And of course, with soup one must have bread.
This particular loaf started with a kitchen disaster. I had planned out my mushroom-barley soup, and set my little heart on pumpernickel bread to go alongside. I’ve had Deb Perelman’s Russian black bread bookmarked for years now, and the moment was ripe for seizing. So I measured out some warm water in a measuring cup, stirred in a packet of yeast, and set it on the counter while I went about collecting ingredients.
I needed molasses, which was hiding on a high shelf behind several bottles of vinegar. Thinking about it now, I should have realized that the rice vinegar was way too precariously perched. But I didn’t. I reached up for the molasses. There was a crash, a thud, a shriek–mine, I suppose–and a rumblerumblerumble as the rice vinegar bottle rolled away across the floor. I looked down; my pants were covered with yeasty water, and the kitchen was covered with shattered Pyrex. The measuring cup was no more.
It took the better part of an hour to clean up the mess. By the time we picked the last shards out of the sink, it was less than two hours to dinnertime. We had friends coming over. There was no way I could make, knead, rise, shape, rise, and bake another loaf in that amount of time–and, even if I could, I didn’t have enough yeast to do it. But I wanted bread. I needed bread. Fast.
I thought of my go-to quick soup bread recipe, the Irish soda bread. What if I fiddled with that recipe, adding flavors that mimicked the pumpernickel I could no longer make? Would that even work?
Yes. Yes, it would. And what a relief. The dough turned out a little stickier than in the original version, but it baked beautifully, coming out of the oven with the same rough, shaggy crust and pillowy interior. It tasted just the way I wanted it to, with the familiar ping of rye and the sweet bite of molasses and shallot. The slices stood up beautifully to a long dunk in a bowl of soup, sponging up just enough to make a satisfying bite. The entire loaf disappeared in 10 minutes, maybe less. I was too busy nibbling to notice.
One of these days I’ll get around to making that black bread. But knowing that I can churn out a mighty tasty pumpernickel-like loaf in under an hour is mighty seductive. This one will be happening again–no broken glass this time.