Hot and Sour Soup with Bread Bowl

This is my entry for this month's Royal Foodie Joust from Jenn, the Leftover Queen. Kittie won last month (congratulations Kittie) and her choices for this month's joust were: *Whole Grain *Ginger *Citrus

I made a crystallized ginger and lemon rind wheat bread with bulgar (whole wheat), and a hot and sour soup with ginger, lemon juice, garnished with popcorn (another whole grain). I formed the bread into a bowl and used it to hold the soup.

I got the inspiration for both recipes from Bon App├ętit magazine, by way of Epicurious, but I adapted them a bit and then threw them together. Still, originals are here: Bread and Soup.

The bread, of course, takes a while to make, so I started with that:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, warmed to 105-ish degrees:

While the milk was warming, I gathered 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, minced:

I used my breadmaker to kneed and rise the dough, because I'm not a big baker and these machines are marvels of breadkneeding technology. So, I poured the milk into the breadmaker along with 1/2 stick butter, warmed to room temperature, 3 tablespoons sugar, and a packet of yeast. This would proof for 8-10 minutes, while I gathered the other ingredients.

While it was proofing, I zested and minced 1 tsp lemon rind. I also took 3 tablespoons of whole wheat, put it in a bag, then smashed it up a bit with the flat part of my meat mallet (to crack it up a bit).

I also measured 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, and 3 cups unbleached white flour.

The yeast had frothed up, so I added in the flour, the rind and ginger, and the whole wheat. I set the breadmachine to "Dough Only" and kicked it on.

1 1/2 hours later, I had a nice, risen dough. It smelled really, good, too! I punched it down, cut it into four pieces, and formed it into round mounds. 30 minutes more under a towel to rise a bit more, and they were ready for the oven. 375F, for 30-40 minutes (until brown and hollow-sounding).

I let the bread cool down, then sliced off the top and pulled out the soft center. I've heard of some cooks putting the hollowed bread back into the oven to toast the insides, but the crust seemed pretty watertight, so I left it the way it was.

Meanwhile, I started the soup. I put 2 cups of chicken stock into a bowl, and added 1oz of dried shiitake mushrooms

These would soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I sliced and minced some Asian trinity -- 2 scallions (green only), 2 cloves garlic, and 1 tablespoon of ginger root.

I squeeze the juice out of the mushrooms, and sliced them thinly.

I also seeded and diced 2 red jalapenos.

In a hot pan, I added a bit of olive oil and sauteed the Asian trinity. Once the smell made the kitchen wonderful, I added the jalapeno, sauteed for another minute, then added the mushroom/chicken broth.

I brought the soup to a light simmer, and added the shiitake. I cut about 6oz firm tofu into cubes, and added them to the soup, then added about 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

In a measuring cup, I added 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (plain, not seasoned), and the juice of one lemon. To this, I added 1 tablespoon corn starch and mixed to a slurry.

Popcorn is actually a whole grain, and even though I had whole wheat in the bread, I wanted a whole grain with the soup. Popcorn is a great soup garnish -- it sucks up the liquid and makes a great taste.

One minute before serving, heat up the soup to a little more aggressive simmer, pour in the cornstarch slurry, and stir for 60 seconds or so until the soup thickens.

Plating: pour soup in bread bowl, reserve the cap (makes a great dunking tool, like the popcorn), and garnish with popcorn.

Deconstruction: This was very tasty. I'm really not a baker, the exact proportions for a good dough will spin my head a bit. This was an easy recipe, though, even with the complexity of the ginger and rind and whole wheat. The breadmaker helped enormously -- I've kneeded dough by hand before, and the little machine did a much better job than I ever would, and I didn't end up coated in flour.

The soup was almost a stew, I could probably have used another cup of chicken stock, except it was really good as a stew. Really meaty and hearty with the tofu and shiitake. The lemon added a great tang with the rice vinegar, too. I was tasting the soup as I was cooking it, and it was getting better and better, and as soon as I added the acid, it was like a light-bulb went off -- this is great! This meal took a while, but it's definitely one to make again.

Todd English's bluezoo, Walt Disney World

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