It’s Week One of my #MidWesterosCookingChallenge and I’m excited to dig right in to today’s recipes.
I put a poll on the Facebook page earlier this week asking for reader input on what the first round of food should be: either Sansa Stark’s favorite lemon cakes or a hearty serving of soup in a bread bowl like HotPie would serve at the Crossroads Inn. The lemon cakes won the poll but the bread bowl won my cravings, so I decided to do both in honor of the holiday. Game of Thrones premiere day is an international holiday, right?
It was a whirlwind at my house as I scrambled around the kitchen preparing the three (!) separate pieces– lemon cakes, bread, and broccoli cheddar soup. All from scratch! It took about three hours from start to finish for all three, including letting the bread dough rise twice and dishes. I hate dishes. But I love food.
Let’s start, shall we?
FIRST STEP: CRUSTY BREAD BOWLS!
2 packets instant yeast
2 1/2 cups warm (NOT HOT) water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 cups bread flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg white
Pro Tip: I’d suggest assembling all your ingredients in dump bowls before you start putting it all together, especially if you’re going to do other food prep after you’re done. It’ll help your cleanup immensely, and generally makes the process go a lot smoother.
1) In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, water, oil, and sugar before adding in the bread flour and stirring until combined. If you have a stand mixer, transfer the mixture now and attach a dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you’re in for a good arm workout!
2) Add the all-purpose flour gradually, with your mixer on low. Add the salt. If you’re doing it manually, keep stirring until it’s all combined and forming a sticky dough.
3) Keep kneading. Turn your mixer to medium-low speed and let the dough knead for about five minutes, or until it’s smooth and stretchy. My dough was a little lumpy looking, but I didn’t want to overwork it so I took it off the hook after about six minutes. If you’re kneading by hand, same rules. Keep working it for about five minutes, or until smooth.
4) Once you’ve got a smooth ball of dough, transfer it to a LARGE lightly oiled bowl and flip it around a couple times so it gets coated in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel (not soaking wet) and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. This took about 45 minutes.
5) Now punch it! Kidding. Gently push your hand into the big ol’ bloated ball of dough and deflate it a little. Turn it out onto the counter and divide it into six equal portions. Take each portion and stretch it back onto itself to shape into a tight little ball, pinching the bottom as you go. Press and roll the pinch on the counter to seal it. You really want to get the top of the ball looking tight and smooth. If the ball is too loose, you run the risk of it deflating in the oven. Slide the balls onto a greased baking sheet and cut little “X” marks in the top of each one. Cover these and let them rise until doubled, so about another half hour.
5.5) Preheat your oven to 400*F and put an empty cookie sheet (one that has walls) on the top rack. You’ll pour water in this later, so make sure it can hold liquid.
6) Once your dough balls have doubled, beat an egg white with a tablespoon of water in a small bowl and brush the mixture over the top of each ball. Slide the tray onto the center oven rack and pour a cup of HOT tap water into the tray above. It’s gonna steam and sizzle, so be careful. Close the oven as quickly as you can to trap the steam inside. This helps keep your bread soft and fluffy while it bakes.
7) Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and crusty looking. My buns took about 35 minutes, but I think my oven temperature is a little off.
8) Let them cool completely before cutting a hole in the top and tearing out the innards. Fill with a delicious creamy soup (that recipe is next) and enjoy!
SECOND STEP: BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP!
While your bread is baking, throw together this really simple and really delicious broccoli cheddar soup.
1/3 cup salted butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (no one likes chunky onion in soup…)
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups low sodium chicken stock (not broth!)
3 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt + more to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper + more to taste
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 tsp Colman’s mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 lb broccoli, chopped into bite-size florets
2 handfuls matchstick carrots (the grocery stores around me don’t sell individual carrots or I’d suggest just peeling and grating a couple carrots!)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Pro Tip: Feel free to experiment with the amount of seasonings and veggies to really cater this to your personal taste. I love a chunkier broccoli cheddar soup, so I added in a few extra bits of broccoli and carrot. I also am a bit heavy handed with the salt and pepper. To each their own!
1) In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Dump in the chopped onion and cook until translucent (about three minutes). Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour and cook the mixture until golden. Stir frequently to prevent uneven browning.
2) Turn your heat down a couple notches and add in the chicken stock and milk, stirring constantly. Dump in your seasonings, give it a good stir, and let it cook and thicken for about five minutes. Stir occasionally.
3) Add your veggies and simmer the pot for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Stir in the cheese until melty and combined. Sneak a taste test (or two) and add more salt and pepper until it’s juuuuust right.
4) Serve it hot-hot-hot in a bread bowl, and die happy.
Well wait, don’t die yet. Because next up is dessert!
SANSA STARK’S FAVORITE LEMON CAKES!
I made these while the bread dough was rising earlier in the afternoon, and they came together very quickly and easily. I was so impressed with this recipe that I’ve officially added it to my holiday baking schedule.
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sour cream
2 LARGE lemons
— 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
— 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
— Reserve the rest for the glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp melted salted butter
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp whole milk
Pro Tip: This recipe claims to make 48 mini-muffin sized goodies, but I only got about 32. Did I overfill the tins? I don’t think so, but I guess it’s possible. The glaze recipe would definitely stretch to 48 cakes, as I had plenty left over.
1) Preheat your oven to 325*F and spray your mini-muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. I gave mine a healthy coating because I knew these cakes would be ultra delicate and I didn’t want to risk any of them sticking/falling apart.
2) In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
3) Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add water and bring to a boil before pouring it over the dry ingredients. Mix it all up until just combined.
4) Using a hand mixer, beat in the sour cream, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice until silky smooth.
5) Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling somewhere between half and 2/3 mark, and bake for 12 minutes. The cakes are very moist and delicate, and your toothpick might not come out completely clean even if they’re done. I looked for a very light ring of golden brown around the edges and a mostly clean toothpick before I pulled them out.
6) Let the cakes cool for about five minutes in the pans before turning them out onto cooling racks. Let them cool completely before glazing or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands. And counters.
While the cakes cool, whip up the best part of the whole dang thing– the sweet and tangy glaze:
7) Whisk all glaze ingredients together in a small bowl and heat at 10 second intervals in the microwave until the glaze is very thin and smooth.
8) Once the cakes are cool, slide a few sheets of foil or wax paper under the cooling racks. This will catch all the glaze drips and make cleanup a lot easier.
9) Dunk the cakes top-first into the glaze and then sit them upright on the cooling racks so the glaze can work its way down the rest of the cake like a tasty blanket of goodness.
9a) The glaze will harden in about 20 minutes, but it’s impossible to resist shoving a few cakes in your mouth as soon as they come out of the glaze. Plan accordingly.
And there you have it!
A complete Game of Thrones themed meal, from scratch. Not to toot my own horn, but TOOT-TOOT this was such a hit. The soup was creamy and filling, the bread was crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, and the lemon cakes were gone in minutes.
In true Game of Thrones fashion, my watch party decided to pair the main meal with Boulevard Brewery’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer (as a toast to the Hound) and picked Stella Rosa’s Stella Red wine to really finish off the indulgent feel of the dessert (and as a toast to dear Cersei).
The drink pairings really and truly completed the meal, both gastronomically and thematically. Boulevard Wheat was the perfect classic “ale” to wash down the heavy bread and thick soup without competing for too much room in our quickly-filling stomachs. Stella Red, as a semi-sweet and semi-sparkling dessert wine, was the perfect companion to the tart and delicate lemon cakes. The flavors complemented each other rather than overpowered and we were very pleased with the combinations.
The Final Score
Bread: 4/5 Ravens
— perfect for holding the soup and okay with butter on the side, texture was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, very fragrant, simple but bland by itself
Soup: 4/5 Ravens
— could have been a little cheesier but otherwise the flavor was fantastic, veggies were plentiful, very hearty and filling, does not reheat very well as I found out the next day
Cakes: 6/5 Ravens
— best lemon cakes we’ve ever had, hands down, will 100% make again and again