Quad Erat Coquendum

The scientist's view of the kitchen world

Soup and Rolls

Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.

                                        ~ Ludwig van Beethoven

Spinach Tortellini Soup and Dinner Rolls


I started with two basic recipes found here and here and expounded to my liking.

Spinach Tortellini Soup

  • 2.0 cups milk (I used skim, if using whole milk, substitute 1.0 cup milk for 1.0 cup water)
  • 2.0 cups water
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 stalks of celery chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • apprx. 10 medium basil leaves chiffonade
  • Leaves from 1 large sprig of oregano finely chopped (can use spice grinder but chopping preserves the oils better)
  • 1 large pinch kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 bag baby spinach leaves (3-4 handfulls)
  • 8oz of dried tortellini
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil (don’t need the fancy stuff, bulk will do)
  • 1 TBS gravy flour
  • 1 Lemon cut in half

1. Heat the oil over medium medium high heat.  We want to slowly bring the onions up to temp but not so hot that they start caramelizing.  Onions are tricky because there are three ways to cook them which are defined by time, heat, and fat.  If we were to cook them over low heat in a covered pan, we would be sweating our onions.  This is great when we want to release the flavor but add no color.  This also leads to a bit of a milder onion.  Well, I love onions so sauté is my weapon of choice!  Here, we need to add some fat (oil) to the pan.  I chose olive oil for this dish since it contributes a nutty flavor.  Over medium to medium high heat, the onions will absorb the fat which gives them a broad, bold flavor without the sharpness of a raw onion.

2. When the onions turn clear, add the garlic and herbs.  Stir to coat everything in the oil.  You definitely want to add the herbs and pepper during this step since the heat will help release some of their oils and, after all, it’s the oil you are after.  Finally add in the celery and let sit for about a minute.  I don’t like mushrooms but you could easily substitute mushrooms for celery here.  If you like, add a tablespoon of unsalted butter for that extra sweet taste.

3. One of my favorite cooking techniques is called deglazing.  Well, what I did here technically isn’t a traditional deglaze but it’s similar.  Since we have a large saute pan with lots of little food all over, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to gather everything together for when we pour it into our slow cooker or dutch oven?  Well, at least I think so.  I took 0.33 cups of milk (that’s about 1/3 for those of you who don’t math) and poured it into my pan.  I removed the pan from the heat and stirred everything together so get all the little browned herby bits from off the bottom of the pan.  Then I poured everything into the slow cooker, added the gravy flour (basically a thickening agent) and set it to high for 2 hours.

NOTE: There is absolutely zero reason why you should waste money on “white sauce mix.”  I looked it up.  Outside of the preservatives, it’s nothing more than powdered milk, thickening agent, and a few spices.  You already have these things laying around your house.  Use what you have instead!  And if you don’t have gravy flour, use your APF but be sure to whisk it to remove any lumps.  The benefit of sauce or gravy flour is that it is made from low gluten wheat so that when water is added, it doesn’t bind together into a big knot of gluten strands (like a giant delicious polymer).  Same effect, less work.  Pretty neat!

NOTE: There is no reason this has to be done in a slow cooker.  Seriously.  Simmer it for an hour on your stove and save yourself the cleaning process (is what I wish someone had told me a few hours ago).

4. After an hour of watching that soup simmer, I got impatient and added the tortellini.  There really isn’t much reason to slow cook this meal.  We aren’t trying to reduce the sauce and the toughest thing in there is celery (which cooks relatively fast).  I added the spinach – lots of spinach.  The leaves are mostly water so once heat is applied and the water can escape, the leaves shrivel down pretty fast.  Therefore you can add more than seems necessary.  I then dumped the condensed milk on top and stirred.  After tasting, I decided it needed some brightness.  So I sent my husband out for a lemon.  Two or three drops of lemon juice might give this soup the kick it needs.  Other than that, the creamy, herby mixture currently has my stomach grumbling.

If I had a macro lens, you would be drooling right now.

The soup while it was still cooking in my slow cooker.

5. GUYS!  The lemon was indeed the magic ingredient.  I squeezed about half of the juice out of one of my lemon halves (if you are keeping up, that’s 0.25% of the lemon’s juice by volume) into the soup and stirred immediately.  If you don’t stir right away, the juice will curdle the milk.  The acid in the lemon juice causes the protein in the milk to clump together leaving curds.  This is great for cheese making, not so great for soup making.  Bam!  The brightness I needed!  After ladling into bowls, I topped with a bit of shaved parmesan cheese and a couple grounds of pepper.  Delicious.

Doesn’t that look spectacular?

Dinner Rolls:

There were some MAJOR issues with the original recipe but considering how awesome mine turned out, I think I have them all fixed for you.  Holy cow were these amazing.  Here we go:

  • 1.0 cup + 1 TBS warm water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (we want flavorless, high smoke point here so canola it is)
  • 2 packets instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar (more for the yeast to chomp on)
  • 1.5 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1 egg
  • 3.5 cups APF (that’s all-purpose flour)

A bunch of people commented on the original recipe that the rolls turned out too dense.  Well, that’s because you can’t make instant-rising rolls without instant gas-expelling spores.  Duhdoy!

1. We first want to get our yeast started so sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 5 minutes in a large mixing bowl.  Don’t touch it.  Just…let it do it’s thing.  This wakes the yeast up and tells it it’s gas-making time.  While you are waiting, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Now you can pour the oil and sugar over the yeasty water.  Again, don’t mix, just let it sit there for a second.  In fact, let it sit there for an additional 10 minutes.  It’s important that everything is warm – not hot, not cold, just warm so the yeast can do it’s yeasty business.

3.  I’m not sure if this is the best way to go about this step…I coarsely mixed my egg with the dry ingredients and then added to the wet.  But I think the better way might be to whisk the oil and egg together prior to addition to the sugar and water.  The egg’s whole job here is to allow the water and oil to combine (you know, water and oil don’t mix unless egg joins the party, that is).

4.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix together by hand.  Or use a standing mixer if you have one of those.  Knead until the dough is not sticky and forms a nice ball.  About 10 minutes of kneading.

5.  Here is a drastic improvement: roll all the dough together into a single ball and place inside the large bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth (or damp paper towels) and let it sit in a warm place for about 15-20 minutes.  This will be the difference between hockey pucks and beautiful flakey rolls.

6.  When you are ready to place them in a dish (I used a casserole dish) punch the dough down until the large gas bubbles have escaped.  Then roll into about 1.5in diameter spheres and bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

These lasted for approximately 15 minutes. My husband ate 8.

I’m telling ya, these are amazing!  I couldn’t wait to try them after I pulled them out of the oven.  I broke one open and smeared some Nutella between the pieces.  If heaven exists, I was there.



One comment on “Soup and Rolls

  1. Sam Matthews
    September 25, 2012

    “I took 0.33 cups of milk (that’s about 1/3 for those of you who don’t math) and poured it into my pan.”

    I question your precision in reporting this number. With what instrument were you measuring this, and what was its tolerance?

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This entry was posted on September 25, 2012 by .
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