Take soup from simple-dinner to party-ready with a golden puff pastry topping. Use an ovenproof Crock-Pot with a five-inch diameter for the best soup-to-pastry ratio. This is serious stuff, people.
Autumn Squash Soup with Puff Pastry
½ acorn squash (about ¾ lb.), seeded
1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato, such as a Garnet yam (about ¾ lb.)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 c. brandy
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 qt. chicken or vegetable stock, plus more as needed
¼ c. heavy cream
½ lb. frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold
Egg wash (1 whole egg beaten with 1 tbsp. milk)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Place the squash half, cut side down, in a pie tin or small baking dish with ½ inch of water. Bake (uncovered) until the flesh can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife (about 40 minutes), adding a little more water if necessary.
2. Pierce the sweet potato in several spots with a fork. Place it in a pie tin or on a baking sheet and bake it alongside the squash until tender when pierced (about 1 hour).
3. When the squash is cool, scoop the flesh out of the skin. (You should have about 1 c.)
4. When the sweet potato is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skin. (You should have about 1 c.)
5. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
6. Add the onion and saute until soft (about 5 minutes).
7. Add the brandy and simmer for 1-2 minutes to burn away the alcohol.
8. Add the squash, sweet potato, ginger, cinnamon, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 5 minutes to combine flavors.
9. In a blender or food processor, puree the contents of the pot until smooth. Pour into a clean pot.
10. Whisk in the cream. Thin with additional stock if needed to achieve a pleasing soup consistency.
11. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool to room temperature.
12. Preheat oven to 425°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a flat sheet about 1/8-inch thick.
13. Cut six rounds, each 2 inches larger in diameter than the top of each soup bowl (for a 5-inch bowl, cut a 7-inch round). To guide yourself, invert a bowl onto the flattened pastry and cut around it. You can gather and reroll the scraps only once.
14. Put the rounds on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
15. Divide the soup among six ovenproof bowls.
16. Brush the rim of each bowl with egg wash. Cover each bowl with a pastry round and press the pastry firmly over the sides so the top is taut, like a drum. Make sure there are no cracks in the pastry. Brush the tops lightly with egg wash.
17. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown (about 25 minutes). Serve immediately.
18. Enjoy with Cakebread Cellars chardonnay reserve or another full-bodied, oak-aged white wine.
Adapted from The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook, available online at amazon.com, $22.
Photo: Marshall Gordon / Courtesy of Ten Speed Press
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