Springing into fall with super soup

I set out this week to make a soup. This is partially weather-related and mostly due to the fact that I had a head cold for about half the week and wanted my cozy hot comfort food.

The recipe that stood out most to me was a light spring soup called a brodo. But this is fall, dammit. Of course, I’m sure it’s possible still to find asparagus in the grocery store, either fresh or frozen, but it just didn’t feel right.

Brodo ingredients, sans broth. Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?

Also, because this soup had some cream and gnocchi, I thought it’d work as a fall dish.

So, I did some swapping and some additions, and boy, did I make a good, and pretty easy soup. The biggest difficulty was that I made my own broth. However, it’s not entirely necessary, and stupid me, I had some broth in the freezer that I realized to late. So, good reminder to make broth way ahead of time and freeze it, but yeah, try to remember it’s there when needed. Or, just buy some high-quality broth.

To fully fall this soup, I changed asparagus for Brussels sprouts and added bacon. It wasn’t even that many changes, but it sure felt perfect for autumn.

Soup is gone. So sad.

Here’s what I did, adapting from my Soup Nights cookbook (one of too many/not enough soup cookbooks I own):

Ingredients 

  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, sliced
  • 8 c. vegetable or chicken broth (store bought or pre-made)
  • ⅓ c. heavy cream
  • 4 to 5 oz. blue cheese crumbles, divided
  • 4 t. cornstarch
  • 4 t. tap water
  • 16 oz. pre-made potato gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (I like it spicy so I used closer to 1 t. but very taste dependent and a little goes a long way)
  • 1 to 1 ½ bunches green onions, sliced, to taste
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked to package directions, for serving
  • Chives, to taste, for serving

Directions

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and then the Brussels sprouts. Cook until softened and starting to brown. Add the vegetable broth and heat to boiling.

Meanwhile, mix together the blue cheese and heavy cream in a small bowl. Once the broth is boiling, add the cheese and cream mixture.

In the same bowl (or separately), mix together the corn starch and water, and then add that mixture to the soup mixture. Stir often for about 3 minutes until the soup begins to thicken.

Add the salt and pepper, cayenne, green onions, and the gnocchi, cooking another 3 to 5 minutes until the pre-made gnocchi is cooked through. Season more, as needed.

Ladle soup into bowls, serve with cooked bacon, any additional blue cheese crumbles as desired, and chives, and enjoy!

Beer + bacon = bueno beans

We’ve had a bag of dried pinto beans sitting on a shelf for a few months, which neither of us now remembers why we bought it.

So, when I thought about making Mexican rice, I figured I may as well come up with a recipe for using those pinto beans.

Borracho beans recipe.

Homemade bean and rice burritos with some extra cotija we also had lying around sounded like a perfect dinner to me.

I just needed the beans recipe. Thankfully, Homesick Texan was right there with three ways to make pinto beans, each building on the recipe before it. Because I always do too much, I of course, opted for the third one that had all the flavors and ingredients, and took the most time.

These beans were not meant to be made for a casual weeknight dinner, but the leftovers definitely will, and have.

I mostly followed the recipe but I decided against buying two different kinds of pork and met in the middle with thick-cut bacon. I also reduced the jalapenos and replaced one with a poblano to keep the spiciness to medium (It probably would have been fine but my way was good for me). I also made an error in recipe-reading so an adequate substitute is provided.

Best beans ever.

Here’s what I did, based on the borracho beans recipe from Homesick Texan:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. thick-cut bacon, divided (I used Beeler’s)
  • ¼ c. jalapeno pickle juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with the juices (I forgot this ingredient so substituted ½ pint cherry tomatoes and 1 c. vegetable broth)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 1 c. cilantro
  • 1 (12 oz.) bottle Modelo Negro or similar dark beer

Directions

Chop up all but 4 strips of (uncooked) bacon and add to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and salt, as desired. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring the pot to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour. (At about a half-hour, I covered partially as I had added too much water, so check water levels and adjust as necessary.)

Meanwhile, cook remaining 4 pieces of bacon. Add the cooked bacon pieces to a blender with tomatoes (or tomatoes and broth, as it were), jalapenos, poblano, chipotles, and cilantro. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Once beans are mostly cooked through, after an hour, add the blended mixture to the pot.

Cook another 20 minutes, covered or uncovered as appropriate to adjust liquid level to your choosing. Add beer about 10 minutes before ready; add jalapeno pickle juices, about 5 minutes before ready, and simmer uncovered.

Let cool slightly and enjoy with more beer, and perhaps some Mexican rice.

Weeknight Mexican rice

Taco nights are a wonderful weekday staple in our household, as I suspect they are in many. It’s so simple to whip up, especially when so much already comes pre-packaged and ready.

Our taco nights have become slightly less simple once we reduced our salt intake and therefore actually realized how much salt is contained in those pre-packaged items.

The low sodium beans are easy enough to come by, and a homemade taco seasoning mix can be made in bulk. Skipping out on my salty Spanish or Mexican rice, however, has been a source of frustration.

Mexican rice ingredients.

My sweetie has mostly taken up the duties of making Mexican rice so it’s still a no-fuss process for me. And if I’m being totally honest, the work that goes into homemade, healthier Mexican rice is only slightly more than dumping box contents into boiling water. After all, the rice part takes equally long to cook and is equally easy to ignore.

The worst part of the homemade rice is cutting a carrot and an onion; in other words, not all that much work.

My sweetie has kept the rice flavorful, without the salt, by adding a homemade broth. He has also started cutting out the addition of tomato and tomato paste. Since I was on duty this time, I made it my way.

So tasty, and less salty.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped, optional
  • 1 c. medium grain rice
  • 2 c. homemade vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 2 to 3 T. tomato paste

Directions

Add the oil to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Saute the onion and carrot for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the garlic, tomato, if using, and the rice. Saute for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until the rice is nearly done and the broth is absorbed. Add the peas and tomato paste, stir to combine, re-cover and cook until the peas are cooked through and rice is ready, about another 3 to 5 minutes.

Fluff the rice and enjoy with tacos … or next week’s recipe.

Ratatouille any which way

I’ve talked about my love of Ratatouille before, both the movie and the food item. The movie has the message of “Anyone can cook,” which is to say not everyone can do it but that one’s station in life — even as a rat — can’t dictate whether one is a great chef.

Ratatouille ingredients.

A great chef I am not but I take comfort in that, and many other, life lessons offered by the Pixar classic.

As I’ve come to love the French dish almost as much as the move, I’ve also come to realize it’s an appropriate recipe to highlight the movie’s message and theme. The dish is a humble stew that also can be made to be served at the top restaurant in Paris.

If anyone can can cook, ratatouille shows that simple ingredients can make for an impressive meal no matter which way you make it.

I found last year that I loved making this traditional stew-like dish as a tian on a sheet pan. But in making it in my Dutch oven this year, I was reminded that it also works really well in its stew-ish form. While it mirrors a hearty stew, it is still exclusively vegetables and herbs and spices, with a little bit of (OK, a lot of) olive oil, which makes it light even on a summer night. Also, it doesn’t need to cook for hours upon hours. It’s a half hour or so in front of a stove top, not bad in the air-conditioned house.

It’s practically perfect, especially for the upcoming Bastille Day!

So healthy and yet so scrumptious.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 5+ T. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 2 medium), chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, chopped
  • 2 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 T. thyme (the recipes often recommended whole sprigs to be removed; I just used dried)
  • 2 T. dried basil  (I’d prefer fresh but I had some dried on hand)
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • ½ T. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 T. tomato paste

Directions

Add about 2 T. of oil to a large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until beginning to turn translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add another about 2 T. of oil and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add another about 2 T. of oil, the zucchini, summer squash, and bell pepper. Cook, continuing to stir occasionally, for another 5 to 10 minutes until the zucchini and squash are mostly cooked through. Add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables are cooked through and the mixture looks stew-ish.

Let cool slightly (it stays hot for awhile), and enjoy with some fancy bread!

It’s summer, time for fruit cobbler

As soon as summer hits, it’s only a matter of time before I start buying up berries (and also often peaches). As much as I love vegetables, I’m not overly fond of fruit. Sure, I like it OK, but most fruit items in my cupboard or refrigerator are as likely to go bad as I am to eat them before they rot.

But I have my favorites.

I love on-sale cherries, too-hard white peaches, and berries in the summertime.

So, I couldn’t help but buy up blackberries when they were on sale and make it into a Dutch oven cobbler.

Blackberry cobbler ingredients.

I consulted no fewer than three recipes to come up with my perfect summer dessert, but none of them were exactly what I was looking for. My sweetie suggested blackberries among the berries, and none of the recipes quite worked. Most were, of course, for peach cobblers, which called for cinnamon and often nutmeg. Betty Crocker wisely suggested skipping that step (hers only called for cinnamon) if one were making blueberry cobbler. I felt the same should be true of blackberries.

But I also thought it needed a little something more. Maybe true, maybe not, but I have to say I quite liked my ultimate addition: a small sprinkling of ground ginger.

I admit this cobbler won’t be for everyone. I skimped on the sweet, leaned into the tartness, and added the spice. But my sweetie and I devoured the whole thing with glee and in record time for us two savory-food lovers. It was a real treat.

*drool*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 8 T. (1 stick) butter, divided
  • 4 pints (about 5 c.) blackberries
  • 6 T. sugar, divided
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • 1 t. salt, divided
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • ½ to ¾ c. buttermilk

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

On the stovetop, melt 4 T. butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the blackberries, 2 T. sugar, ½ t. salt, and the ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl or large measuring cup. Once the blackberries have started to break down, add the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine. Turn off or remove from heat.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, 2 T. sugar, and remaining ½ t. salt. Cut in the remaining 4 T. of butter using a pastry blender or 2 knives or your fingers, until small chickpea-sized chunks form. Add ½ c. buttermilk and stir with a fork until combined to form a wet shaggy dough, adding more buttermilk as necessary.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough on top of the blackberry mixture (it’s OK if some open spots show through). Sprinkle the remaining 2 T. on top of the mixture, and carefully place the Dutch oven, uncovered, in the oven. Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the cobbler on top is lightly golden brown. Remove from oven, let mostly cool, and enjoy (a la mode, if desired)!

And now for something completely different

Dutch ovens are — at least to me — known mostly for two things: their ability to go seamlessly from stovetop to oven, and their ability to maintain heat. So, it wasn’t until I got my Dutch oven cookbook that I realized since it can hold heat, it can also hold the cold.

Heading into Memorial weekend and then summertime, that can come in handy.

I gave it a test with my family’s potato salad recipe, and found it survived traveling in a car without a problem.

Potato salad ingredients.

The recipe is not a particularly fancy way of making potato salad, but it’s easy and nothing store-bought is quite like it.

Chalk that up to the Italian dressing. That, and most recipes typically call for removing the potato skins but I like the added texture. Amounts vary widely as well because different people have different tastes, including me depending on the day. Mostly you just want to coat everything to your desired tastes.

That’s the awesome thing about this recipe; you can make it your way, and even add hard-boiled eggs as you desire. But this is the way my mother taught me.

Cold and delectable.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ to 1 c. Italian dressing
  • ½ to 1 c. mayonnaise
  • ½ c. yellow mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring water (filled about halfway) to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the potatoes, and simmer, covered, until they’re cooked through, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain water, and let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks of your preference. Add the onions and Italian dressing, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours and up to overnight.

About a half-hour before serving, add the mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Enjoy with a hot dog or hamburger, and enjoy your Memorial Day!

The best rice casserole

I love the boxed Rice-A-Roni mixes as much as the next person who has little time and a desire for calories. But I love even more the absence of guilt when I home make a similar recipe.

This is how I came to create my own broccoli cheddar rice casserole.

Broccoli rice casserole ingredients.

Sure, recipes abound for throwing together cooked rice, a pre-made cheese sauce, and some microwaved broccoli, but with slightly more effort, you can enjoy baked, cheese, rice, and broccoli that doesn’t feel quite as bad for you.

Though it wasn’t hard to find either kind of recipe online, there was nothing I found that quite suited my tastes. So, I did what I usually do, I mixed and matched to make it suitable for my Dutch oven dreams.

All the recipes of any kind called for mushrooms but I just about refuse to eat them. If they’re tiny and hidden, I may be able to handle some. I can kind of do raw ones, sometimes, if I have to, but as much as I try to keep an open mind about foods, I just can’t do it with mushrooms. So, if you like them, feel free to remove one head of broccoli from my recipe and substitute with 8 oz. mushrooms, or do both and have an extra vegetable-y recipe.

With my changes, and thanks to mostly Southern Living and a little Serious Eats, and I had the perfect recipe, and even better, it came together quickly and deliciously. I loved it.

Nom nom noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 1 c. panko
  • 2 c. cheddar, divided (I like extra sharp)
  • 1 c. Parmesan, divided
  • 3 c. broth (I used homemade; the recipe calls for chicken)
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 t. thyme
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes (optional but I liked the kick)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. flour
  • 1 ½ c. uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 heads fresh broccoli florets, chopped to stems

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 2 T. butter, and combine it with the panko and ½ c. of the cheddar, and ½ c. of the Parmesan, and toss together. Set aside.

Melt remaining 4 T. in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli (and mushrooms if using), the salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until the broccoli has started to turn bright green. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour until combined.

Add the rice, and stir for another couple minutes. Stir in the broth and milk, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining cheeses, and the sour cream, and mix until well combined. Cover with Dutch oven lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender, the liquid is nearly absorbed, and the broccoli is cooked through. Add the panko mixture on top, and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is browned. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Fitting vegetable gratin for mediocre fowl dinner

My sweetie and I had what we thought would be a fun idea when we were ordering meats earlier this year. We should try all these random non-chicken birds available from our favorite sustainable meat supplier, we thought. How bad could they be, we thought.

Well, I am here to tell you that there’s a reason we as meat-eaters dine on chicken more often than wild game birds. There’s the buck shot for one, and the feathering, but mostly it’s the strong and not altogether pleasant taste.

We made it through the birds, but in the future, I’m probably not going to eat too much partridge, wood pigeon, or pheasant. Unless the apocalypse comes sooner than I hope.

But to go along with these fowl, I thought I’d make a nice vegetable gratin to go with our meat-heavy dinner.

Vegetable gratin ingredients.

While the preparation went more smoothly than for the birds, the end result was a similar level of meh. It was easy but at the cost of being pretty bland.

It was less offensive than the birds to my taste buds but it also made a lot more and we’re still slowly going through the leftovers. I much prefer the similar vegetable dish I made last year on a sheet pan — marinated artichokes add so much, I guess (probably mostly salt) — than this Dutch oven gratin.

It looks pretty good, but it’s just not bad.

If you’re looking for a plain dish, or have ideas of sprucing up my adaptation of a The Kitchn recipe, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, sliced*
  • 3 medium leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¾ to 1 lb. potatoes, sliced*
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced*
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jar stuff, and didn’t measure)
  • 1 ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 ½ c. Parmesan
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • *Note: A mandoline is recommended for slicing these vegetables, so they can be evenly thin. I used ⅛ inch.

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Add all the sliced vegetables to a large Dutch oven. Add in the sour cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and stir well to lightly coat the vegetables with the cream mixture.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the lid/cover, and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered so the top can brown. Cool for about 10 minutes, and (try to) enjoy!

Making homemade bread even better

Like Oprah, I love bread.

I love it in all its forms, but one of my favorites is the one I made earlier this year, since it’s so simple and yet so tasty. I also love the store-bought jalapeno-cheddar bread, but I’d never thought to make it myself.

Then, I came across a recipe from 50 Campfires that pretty much combined the two. It basically took the recipe I used earlier this year, and then just added jalapenos and cheddar.

I forgot to snap a pic before I started, but picture the ingredients from my earlier bread recipe and then picture them mostly combined to look like this floury dough ball.

I decided to give it a shot.

My only concern as I was making it was the sheer amount of jalapenos. I like spicy but I have my limits, and this bread includes two in the dough (and rises for nearly 24 hours with them in it) and then one on top.

Mercifully, if you follow the instructions to remove the seeds from the two that go in the dough and just keep them for the one on top, it’s not overly spicy. There’s a little kick from the top slices but otherwise, it’s pretty mild. I’m sure the yeast and cheese help.

It’s more effort than store-bought but even better, and considering how quickly this stuff disappeared, I’ll be making it again (and again).

The cutest and tastiest little ball of bread ever.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. active dry yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar, divided (I didn’t really measure but this is a good reference amount)
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, divided
  • 1 ½ c. warm water

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in all but 4 T. of the grated cheddar cheese. Seed and chop two of the jalapenos, and add into the flour mix. Stir to combine all.

Add the water, and stir until a shaggy, sticky dough forms (a dough scraper works really well for this).

Cover the bowl, preferably with plastic wrap (grease it if you expect it to rise to touch the wrap). Let the dough rise in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) for 12 to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the Dutch oven in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the dough to a heavily floured surface and shape it into a rounded loaf, but don’t knead it.

When the Dutch oven is ready, carefully remove from oven and remove lid. Carefully place the dough inside, and cover again. Bake covered for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove from oven, and remove lid. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the remaining cheddar, and the sliced jalapeno (with seeds, if desired) and set slices on top. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until the bread and cheese are golden brown.

Carefully remove loaf from the Dutch oven, place on a rack to cool (for at least an hour before slicing), and enjoy!

There will be bread

I love me a recipe that offers shortcuts and still tastes amazing. So, even though I don’t mind kneading bread, I still eagerly bookmarked the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey as soon as I came across it.

No-knead bread ingredients. No, the Sodastream water is not bubbly.

Then, I discovered the caveat. There may not be kneading, but it still takes time and a little bit of getting your hands dirty (with sticky dough).

After going through it the first time, I shrugged and said I wasn’t really saving all that much so I wouldn’t make it again. That is, until I tasted it. Readers, it’s worth the time and effort.

And the more I’ve made it, the less the time and minor effort bothers me. I just plan better.

This is also a quintessentially Dutch oven dish.

Part of why the crust crunches so well is you preheat the Dutch oven for long enough that your dough goes into a nice and hot container. (I will admit, however, that I have used this recipe to make a couple of baguettes and it turns out well, just not as crunchy.)

It’s also pretty hard to mess up, since there are so few ingredients. The key is using bread flour, but I have — and I did this time on a whim — thrown in some amount of wheat flour and it’s worked. It’s not quite as fluffy but fiber does a body good.

Now, you can time things out how you want, but with a 12 to 18 hour rise time on the first go, my planning schedule is this:

*Before bed: Mix together the yeast, salt, water, and flour, and stir until blended.

*The next day/evening: When I get home from work, or the afternoon on a weekend, scrape the edges of the mixture and ensure it’s risen; then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a boule, and wrap in a well-floured or cornmeal-coated towel, and let rise another 1 to 2 hours, before preparing to bake.

If you’re an early morning riser or an insomniac, a different schedule may work for you. But I’d rather get it started before bed and then deal with it later in the day. And a few hours extra rise time, if it’s a work day, hasn’t made a difference.

Again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, even if there is an optimal way to make it that will maximize its awesomeness.

My boule isn’t the prettiest and it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would, but it tastes forking great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ¼ t. active dry yeast
  • 1 ⅓ c. cool water
  • 1 ¼ t. salt (I estimate)
  • 3 c. bread flour (OR, 2 c. bread flour, 1 c. wheat flour — which may require slightly more water)
  • Bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then add the water. Use a wooden spoon, rubber dough scraper, or your hands to mix together until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. If it’s not wet and sticky, add more water or flour as necessary.

Cover the bowl — either a tea towel or plastic wrap or a loose lid will work. Let rise in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

When small bubbles dot the surface of the dough and it’s at least doubled in size, dust a work surface with additional flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface. Use your hands — lightly floured — to shape the dough into a round.

Dust a (non-terry cloth) tea towel with flour or cornmeal, and then place the dough, seam-side down, in the towel, and then gently wrap together. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours. (It’s ready when it has almost doubled and/or you can poke it with a finger and it holds the impression.)

About a half-hour before the second rise has finished, heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the Dutch oven, covered,  in the center of the rack.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven. Uncover it, and add some cornmeal or wheat bran if desired, to the bottom of the pot. Then, unfold the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot with the seam-side up. Cover the pot again.

Bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is browned but not burnt, another 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bread is done, carefully remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, and enjoy with soup, butter, or all by itself!