Remember when you used to clip recipes? I mean, the days when you’d take a pair of scissors and actually cut recipes out of newspapers or magazines? (Or, since I was usually too lazy to get up and find scissors, just rip-rip-rip around the edges, being sure none of the fractions in the ingredients got left behind.)
Those days are just about gone, replaced by downloading (or is it uploading?) recipes from food sites, accessing friends’ online recipe boxes, printing emailed recipes, and any other computer-aided, electronic recipe sharing you can think of. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube—even Skype has gotten onto the bandwagon. A group of home bakers called The Bakenistas, scattered all over the country, bakes “together” on weekends via Skype.
Still, it’s amazing how often I turn to my raggedy old recipe “book” for inspiration. Beginning in 1976, I cut and pasted recipes (REALLY cut and pasted, not virtually) into a blank-paged book whose spine has long since given up the ghost. Each time I open this book the much-thumbed pages rain like falling leaves onto my desk.
But that’s OK; I know their order by heart. And I can turn pretty quickly to the recipes I still use often: the cream of tomato soup, the mushroom toasts, and that over-the-top cinnamon-chocolate chip coffeecake (to be blogged someday—be patient!)
The following White Gazpacho is a great example. Although the recipe is now online at kingarthurflour.com, for years I followed the one in my book, a clipping whose provenance I’ve long since forgotten. And even now, when I tire of staring at the computer screen, I grab my recipe book, sit down in a favorite rocker (yes, it’s right here in the office, next to my desk), and visit with old friends; recipes that’ll never grow old, despite the tattered pages they rest on.
First, we're going to make croutons. You can skip this step and buy boxed croutons. But once you see how easy it is to make your own—and taste how superior they are to packaged—you'll never go back to store-bought. Start with a 1-pound loaf of plain white bread, the plainer the better: flour, water, salt, and yeast makes the best crouton bread. Cut the bread in 3/4” slices, and the slices into strips.
Bake till dried out and golden. The time depends on the temperature of your oven; save energy by ganging these with something else you're baking. Set the croutons aside to cool. Beware: nibbling will quickly become addictive.
Next, you need another 12 ounces of plain white bread—about 3/4 of a 1-pound loaf. When I'm making this soup, I make two loaves of plain white bread in our kitchen bread machines: 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons instant yeast, and 7/8 to 1 1/8 cups water, depending on the time of year (more water in the winter, less in the summer). Put it all in the bread machine, press start, and about 3 1/2 hours later you'll have two loaves of plain white bread. No joke! It's not the most gorgeous loaf in the world (I prefer to use the machine to knead, and bake in the oven), but it works just fine in this application. Cut the bread into slices, put it in a bowl, and soak it in cold water to barely cover.
Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for White Gazpacho.
Buy vs. Bake
Since I couldn't find a source to purchase this particular soup, at the store or in a restaurant, the comparison this time is simply croutons.
Buy: Packaged croutons, assorted brands, 17¢ to 40¢/ounce
Bake at home: Croutons, 10¢/ounce