Category Archives: Soup and Bread!

November 17 is Homemade Bread Day and Soup is awesome on a cold fall day. This is the perfect time to hone your techniques for both.

Crawdad Bisque

 Recipe and photographs by Gayle Hurmuses

This recipe is based on one that I originally had in Halifax, NS, at Cafe Chianti, in 2008, while in town for a conference. I happened to be there the first night and tried the lobster bisque, which took me back to the restaurant twice more during my 4 day stay.

Vegetables for bisque
Vegetables for bisque

It’s been a long time since I was there, so not sure if this is quite as good as the original, but it’s satisfying to me and regularly complimented.

Crawdads (or Crayfish)
Crawdads (or Crayfish)

I normally make this recipe with lobster, as per the original, but on the day that photos were shot, I was using crayfish, hence “crawdads” in the title.






Trapping Wild Sourdough Yeast

Trapping a wild yeast culture is the first step in making true sourdough bread and easy as could be. Please note that these instructions call for milk to be used, but I have also successfully grown yeast in flour and water. The important thing is to cover it with a cloth to keep it clean while also allowing air flow.

You’ll need:

  • One cup of milk
  • One cup of flour
  • Cheesecloth
  • Elastic band
  • Container with a loose-fitting lid. This could easily be a canning jar, so long as you are careful never to tighten the lid too much. The yeast needs air to breathe.
  1. Yeast Trap
    Yeast Trap

    Begin by putting the cup of milk into the container with the cheesecloth secured to the top with a band. Keep on the counter in a spot where it can be undisturbed.

    Sourdough starter with the flour incorporated. It looks a lot like paste... if this doesn't work, maybe I'll make a pinata. :-)
    Sourdough starter with the flour incorporated. It looks a lot like paste… if this doesn’t work, maybe I’ll make a pinata. 🙂
  2. After two days, the milk will have soured perceptibly. At this point,  you should add the  cup of flour, by putting it into a bowl and then adding the milk to it, slowly in order to create a relatively smooth paste.
  3. Yeast Day 3, six hours after the flour was added
    Yeast Day 3, six hours after the flour was added.

    Within the next couple of days (in my case, the signs showed within hours), your yeast culture should begin to grow.

    The medium that you have placed to catch the yeast, will begin to have that “yeasty” smell, and the surface will begin to bubble and froth.

  4. Over the next couple of days, “feed” the culture each day with a half cup of flour mixed with a half cup of reconstituted skim milk.
  5. By day 5, your yeast should be fully formed.
  6. At this point, stir it down, put the permanent loose cover on the jar, and store in your sourdough culture in the fridge.
  7. If after 5 days the yeast  has not begun to form, or if your mixture starts to mould, toss it out and begin again.
  8. This culture will be able to raise your dough within the first week if properly cultivated, but will not actually be truly sour until a few weeks have passed. The longer it lives and is fed, the more sour it will become.


Yeast is a living being and needs to be fed regularly. If you regularly make something that requires a sourdough culture then you have the perfect opportunity. If you don’t use it weekly, you can either use this as an opportunity to grow a larger culture, or you can toss out or gift part of it to a friend.

  1. Remove one cup of the starter for your recipe.
  2. Replace it with one cup of milk and one cup of flour.
  3. Since it’s all about souring, you can feed it with any milk or cream that you happen to have go sour in the fridge.
  4. Cover with cheesecloth and keep it on the counter for a few hours, When it looks spongey again, cover loosely with a proper lid  and refrigerate.
  5. To increase the starter either because you want to give some away, or prepare for a larger recipe, simply follow the  2nd and 3rd steps of ongoing care without first removing any of the starter.
  6. Do not make more than double each time you add to the starter.

French Onion Soup

French onion soup is a favourite for many, and simpler to make than most believe. As with all soups, the key is the right ingredients; a good stock, fresh onions and the right kind…not the cheapest by the bag onions, but big, juicy, sweet ones…Spanish onions, Vidalias, something with a full flavour.

Aside from any quantities given here, a good rule of thumb is one onion, 1.5 – 2 cups of stock , and a couple of teaspoons of port or sherry (I prefer port) per serving.

One personal favourite trick is that while the soup is simmering, I like to toss in a few parmesan rinds to add body and flavour. This is a nice trick with most soups, but especially good with French Onion, as it normally does get finished with cheese.

For a vegan stock ,Alison Cole recommends Better Than  Boullion. We are looking for a great recipe for one though.

Gluten free brioche

A box of Brioche for family dinner
A box of Brioche for a holiday dinner

There is a big love for this bread…! How much I love the beautiful aromas of brioche while are baking,and my little daughter stuck her cute little face in the oven waiting for them to be bake…!Nice,fluffy,buttery,not very sweet,scented with the vanilla and the orange! Perfect for the fall,bake them and offer them as a gift,like I did with mine!

It may look a big and long process,but is very very easy to make!

Enoteca Sociale – Bella Cucina

Review and photographs by Gayle Hurmuses

Enoteca Sociale is one of my favourite restaurants. I’ve been there a handful of times…the food is invariably excellent, and the service is outstanding in an understated way. The first time there, I had a wonderful Boston Lettuce, Blood Orange, and Hazelnut Praline salad that was so good I can still taste it. My companion had ordered a pork dish that was beyond delicious and while firm and satisfying, was nevertheless so tender that it was truly possible to cut it with a fork.

Enoteca Sociale = Wine Social
Enoteca Sociale = Wine Social

It had been the recommended dish of the evening.  While we were placing our orders and asking the server about dishes on the menu, she had offered the pork as her favourite on the then current menu, almost whispering to us that it was marinated in brine overnight, dropping her eyes just a bit and smiling like a lover, clearly remembering the taste like the memory of a kiss. It was merited.

Sadly, I had been accustomed to my companion’s usual restaurant suggestions being uninspired at best, so had not expected anything good, had eaten a bit before going, and had to restrict myself to the salad…which thankfully was a superstar and helped make up for some of my disappointment. It even led to my second visit to the restaurant, to revisit that dish and try others.

My version of the salad, sadly, I do not have an image of the version from the restaurant. Will replace as possible.
My version of the salad, sadly, I do not have an image of the version from the restaurant. Will replace as possible.

On that second visit, I again had the salad, and a wonderful rack of lamb that was the special for the evening. The server was again, personable, but not omnipresent, tastefully offering suggestions and always tactful if it was necessary to interrupt to advance the meal. The salad was again wonderful, and I recall asking about the excellent bread, which I was told they make in house. I was on a bread fast at the time, which was happily broken that evening, as there was not a chance that I would pass up this sublime treat. We may have asked for more bread. *hangs head*

That salad reminded me of the opportunity to use juices as the acid component in a salad dressing, to use fruit juices more in general, and also (along with my discovery of Sweet Georgia Browns, more about that next month) inspired a spate of salted praline making. Among other dishes, it inspired my take on the salad.  

Holger removing potatoes for gnocchi from the oven
Holger removing potatoes for gnocchi from the oven

Naturally, I’ve wanted to write about Enoteca Sociale for quite a while, but kept putting it off…then while looking at a blank screen, contemplating the month’s theme, got an email from their

Holger preparing rosemary for the focacia.
Holger preparing rosemary for the focacia.

publicist, asking if I wanted to publish their Rosemary Foccaccia recipe for Bread Day on November 17. In the end, the timing didn’t work out, but it led to the chosen theme of Bread and Soup for November, and for that inspiration, I am again thankful.

Focaccia Dough
Focaccia Dough

They make 8 loaves of bread a day, except on Saturday, when they make 16, and sell half to the first 8 lucky people to arrive…and there is always a lineup at noon, when the sale begins.

I arranged to interview Holger, the Bread Baker and Pasta Maker at Enoteca Sociale, during his morning baking time. It was intended to be a video interview,

Holger mixing focaccia dough
Holger mixing focaccia dough

unfortunately, the combination of borrowed equipment and the discovery that my extra data cards were with my lost camera and not the recording device scotched that, but happily, the photos came out well.

Informally trained, Holger has been cooking since childhood, and has been at Enoteca Sociale since the beginning. A lifelong baker, he proposed the bread program as one of the ways of

Holger mixing focaccia dough
Holger mixing focaccia dough

distinguishing the restaurant, and of supporting its slow food mandate. For Holger, making both bread and pasta are the epitome of food artistry, requiring a keen understanding of (in the case of bread) a living chemistry that must be carefully nurtured. This is especially true of their sourdough, which is a wild yeast that he trapped himself, and which assures the unique character and flavour of their bread.

Holger rolling Gnocchi
Holger rolling Gnocchi

He also uses the slow rising, no kneading method popularized by The New York Times food column recipe, but certainly used elsewhere, and which he points out was made truly possible by the invention of the electric refrigerator. Holger loves that it gives variable results, not completely predictable, and again, requires delicacy and finesse to truly master. I watch, and try not to interrupt his flow as he works with the bread and the gnocchi and speaks about his history with food.

Holger rolling Gnocchi
Holger rolling Gnocchi

These two processes are interleaved, and he moves from peeling baked potatoes, mashing them, adding flour and salt, to stirring the huge batches of dough with his hands. As with his bread, Holger likes a basic approach to gnocchi, eschewing other ingredients to lighten them, such as egg. “Flour, salt and potatoes are the only ingredients you should need. This is another area where expertise really shows.”

He moves quickly and gracefully, with

Holger pushes the completed  Gnocchi onto the tray for drying
Holger pushes the completed Gnocchi onto the tray for drying.

few wasted movements, measuring and mixing the ingredients with his hands, pulling out a piece of dough, rolling it with his hands into a long rope, then cutting this rope into equally sized pieces, quickly, quickly, then just as fast, taking a cooking sheet and rolling them onto this using the same dough cutter, all in one movement, making an evening’s worth of gnocchi while waiting for the bread to rise.

Holger's focaccia in trays.
Holger’s focaccia in trays.

Then, he gives the bread one last turn with his hands, before moving it into the large pans that the focaccia is cooked in for the final resting before being baked.

Holger setting the focaccia out to cool.
Holger setting the focaccia out to cool.

As I re-read this, it sounds like this all happened at one time, in one go, butHolger has been in constant motion, moving one batch of dough upstairs, putting another into the oven, before going back to the prep kitchen in the basement to prepare the next batch, and to make his gnocchi. Normally a meditative time for him, before the rest of the prep staff arrive, he’s been doing all of this while also patiently answering my questions and offering explanations.

Holger removing the sourdough from the oven.
Holger removing the sourdough from the oven.

A gracious host, he makes me a cappuccino to enjoy while waiting for the next loaves to come out of the oven so that I can photograph them, and goes back downstairs to complete the next batch of something. I photograph the loaves when the time arrives, and make plans to be first in line one Saturday to buy a sourdough from them. I will absolutely savour the bread with greater gusto the next time I am there.

Sunflower Bread

My Deaf Smith Country Coodbook
My Deaf Smith Country Coodbook

From the Deaf Smith Country Cookbook, this Sunflower Bread is my favourite whole wheat bread recipe ever.

It’s softer and fluffier than the Phyllis’ Bread that we also published yesterday and I love the sunflower seeds in the flavour. Sesame seeds are a nice addition as well.

You’ll notice that this recipe calls for milk, as does the Purity Flour White Bread, in both cases, I often use the milk to make ricotta, and then use the whey from the cheese making  for the bread.

Dea fSmith Country Coodbook
Dea fSmith Country Coodbook – Later edition

Phyllis’ Bread

Photos by Gayle Hurmuses and Gisela McKay

This recipe comes from the Deaf Smith Country Cookbook, by Marjorie Winn Ford, Susan Hillyard, and Mary Faulk Kock, and is one of my favourites.


When making truly whole wheat bread, you’re going to have to accept that it’s simply not going to raise to the same degree of fluffiness as white bread.

It’s especially important to make sure to knead it fully without going too far.

One thing that I watch for when kneading, to know when to stop, is when the outer layer of the raw kneaded bread begins to tear, rather than simply stretch.

While you don’t want to under-knead bread, you also don’t want to overdo it either. Gluten is a living thing and gets tired of working, just like you do.