Bastille Day Dinner

My best French onion soup in the world is at Le Pied de Couchon, in Paris, and their secret is an excessive amount of melted gruyère on top, so go mad.

I believe that the secret to good food, is home made stocks.

French Onion Soup Recipe (serves 8)

Ingredients:
6 onions (thinly sliced)
90 g butter
9 cups home made beef stock* (or store bought if you’re really desperate!!)
2 bayleaves
French bread
3 Tbsp Brandy (optional)**
Gruyère Cheese (as much as desired, the more the better)

Method:
1. Heat butter over low heat. Add onions and stir occasionally, with a wooden spoon, until the onions are a deep golden brown (about 25 minutes)
2. Add the beef stock, and bayleaves and bring soup slowly to the boil.
3. Cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes
4. Remove bayleaves and add salt and pepper to taste
** if you are using brandy, flame in a small pot and add to the soup at the end

Garnish:
Toast sliced baguette on each side.
Ladle soup into oven proof bowls, and float a slice of toast in each bowl
Pile gruyère cheese on top of each piece of toast, and place into an oven under a hot grill

If you are making your own beef stock (I hope that you are!)
Ingredients:
1kg free range beef bones
4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 onions, coarsely chopped
6 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
2 Bayleaves
2 Cloves of garlic
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 a bunch of thyme
3 leeks, green parts only, coarsely chopped
1 letre of water

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 200°C, place on a large baking sheet, lightly oil and roast them for about 45 minutes.
2. Add browned bones, plus the rest of the ingredients to a large stock pot, add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 1/2 hours until the mixture has reduced by half.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat. Pour the stock through a sieve into a bowl and let cool.

Baguette Recipe (makes two 40cm loaves)

Starter

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour (can be bread or cake flour)
3/4 cups + 2 Tbsp of warm water
7 g active dry yeast

Method:
1. In a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, warm water and yeast. Mix to form a thin batter.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 14 hours. It should have tippled in size and then deflated.

Dough

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour (can be bread or cake flour) + more for dusting
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp of room temperature water
Vegetable oil to line the bowl

Method:
1. Add the flour, room temperature water and salt to the starter. Mix in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, on low speed for 2-3 minutes, and then raise the speed and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic (a further 2-3 minutes)
2. Scrape out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 1 minute.
3. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled, bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk (about 1 hour)
4. Return the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into an oval shape.
5. Fold the bottom third of the dough up and the top third down, fold the right and left sides to the centre, pressing down to seal between each fold.
6. Flip the dough over, tap to release any excess flour. Return to the bowl, seam side down, and recover with the plastic wrap. Let rise, until doubled in bulk for a further 1 hour.
7. Return the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough into two equal pieces.
8. with lightly floured hands, gently pat each piece into a rough oval, handling the dough carefully to avoid deflating air pockets.
9. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise, undisturbed for 20 minutes. This will relax the gluten in the dough so that it will be easier to stretch.
10. Set one piece of dough on to the floured work surface. Using your palm, flatten the dough. Fold the top third downwards and the bottom third upwards, overlapping the top fold. Press down to seal. Then roll into a ± 40cm long loaf.
11. Repeat this process with the second piece of dough.
12. Transfer your loaves to a specialised baguette baking tray / baking stone / baking tray.
13. Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise until puffed (about 30 minutes)
14. Preheat the oven to 230°C
15. Using a knife make 3-4 shallow slashes, diagonally down the length of each loaf.
16. Bake until golden brown (30-35minutes)

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