the meantime get the chicken meat picked off the bones and chopped into bite-size pieces.  Add chicken and pasta to the soup and simmer until pasta is cooked.  I like to use bow-tie pasta because it seems to hold it's texture better which I like when we eat the leftovers.  I have also cooked the pasta seperately and then we put the pasta we want in our bowl and spoon the soup over the top so if we have too many leftovers they can be frozen and pasta added the next time we eat the soup. 
Taste your soup and add any additional seasonings.  Then we eat with thick slices of French Bread.  So yummy!  This is one of the recipes I know I can make and my whole family will eat it!
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