Saturday, November 2, 2013

Still Searching for a Hearty Homemade Bean Soup

October 27, 2013

Tuscan Bean Soup
Green Salad
Homemade Sourdough Bread
Vella Cabernet Sauvignon

Tuscan Bean Soup from Cook's Illustrated
French Apple Cake from Cook's Illustrated 
Katherine Hepburn Brownies from Brown Eyed Baker

Most of what I cook on Sunday is new to me. Most of what I cook on Sunday I would make again. But sometimes, when you try something new, it doesn't work out. Searching for a recipe for a good, hearty bean soup, I tried "Tuscan Bean Soup". This is not the bean soup recipe I seek.

Tuscan Bean Soup is pretty simple. It is mostly Cannellini beans and onion with additional flavor provided by pork and rosemary. The recipe specified chunks of pancetta, 6 ounces of it, that is browned and used to flavor the broth. I didn't read the recipe carefully enough before going to the store and purchased 3 ounces of thinly sliced pancetta instead to which I added 3 ounces of bacon. The pork and onions combined to make a thin broth with good, though certainly not robust, flavor. But I am looking for something with more body than provided by the thin broth in this recipe. I followed the directions for cooking the beans, cooking them for more time than the recipe suggested, but they still came out less tender and more al dente than they should. Part of the challenge was the direction to cook them until they seemed to be "almost tender"; I thought they had reached this stage but apparently not.

So my search for a hearty bean soup will continue and I may need to develop my own recipe. This is not a bad thing and I will likely write about it on Sunday, Dinner for Two, so watch for it.

Leftover soup generally improves over time. However, time in the refrigerator will not tenderize undercooked beans. It does, though, provide an opportunity to add some additional flavor. Some freshly ground black pepper and shredded pecorino romano improved this soup, giving it some of the flavor it was missing. 

Not on Sunday
While the bean soup was a disappointment, a dessert that I baked on Monday was not. It's still apple season and we made another trip to our local farm to restock. Rather than make another apple pie I made French Apple Cake from the September 2012 edition of Cook's Illustrated. Granny Smith apples are cooked in a cake that has two layers of batter, a custardy lower layer incorporating the apples topped with a light, cakey layer. This recipe turned out very well and we will probably make it again. The apples were distributed through the whole cake, though, so next time I will need to push them down into the batter, but this is a minor flaw. The cake kept well covered in the refrigerator and we enjoyed it all week for dessert.

On Friday I made some brownies that turned out really well. They had a nice crisp outside and soft, chocolatey inside. The recipe is attributed to Katherine Hepburn. We haven't tried them yet with ice cream and chocolate syrup, but I am confident they will be just as good in a sundae as they are eaten plain. I wonder, though, how the cocoa powder version would be, or with pecans rather than walnuts.

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