Who would have thought that there was so much to learn about soup? I feel like I barely scratched the surface this week. Yet, next week’s bread theme is quickly approaching. So I decided to post today about thickening soups. In the winter, a thicker soup is nice and hardy. Be sure to check back tomorrow to link up your favorite soup recipes and to check out others!
When I first started making soups from Simply in Season, I simply adored how some of our favorite soups were so nice and creamy. Very hearty! Often they had me add a milk and flour mixture to the soup. It wasn’t long before I discovered that this thickening method is common and has, you guessed it, a great French name that all chefs understand:
Mark Bittman’s Ratio has a, um, ratio for roux.
Roux = 3 parts flour: 2 parts fat
Thickening Ratio = 10 parts liquid : 1 part roux
If you’ve ever tried to thicken a soup using a recipe found online (or from a cookbook) that doesn’t provide much by way of instruction, such as the Beer Cheese Soup that DH made, you may have ended up with curdled soup and wonder what the heck happened. Keys to Good Cooking, offers the following tips:
- when thickening with egg yolk or other uncooked animal protein, take care not to overheat the protein. Begin the process with the soup well below the boiling point, and add small amounts of hot soup gradually to the thickener to dilute and warm it gradually, then mix all together and heat slowly just until the soup starts to thicken.
- when thickening with cream, don’t go low fat! Light cream, sour cream, yogurt, butter, or olive oil can curdle, so leave these for the last minute and keep temperature well below a boil (this goes for reheating, too.)
- choose recipes that include starch or flour as this helps protect fat from coagulating.
- to thicken soups with flour or starch, make sure to predisperse the thickener before adding to the soup. Add the thickener and then simmer just until the soup reaches the right consistency. For example, many of the recipes in Simply in Season instruct one to mix the flour in milk before adding to the soup towards the end.
So, what are some of my favorite thickened soups?
Polish Wild Mushroom and Potato Soup
This post shared at Real Food Wednesday and Works for Me Wednesday
How about freezing cream-based soups? I’m not sure they will defrost and reheat the same.
The Local Cook
We never have enough leftover to freeze, but from what I read you will want to apply the same principles – keep the heat low and stir frequently when reheating.
Yes, definitely use full fat cream! Cream has less carbs than milk (in raw versions, anyhow). I usually heat the milk or cream before I add it to the rest of the recipe. Sometimes I get lazy and use my microwave to do this, although for the most part my microwave is just a decoration in case we decide to sell our house. The more appliances, apparently, the better resale value. Go figure.
I think I posted a recipe here a while back for my homemade cream of anything soup, and that’s a good example of why you need to heat the milk separately, before adding to the rest of your ingredients. We are able to buy raw milk and cream from our cowshare lady. Beautiful stuff because she milks Jerseys, not Holsteins. BIG difference in the amount of milk-fat involved.
Lately I’ve started drinking the Carrot Tonic from the NT cookbook (just fresh, do-it-yourself carrot juice mixed with cream) and it’s sooooo wonderful for skin and all the internal organs. All that great unopposed vitamin A in pure form, not to mention the fats and other good stuff in the cream to get all that nourishment to the right places by assisting in proper absorption. My DIL likes the carrot/cream drink too, and she puts a dash of sea salt in hers. I’ll have to try that when I drink mine today. We drink ours unheated, but I would imagine you could heat it slowly and slightly to make it almost like cream of carrot soup, if you wanted to.
I offer this a bit cautiously as it involves a — possibly objectionable — convenience food item, but a fairly curdle-proof way to thicken cream soups is the judicious addition of a small amount of commercial “potato flakes” (yeah, the mashed-potatoes-from-a-box stuff, ewww). A ham-and-potato soup recipe passed along by a friend years back suggested this if the soup seemed a bit on the thin side. IF I have them in the house anymore (not a frequent occurence), I’ve found that they do a good job of thickening without affecting flavor, whether the soup to be thicked is potato or anything else.
To my surprise, our photographer, a serious cook himself, mentioned this as a “secret weapon” he uses when necessary. Trust me, Jeff is generally a purist about ingredients, so I was surprised to hear this, but thought it gave a certain legitimacy to using a convenience product. But, of course, he is willing to use a prepared ingredient if it does the best job in a given recipe… Case in point is his insistence that a certain amount of Velveeta is the perfect addition for meltability in his family’s traditional pierogi recipe seen in the October-November issue.
Spelt flour, or even potato flour would work, as well. But I thought we were talking about ways to keep soups from curdling, not how to thicken. Did I read it wrong?
And, as far as I know, pierogi doesn’t contain cheese from the original Polish/Hungarian recipes. It’s just dough pockets, mashed potatoes and onion, a little salt and pepper. That’s it. That’s how I still make them – and I’m Swedish!
The Local Cook
As for the pierogies, it’s fascinating to learn about regional differences. When I was at the cooking class a few weeks ago with an Italian chef, he talked about how with certain recipes one side of the town would use one ingredient in a dish and the other side of the town would use a different ingredient for the same dish. One would use nutmeg, for example, and the other wouldn’t.