Is there anything more comforting in winter than a pot of soup on the stove and bread in the oven? Bakers, by their very nature, possess the perfect antidote to winter’s cold and dark.

As the seasons turn, The Baking Sheet features original recipes to suit. I get lots of emails from readers telling me the arrival of their latest issue is an event that causes them to carve out some time in their favorite chair, hot beverage nearby, to read, enjoy, and plan meals to come.

From Sylvia S. in Chester, SC: I love The Baking Sheet! The comments along with the recipes give a lot of insight into many baking issues. And I especially appreciate the Weight Watchers points being included---that "gives me permission" to try (and eat....) the recipes. Thank you so much!

For winter, we're featuring several hearty soups and breads to pair with them; I’d like to share one of the soups with you here. Let’s talk about Pottage first.

I came across this idea when I found a Web site that dealt with food history: pottage is a dish that was cooked in a cauldron hung on a hook over a fire, and this one stays faithful to medieval times, when New World ingredients were as yet unknown.

I’ve since learned from an alert reader and food historian that the green beans in the ingredients list aren’t strictly legitimate: peas or lentils were common, but green beans are from the Americas, too. So if you want your meal to have the true time travel effect, use some peas instead of green beans.

No tomatoes or potatoes, eggplants or yams were in use in Europe until Tudor times. When I read over the article, I immediately thought, “root cellar soup!”

Pottage is part soup, part stew, depending on how long it’s been cooking and how much grain you add to it. If you participate in a year-round CSA, this is a great way to use some of what’s showing up in your basket. You can make it as thin or thick as you like, use any kind of meat stock or scraps you have, and if you can eat gluten, you can use barley instead of oats to thicken the dish. The vegetables have so much flavor that you can easily skip the meat and make the soup with vegetable broth for a vegan dish.

I’ve made this twice now, once with fresh and once with dried herbs, and with the exception of the rosemary, dried seem to do a better job of perfuming and flavoring the soup over its simmering time.

This soup could be made in a slow cooker on low, too; it’ll need at least 4 hours and could go as long as 8 – just don’t add the oats until the last hour of cooking.

If you have a crowd to feed, you can get out your big kettle and double or triple this; pottage will expand to feed as many mouths as needed (remember the children's book Stone Soup?). If the soup gets thicker than you’d like, thin with water or more broth as needed. If you have kids who like the story Stone Soup, you can tell them this is the recipe. It’ll be a fun way to get a lot of good nutrition down the hatch.

Making the soup involves some knife work. To make the soup easy to eat, all of the vegetables and chunks of meat should be about the same size: no bigger than a half inch square.

For Pottage, you'll need (clockwise from top left) turnips or rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, celery root (or celery; the recipe doesn't specifically call for it, but if you have or like it, so much the better), and onions. Not pictured above, but also in the recipe: mushrooms, leeks, cabbage, and lentils or peas, for vegetables.

Then you'll need stock, bay leaves, sage, thyme rosemary, and parsley. Last, 1 pound of protein (smoked meats or sausages are particularly nice), some oats (gluten-free if that's how you're eating), broth or stock, and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe lists specific amounts, but you can use as much as or as little as you like.

To clean the leeks, trim the darker green leaves, which can be tough. Slit the leek from an inch above the root end all the way out to the top. Turn it upside down and run under water to get out any big chunks of dirt that will ruin your knife. Then dice, and put in a bowl of water to wash any other grit off. Pick the diced leeks up off the water and drain.

Get our your peeler and get those parsnips and carrots naked; turnips, too if you're using them. For rutabagas or celery root, it's best to use your knife to peel the vegetables. Rutabagas have a line about 1/4" under the skin; make sure your knife travels inside this line (the flesh is less tasty on the outside of this landmark).

Once the vegetables are all prepped, put 'em in a pot with a little vegetable oil, cover, and sweat them (that's a real live term, by the way; it means they steam in their own juices) for 15 minutes, until they begin to get soft.

vegetables, before and after sweating

From here it's easy: add the herbs, the stock, meat if you're using it, and simmer. Add the oats at least half an hour before you plan to eat. This is a nice soup to put on the woodstove, if that's how you heat your house. It's also something you can put in a slow cooker and let take care of itself. Do the vegetables on high for about an hour, then give the soup another 2 hours on high after the stock goes in. The oats can go be added anytime after the second hour. After that, it's up to you how long you want to cook it; the longer you simmer, the thicker it will get.

What shall we have with our soup? I propose one of the tastiest, quick-to-put-together recipes I know. Faster than a biscuit, less fussy than a dinner roll, tasty and full of whole grains: Rieska. Rieska will be making its appearance in the Early Spring issue, which is headed to the printer as I write this.

From Finland, and a time before fermented loaves, Rieska is simple and uses what was readily available. Once upon a time Finns baked flatbreads with holes in the center, and strung them up on a rope near the ceiling to store them until they were used. This recipe takes the spirit of that ancient Finnish bread and updates it a bit to make it useful for today.

Rieska can be made with rye or barley flour, and is sometimes found with potato flour in the mix, too. If made with a little less liquid and rolled particularly flat, it's a nice partner to some gravlax or smoked salmon. Our version is more in the camp of a biscuit/quick bread.

First, preheat the oven to 500°F. That's not a typo: this bread was designed to be baked in a hot, wood-burning cookstove, and 500°F is as close as your oven at home can get.

Next, set up your pan. I'm using a 9" x 13" pan, lined with a piece of parchment paper, held in place with two spring clips from the stationery store.

They're metal, so they're fine to go into the oven. Most of us in the test kitchen can't bake without them anymore, we've become so used to being able to lift our baked goods right out of the pan with the parchment paper "handles" once things are cool.

In a large bowl, combine

1/2 cup (1 1/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup (4 ounces) whole rye flour (pumpernickel; you could also use barley flour here)

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) sugar

Hmmm. Just realized the oats aren't in here. Don't worry, they'll catch up in a minute.

Cut in

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter until it pretty much disappears.

Grab your dough whisk, put the bowl on a scale, and pour in 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) of buttermilk. And those oats we forgot.

Stir thoroughly until you have a goopy dough; plop it in your pan.

Spread it evenly with an offset spatula,

then pop it in the oven. In 15 minutes (check at 13 to be safe, this goes pretty fast) you'll have this:

Once cool, lift the bread out of the pan, and cut to whichever size you like. The first picture I showed has the bread cut in 2" squares, which will feed a crowd. For our supper, we'll cut the bread into 6 pieces,

and make a fabulous roast beef sandwich to go with our soup.

In our family, if you're having roast beef, you'd better bring the horseradish sauce. It's a staple with our Christmas rib roast dinner. It's incredibly easy to make, and can do double duty as a quick crudité dip if need be (if you're going there, I recommend stirring in a teaspoon of onion powder, too).

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream (you can use low or nonfat if you like; works just as well).

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Put it in a bowl, stir it up, you're done. The flavor improves as it sits, so budget an hour for it to hang out in the fridge before you use it.

Now for sandwich majesty: Rieska, spread, tomatoes, arugula, roast beast, voilà!

So what's for supper?

A bowl of Pottage, some Rieska for cleaning the bowl, or to pair with some roast or corned beef and some Horseradish Sauce for a hearty sandwich. The Baking Sheet is happy to serve up this hearty winter meal. We hope you'll join us, in reading, and baking, and anticipating great new recipes to bake (that you can't find anywhere else) all year long.

From kjp684 on our community site: "The newsletters are filled with recipes and pictures. The authors and editors provide tips about experience with creating the recipe, and other things they tried. I gave this as a gift to my husband, and ended up renewing with a 2-year subscription, he liked it so well. Highly recommend this, but once you subscribe, you'll be hooked, and will want to get a multi-year subscription."

Susan Reid
The Author

About Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.