Temperatures are dipping under 40 at night and days are barely getting into the '70s, which means it’s time to the hunt down favorite soup recipes and start cooking for cooler weather.
Squash is plentiful now, and the combos in soup cookbooks sound warming and satisfying: butternut squash and balsamic-glazed goat cheese soup, and curried pumpkin soup are just two. Kale-potato soup, rutabaga-apple soup — so many lend themselves to the bounty of fall.
Soup needs a good, hearty, filling bread to make it a meal. You can make your own, but Missoula’s bakeries are bursting with artisan options that would take hours to produce at home, so why bother? Their loaf breads are made to tear into chunks and or cut into thick slices to sop up the juices from Mom’s hearty sausage minestrone or Grandpa’s roasted corn chowder.
One secret in the life of bakeries: They tend to have more variety and offerings as the week goes by, with more choices on Thursday and Friday than on Monday. Also, they make certain breads every day, but others are baked only some days in some weeks. Ask for a schedule sheet; it’ll help you plan. But be adventurous — try something that isn’t a usual choice; you might find a new favorite.
Here’s a brief tour of some of Missoula’s local specialty bakeries:
Black Cat Bake Shop
2000 W. Broadway
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays; 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
This bakery has a beautiful (and delicious) selection of tarts, cookies, pastries, pies and other sweets, but don’t ignore the hearty hearth breads it offers, too. The bakery’s pain de campagne — French country bread — is a light, crusty loaf that is a favorite for toasting sandwiches or making garlic bread to go with soups. Campagne is available every day.
Irish soda bread is available every day too, at least into November, when a new schedule is due out.
One unusual Black Cat bread: German mustard bread. It is baked every other Wednesday and Thursday (next available bake is Sept. 26 and 27), at least through mid-November. It’s a seed-covered country loaf with a dusted-with-mustard flavor that would pair well with any soup, delicate or robust. The mustard isn’t overwhelming but gives the bread a heartiness that fits the season.
“A real favorite is the three-olive and roasted red pepper bread,” said Christy Wich, who co-owns the bakery with her husband, Jack. That combination — salty olives, sweet peppers — is just the hearty flavor some soups need. It’s not available every day, though, so you have to check the schedule.
Even before Black Cat opened its storefront years ago, Jack and Christy Wich’s focaccia were coveted at the Missoula Farmer’s Market. Now they are available year-round but only on certain days. This version of focaccia, a flat Italian bread, is like adding a small pizza to a meal.
Among Black Cat’s other specialty breads: spinach-feta; cheddar-chipotle; buttermilk currant; buttermilk cranberry; nine-grain; and asiago rolls. Irish soda bread is always available; baked fresh, then frozen.
Great Harvest Bread Co.
1407 S. Higgins Ave.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sunday.
Interested in Great Harvest breads? Stop by any time and you’ll be offered a free slice, cut from fresh-baked breads available that day. Savor while pondering your pick.
The bakery’s everyday offerings include a whole-wheat and white version of its gooey favorite honey bread, perfect for a thick minestrone or another soup that needs soaking up. The heavier Dakota is filled with sesame, poppy, sunflower and millet seeds, denser than the honey loaves.
Great Harvest has a rotation of other breads too: In September, for example, they are baking rustic sourdough and farm breads, a three-cheese sourdough, a three-cheese-and-garlic, and a bread with cracked pepper and Parmesan, which would be great with a smooth, mildly flavored fall squash soup.
Here’s another to try: Parmesan and red onion bread. The red onion adds a pop of sweetness and the Parmesan a pocket of tangy, salty cheese. Subtle but distinctive and definitely soup-worthy. This month it’s made only on Thursdays. Next month? You’ll have to get the October bread schedule to find out.
Le Petit Outre
129 S. Fourth St. W.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Some Le Petit breads are familiar, available in many local grocery stores, usually gathered in a distinctive display that includes a basket to hold the long, crunchy baguettes and shelves for the airy, tart ciabatta loaves, the pain de campagne and the flat rosemary focaccia. All are delicious with soup, especially the focaccia.
But if you want to see where it all got started 20 years ago, stop by the mothership bakery and coffee shop on Fourth Street. There you’ll find Le Petit breads not available in the grocery stores, along with a selection of distinctive pastries that fly off the shelves.
A suggestion for a soup meal: Le Petit has two types of rye breads, a German and a New York. The German is denser and made with pumpernickel flour; the New York has caraway seeds and is lighter in taste. Consider your soup, but if you can’t decide, try them both and freeze what you don’t finish.
The bakery also has several rolls that would fill a bread basket for soups, including Kalamata olive, sourdough and Italian rolls, along with roll versions of its cranberry struan and pain de campagne loaf breads. An “epi-baguette” is long like a baguette, but shaped to easily tear off individual rolls.
Seasonal and specialty baked goods also are added from time to time. Ask at the bakery for suggestions; the clerks know their stuff.
Bernice’s Bakery, 190 S. Third St., has moved away from loaf breads to concentrate on cakes and other baked goods. But it offers flaky Parker House rolls, made from its buttery croissant dough, and also Parmesan-Asiago rolls, both of which would round out a soup supper.
Babak's Bakery and Deli Mart, 134 E. Broadway, offers a selection of cured meats, candy and baked goods from Russia and eastern Europe. It has a house-made German rye round loaf that is designed to sop up the liquid from any beet-and-veggie Russian borscht you may create.