Beatrice Ojakangas column: Soups and breads for the season

With the re-release of my cookbook, let's start things out with recipes for autumn.

Butternut Squash Soup with Pecan Cream and Quick Yeast Buns (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

My "Soups and Breads Cookbook," re-released this month by the University of Minnesota Press, is as relevant as ever. Not only does the book pair soups and breads, but there are stories paired with most of them.

The book is divided into seasonal sections, and the autumn section starts right now. I decided to start this section with the recipe for Stone Soup and Country Hearth Bread because that’s how we often began our autumn school season — with a big party for the students in the geology department where my husband was a professor. We invited geology students to our house for the appropriately named “stone soup” and requested that each one bring about a cupful of any kind of vegetables to add to the broth (and the stone that Dick supplied). I made the broth. One year, a student, trying to be challenging, brought a huge chunk of ginger root. It actually added a delicious bite to the vegetables.

FIND IT ONLINE: "Soups and Breads Cookbook" by Beatrice Ojakangas


soup and bread.jpg
(University of Minnesota Press)

In my book, each soup is paired with bread to make a hearty meal. The soups and breads match the seasonal cravings and appropriate ingredients. Stone Soup is paired with Country Hearth Bread. Curried Chicken Wild Rice Soup with Oatmeal Batter Bread, Acorn Squash Soup with Granola Loaf. In the spring to summer sections are pairings like Vegetable Minestra with Rosemary Focaccia. In the winter section, one choice is Swedish Yellow Pea Soup and Pancakes — a menu based on our travels in Finland and Sweden, where this combination is served on Thursdays.

Here are three of the pairings that are for the autumn season, using autumn ingredients. Check my book for the Winter Swedish Yellow Pea Soup and Pancakes and the Spring Minestra and Focaccia menu.

vegetable soup.jpg
Vegetable soup (Getty Images)


This was my “lazy” way to feed a bunch of students. We simply asked each one to bring at least 1 cup of vegetables, cut up and ready for the pot. The bread — well, that wasn’t a problem. We added hunks of cheese and bowls of apples to the menu. For dessert? I took the lazy approach there, too, and offered a bowlful of ice cream bars. Check my new book for a more complete story about stone soup. I might suggest this as a celebration after the virus is long gone!

1 stone, such as a smooth granite or basalt, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter, scrubbed clean

4 quarts basic vegetable or chicken stock


10 to 20 cups chopped vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, etc.)

Salt and pepper

Chopped herbs to fancy it up at the end

Shredded cheese, for serving (optional)

Place the stone in a big soup pot. Add the broth, stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the vegetables as the guests arrive and cover. Cook until all the veggies are fork tender and the “magic moment” when the soup comes together and all the vegetables are done, between 1 and 2 hours.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with herbs and cheese.


Breads like this were historically baked on flat stones over an open fire. Of course, if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor brick oven, go for it! This is a large, free-form loaf with an earthy wheat flavor.

¼ cup honey


1 package or 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast

2 cups warm water, 105-115 degrees

¼ cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 to 3½ cups bread flour

In a large bowl, preferably the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the honey, yeast and warm water. Let stand until the yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wheat germ, butter, salt and whole wheat flour. Let stand for 15 minutes.


With the mixer running, gradually add the bread flour and mix until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, knead by hand for 10 minutes. Cover and let rise in a lightly greased bowl until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to punch down. Shape into a ball and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and dry, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Makes 1 large loaf.

Curried Chicken Wild Rice Soup with Oatmeal Batter Bread (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)


Warm spices — curry, cumin and coriander — season this soup that is perfect on a chilly fall afternoon. The easy-to-stir-together batter bread, studded with seeds and dried fruit, is an ideal partner.

2 tablespoons butter

½ pound sliced mushrooms


1 sweet onion, finely chopped

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup sliced carrots

6 cups basic chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups cooked wild rice, about ½ cup uncooked

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander


1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons dry sherry

2 cups half and half or light cream

(2 tablespoons cornstarch if desired)

1 cup slivered toasted almonds, optional

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the mushrooms, onion, celery and carrots; cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock or broth, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the cooked wild rice, chicken, curry powder, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper and sherry. Simmer until heated through, about 15 minutes. Stir in the half and half mixed with the cornstarch, if you’d like to thicken the soup. Cook, stirring, until lightly thickened. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Makes about 8 servings.

Oatmeal Batter Bread (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)


Studded with seeds and dried apricots, this bread has a delightful texture and it is so easy to make — you just stir it up and let it rise before baking.

2 to 2½ cups bread flour

¾ cup quick or old fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon salt

1 package or 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

⅓ cup honey

4 tablespoons (½ stick) melted butter

1 egg

¼ cup roasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

¼ cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds

1 cup chopped dried apricots

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, the oats, salt and yeast and mix well. In a small saucepan, combine the water, honey and butter and heat to about 120 degrees. Add to the flour mixture along with the egg, pepitas, sunflower seeds and apricots and beat with a spoon for 3 minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover and let rise until puffy, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir the batter to bring it down and turn out onto a greased baking sheet to make a free-form round shape. Cover and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean and dry. Cool and cut into thick slices or wedges. Makes 1 loaf.

Butternut Squash Soup with Pecan Cream and Quick Yeast Buns (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)


This may be my all-time favorite soup. It just screams of FALL. I stumbled on a farmer’s market plethora of squashes this year and needless to say, I chose a bunch of butternut!

2 large butternut squash (3½ pounds total), halved lengthwise and seeded

1 large sweet onion, peeled and halved

1 large yellow potato, scrubbed and halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

¾ cup pecans

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small fennel bulb cut into ½ inch dice

1½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

6 cups basic chicken broth or stock

1½ cups milk

¾ cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon hazelnut, vegetable or canola oil

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kosher salt to taste

1½ tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the cut sides of the squash, onion and potato with the olive oil and set them, cut side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the vegetables are soft, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on and let stand until cool enough to handle. Scrape the flesh from the squash and transfer to a large bowl; discard the skins. Chop the onion and potato.

Spread the pecans on a small baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (If you’re making the Quick Yeast Buns to go with this soup, leave the oven on and increase the temperature to 425 degrees.)

Butternut Squash Soup with Pecan Cream and Quick Yeast Buns (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, lidded pot. Add the fennel and ginger and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, onion, potato and stock. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover the pot and continue cooking until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk.

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until they are finely chopped. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the pecans, hazelnut oil and cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of the pecan cream. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.


While the squash and onion roast for the soup, stir up this simple dough. Drop it into muffin cups, allowing enough time for the buns to rise. Bake after the vegetables are roasted, at which point you will need to increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 package or 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast

1 cup warm water, 105-115 degrees

1 egg, beaten

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, butter, yeast and warm water. Mix in the egg, flour and salt to make a smooth, soft dough. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of a bun comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 12 buns.

Beatrice Ojakangas
Beatrice Ojakangas (News Tribune photo)

Beatrice Ojakangas is a Duluth food writer and author of 31 cookbooks.

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