Tomato Soup Shooters with “Grilled Cheese” Breadsticks
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
shooters and 36 breadsticks
Prep Time: 1 hour Resting, Rising, and Chilling Time: 2 hours 30 minutes Cook Time: 48 minutes
On TV’s “The Mindy Project,” the only meal the main character, Mindy Lahiri, can make is tomato soup and grilled cheese. This recipe was created as an homage to Mindy Lahiri’s culinary “talents,” and it fits right into my fantasy cocktail party for Mindy Kaling, the show’s creator. Soup “shooters” have been appearing at the fanciest parties for a while now and I love them. And why not? Homemade tomato soup that’s rich in tomato-tomato-tomato flavor and perfumed with bay leaves and garlic is just as welcome for adults at a party as kids after school. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a simple and delicious lunch or healthy after-school snack, this is it. The cheesy breadsticks are so good, and made from such an easy-to-use dough, that even if you aren’t a seasoned baker and think yeast things are too hard, this is a great-tasting entry-level recipe. The soup is designed to be rather thick, but feel free to add up to another cup of stock if you like it thinner. It still won’t water down the super-duper tomato-tomato-tomato taste. Both the soup and breadsticks can be made in advance separately, but if you’ll be making them at the same time, it’s doable—just prepare the soup while the dough is rising and bring to a simmer again while the breadsticks are baking.
Grilled Cheese Breadsticks:
1 package (7 grams/2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water (about 90ºF, see Kitchen Tips)
½ teaspoon (2 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
½ cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoons (9 grams) salt
3 cups (408 grams) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1¼ cups (100 grams) finely grated Cheshire, Leicester or aged Cheddar cheese or a mixture of these
1 tablespoon water
½ tablespoon (3 grams) sweet smoked paprika
½ large sweet onion, peeled and grated
1 stick (½ cup/114 grams/4 ounces/8 tablespoons unsalted butter, European-style or cultured strongly preferred
14 large dried bay leaves, finely ground (see Kitchen Tips)
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 cup San Marzano tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded
2 (28-ounce) cans chopped San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups Roasted Vegetable Stock or best-quality store-bought low-sodium vegetable broth, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Make the breadsticks: Combine the yeast, water, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix just until dissolved. Let stand for 3 to 4 minutes, until the yeast bubbles to the top. Add the olive oil, buttermilk, and ¾ tablespoon salt, with the mixer at low speed. Then add the bread flour, 1 cup at a time, and mix just to combine. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. (If you wish, you can knead the dough by hand; just increase the kneading time to 8 to 9 minutes.)
- Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours, until doubled in volume.
- When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with oil. Prepare 2 more sheets of parchment paper big enough to line the baking sheets and set aside. Lightly flour a work surface.
- Place the risen dough on the work surface, pressing to flatten it into a a 12- by 8-inch rectangle, with a thickness of about ½ inch. Sprinkle half the grated cheese evenly over the top and fold in half, like a book. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough again to a thickness of ½ inch, to again make a 2- by 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, fold again, and roll to a thickness of ½ inch, this time making a 12- by 9-inch rectangle.
- Cut the dough in half crosswise to make 2 (6- by 9-inch) rectangles. Cut each half into 18 (½- by 6-inch inch) strips so you have a total of 36 strips. Place half of them on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart, 9 per sheet. Divide the rest between the prepared sheets of parchment, 1 inch apart.
- Make an egg wash by beating the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush the breadsticks with the egg wash, sprinkle with the coarse salt and smoked paprika. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes; then swap the pans between oven racks and rotate from each front to back to ensure even baking. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes longer, until lightly golden. Slide the breadsticks onto a cooling rack. Immediately place the parchments of unbaked bread sticks onto the baking sheets (carefully, so you don’t burn yourself) and bake, rotating the pans as before, for a total of 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the breadsticks completely on the racks before serving. The breadsticks may be stored in a plastic bag for up to 12 hours, but they will soften noticeably and should be reheated or toasted before serving.
- Make the soup: Place the grated onion in a bowl with enough ice water to cover and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
- Heat the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat until it begins to turn a pale chestnut brown in color. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the grated onion and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the bay leaves, sugar, salt, and pepper, stir well, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes, stir well, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until heated through. Using an immersion blender (or a blender or food processor) blend the hot soup until completely smooth. Heat again for 2 to 3 minutes, until the soup just comes to a boil.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable stock and cornstarch until the cornstarch has dissolved. While whisking the soup vigorously, pour in this cornstarch slurry and whisk well. Bring to a rolling boil. This will take about 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and, if you wish, adjust the consistency by adding more stock. The soup can be served immediately; if you are serving the soup as shooters, ladle about ¼ cup per person into small cups and serve with the breadsticks. Or you can chill the soup and serve cold. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving.
- Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it—between 85°F and 100°F—but if the water is too warm you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
- To grind bay leaves, use a spice grinder, small food processor or coffee grinder dedicated to spices and grind until powdery. Make sure they are thoroughly ground; don’t leave any pointy bits. Finely grinding just a few bay leaves can be a challenge for some grinders, so I often make a bunch and store it in a covered, glass spice jar. You can also grind them with a mortar and pestle or a stone molcajete (the volcanic, scratchy rock works very well) if you are a DIY fan.