Paul Steindler’s Cabbage Soup and A Peasant Bread Follow-Up

cabbage soup

When I’m home in CT visiting my parents, my favorite pastime is poking around the two basement refrigerators, the home of all sorts of treats my mother has been preparing — soups, spanakopita, Grand Marnier chocolate truffles — and stocking up on — smoked mussels, white anchovies, enough cheeses to feed the neighborhood — for weeks. It’s a little gourmet paradise inside those boxes, and it’s impossible not to sneak a peak (and a truffle) with every trip down to the basement.

The only hard part about being home for the holidays is refraining from eating all day long. From the first bite of homemade cinnamon oatmeal bread in the morning to the last bite of flourless chocolate-almond torte in the evening, my stomach barely gets a rest. There is goodness at every turn, and none so much (if you ask me) as at lunch, which hasn’t changed (during the holidays at least) in about a decade: a bowl of soup, a square of spanakopita and a slice or two of homemade bread. On this most recent visit, we feasted on Vermont cheddar cheese soup — my favorite — and rosemary butternut squash bisque with slices of toasted buttered rye bread on the side. It was heaven.

Five days of this soup-and-bread routine made me miss it dearly upon returning home to my all-but-bare refrigerator. But when a large head of cabbage and a few carrots sitting in my vegetable drawer caught my eye, my spirits lifted. With the exception of fresh dill, I had everything on hand to make another favorite soup of my mother’s, one she has been making since the early 80’s: Paul Steindler’s cabbage soup with caraway seeds, a recipe Craig Claiborne wrote about many years ago in The New York Times Magazine and eventually published in The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Loaded with vegetables — carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbage — a little bacon and a touch of cream, this is definitely a hearty soup, best served on a cold winter day with crusty bread and nothing more. For me, it’s the dill and caraway seeds that make it unlike any other I have tasted, the caraway seeds in particular imparting a lovely yet subtle flavor.

I don’t think there is a better winter lunch than homemade soup and a little hunk of bread, and with that in mind, I wanted to post a follow-up to the peasant bread recipe, which seems to have been a great success for many of you but continues to trouble others, and in turn, me as well. The trouble most people seem to be having is with the second rise, which after a successful first rise, inexplicably isn’t happening. I have been stumped over this issue for months. When I read the first few comments about this issue, I suspected the size of the bowl was the culprit — I worried that the bowls might be too big for the delicate structure of this dough to handle. But when a few of you had the same issue but were using the appropriate-sized bowls, I knew it had to be something else. During an email conversation with one Reader this past weekend, I discovered she had misinterpreted my instructions (which I have since clarified in the post) and rather than preheat the oven for 1 minute total — to create a warm spot for the bread to rise — she had preheated the oven fully to its hottest setting and let it heat at that temperature for 1 minute before shutting it off. So for this Reader, while the bread did rise initially, it also partially baked, and so when it was punched down, the yeast was dead, which is why it never rose the second time around. I am wondering if anyone else who had trouble with the second rise similarly placed the dough to rise the first time around in a too hot oven? And if not, fellow bread bakers, do you have any thoughts as to why a dough might rise the first time around, but not the second? I so badly want this recipe to turn out for all of you — it’s such a good one.

dill and caraway seeds


carrots & potatoes

diced carrots & potatoes

14 cups shredded cabbage

blanched cabbage

bacon crisping

dill added to soup

Paul Steindler’s Cabbage Soup

Slightly dapted from a Craig Claiborne & Pierre Franey recipe

Note: This is a double recipe, and it yields a lot, but it’s so nice to have on hand, especially, if you have company arriving. With a little hunk of fresh bread — rye, which I have never made, is particularly good with this soup — it makes the most wonderful lunch. Also, while this recipe requires a fair amount of chopping, you can sort of chop as you go: while the bacon is rendering, chop the onions; while the onions are sautéing, dice the carrots and potatoes, etc.

12 cups shredded cabbage*
2 cups (about 12 oz.) finely diced bacon**
2 cups finely diced onions
1/2 cup flour
10 cups homemade chicken stock
2 cups finely diced carrots
2 to 3 cups finely diced potatoes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons whole caraway seeds, crushed or pulverized
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill (or more or less to taste)

*I used one relatively large head, which yielded about 14 cups, and I used it all.
**I used about 4 oz. of pancetta and 6 oz. of bacon — all I had on hand.

1. Place cabbage in a large bowl. Bring enough water to a boil (I filled a tea kettle, but you could always fill a large sauce pan) to submerge the cabbage in the bowl. Pour the water over the cabbage; let sit one minute; drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large pot, cook the bacon until rendered of its fat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring, until they are wilted. Sprinkle with flour and stir. Add the broth, stirring rapidly with a wire whisk. When the mixture simmers, add the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, salt, pepper, caraway seeds, vinegar and sugar.

3. Cook, stirring often from the bottom, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer five minutes. Add the chopped dill to the pot. Serve, adding more chopped dill to each bowl if desired.

cabbage soup

Making mini loaves — perfect for soup — of my mother’s peasant bread in a popover pan:
dough rising

mini loaves, just baked


loaf and mini loaves

Mini loaves: a nice little way to silence your children, briefly anyway.
Ella eating

cabbage soup


  1. Nicole says

    I’ve made the bread twice in the last couple of weeks, both times successfully. I heated the oven to 500 and then shut it off and let the bread rise with the oven door open for the first rise and then for the second rise I preheated oven again to about 300 and then turned it off and let it rise also with the oven door open slightly. I did not have the correct size bowl so the ones I use are slightly larger and they seem to work fine… I love your tip about getting luke-warm water!

  2. says

    This soup looks perfect for winter, Ali. I’ve been craving soup lately… although despite my best new year’s intentions, I’m inclined to make the cheddar soup before this healthier option. Love the shot of Ella!

  3. Sarah Heat says

    I’ve been putting coarsely chopped kalamata olives as a topping to soup like this- I love the punch of flavor that they add.

  4. KG says

    Interesting that you’d post a follow-up to the peasant bread right after I tried making it last weekend! I never use my oven for a warm place, preferring to put the breadi n a bowl and place it on the (turned-off, not heated) stovetop. If the oven is on meanwhile, the stovetop is warmer, but room temperature always serves well enough. The bread dough rose perfectly for me at room temperature on both rises, and my mom and I couldn’t stop snacking on the baked loaves – plain, with butter, with soup, with jam, with cheese. The crust had a lovely, delicate crunch and the inside was fluffy and perfect.

    Excuse me, I think I need to go make it again….

  5. says

    This sounds so much like the the romanian cabbage soup (which we actually borrowed from our hungarian neighbors). But we use smoked pork hocks instead of bacon and no potatoes. But I guess every nation has a version of cabbage soup more or less similar.
    Anyway, you gave me such a good ideea for lunch this week-end. I will buy the bread, though, since I am not able to make bread dough (yet).

  6. Katie S says

    Soup looks yummy. I can’t wait to try it. Question: at what point do you incorporate the wilted cabbage? Does it need more cooking or is it added at serving time?

  7. Liz says

    Alexandra–regarding the bread and heating the oven–try turning the oven on to the LOWEST setting for one minute. That is all you really need to create a warm environment for the dough. Also, when preparing the dough, you can mix instant yeast into the flour while mixing salt and sugar into warm water without worrying about the temperature of the water–in other words with instant yeast you don’t need to “proof” it.Just toss it into the flour and then pour in the water, salt, sugar mixture. My favorite yeast is SAF–it is French and foolproof. You can buy it from King Arthur flour. Once I received a bag that would not proof, and KIng Arthur sent me a replacement bag without any fuss. Anyway, the bread has never failed for me.

  8. Melanie says

    I have made the bread several times in the last few months…even gave it as holiday gifts. My bowls are way off in size so I always get more of a disc, but that doesn’t impact the flavor at all. For me, the confusion initially was re: the yeast. I was using the packets from the grocery and not using the full packet. Once I read your re-post shortly after the original post, I started using the whole packet and had better results. I’m waiting to get my two new bowls in the mail as I write this, and they are the correct size. Can’t wait to get back to my bread making!

    • says

      Melanie — wonderful to hear this! I hope your new bowls produce a better shape for you. I should update the notes about yeast, too. If you buy instant yeast, there is no need to do the whole proofing step, though the proofing step is nice in that it assures you that your yeast is active.

  9. Susan says

    This looks great, but when do you add the wilted cabbage? The instructions say to set it aside, however, it’s never shown to be added later. Thanks, looks yummy!

  10. Lucy T. says

    Soup looks great, wow. I now wish I had bought the giant winter cabbage I just saw at the farmer’s market for $1! May have to go back…

    I’ve made the bread several times now and I don’t always get it to rise as high each time, but I’m pretty sure my bowls are a little too large. I’m ok with the shape I get, it’s still delicious. Have been doing it lately with 3 parts local red fife flour (wholegrain and hearty) and 1 part unbleached AP. I am really excited to try the mini loaves in a popover pan. I have one that I almost never use sitting in my pantry!

    Thanks for more great ideas, and happy new year!

    • says

      Lucy — what’s funny is that I’ve never actually made popovers in this pan…only bread. The poor pan just sits there! I hope you get a better rise with the smaller sized pan.

  11. says

    I am delighted to see all these beautiful recipes from across the Atlantic ….
    Could I have the recipe for bread??? it seems so good!

    thank you in advance!

  12. Katie says

    I love this bread recipe so much. I normally use my microwave to let the bread rise. I stick a mug of water in and heat it for about 3 minutes. Then I stick the mug in the back and stick the bowl with the dough in the microwave. It makes a nice warm draft free area to let the bread rise and leaves my oven free for other things.

    • says

      Katie — this is a great tip! My husband and I bought ourselves a microwave for Xmas…I can’t believe I have lived this long without one. It’s already gotten its money’s worth. And now I have another use for it. Thanks!

  13. says

    Alexandra–Love your bread recipe… And I too just made it (and wrote about it!) last week. Maybe the reason why there are so many issues with the second rising is because the bowls aren’t being kept in a warm, contained space–especially in these cold winter months when our houses are cooler and the yeast can’t get that second gumption to rise again. I think Katie’s recommendation is perfect for a place to keep the dough warmish while the oven preheats and the bread can rise a second time.

    Also–I noticed that I really needed about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get a good rise out of the first round. It helped to then get the bread to rise again for the second round.

    • says

      Emily — I think you may be right about the cold weather, and I think the longer the first rise goes, the easier the second rise will be, as you mention. Thanks for writing about the bread recipe! I am going to find your post.Have a great weekend.

  14. Dana says

    Are people using instant or rapid rise yeast? The first rise takes much longer, but apparently you don’t need a second rise. I prefer regular active dry. I have had no problems with your recipe, other than that I put too many flax seeds in it one time! :)

    • says

      Dana — great to hear that the recipe is turning out well for you. Love the idea of adding flax seeds! I should try that next time. As for your question, it seems people are using all sorts of yeasts — instant, active-dry, rapid-rise, fresh, etc.

  15. says

    I was raised on cabbage in soup. I love its sweetish flavor, so this recipe looks good.

    And the mini loaves of bread looked very nice. I used to make bread fairly often, and this looked tempting.

    • says

      Krista, hi, and sorry for this delayed response! I haven’t tried freezing this soup in particular, but I imagine it will freeze very well. Most soups do, and I don’t see why this one wouldn’t too. Hope that helps!

  16. Sandra says

    I love bread, and tried you mother’s recipe – it was Glorious! I did not use the oven for the rises – A different “warm Spot” technique is to put 1 cup water in a microwavable cup and microwave to a boil – open microwave, leave hot cup of water in there but add your bread to rise (covered lightly) close microwave and leave it OFF – bread usually rises in half the time or less. Fool proof and the moist heat is Ideal!
    Love your blog:-)

    • says

      Genius! Love this idea, especially since it allows you to free up the oven. Thank you for sharing! So happy the bread turned out well for you, and thank you for your kind words :)

  17. says

    Ali, I’m making this soup for the THIRD time this winter. I think it’s one of my all-time favourites from your site! Hope your 2015 is off to a strong start. xo

    • says

      Oh, Charlene, so wonderful to hear this! That cabbage soup is one of my favorites, too. I was so happy to read that you loved the lentil soup and so happy to read that you love this one too — seriously, those are the two soups I have been making all winter long. 2015 is looking good! Hope it is for you, too :)

  18. Chrystal J says

    I made this soup today exactly as written. Used homemade chicken stock and Nueske’s bacon. It was FABULOUS. One of the best vegetable-based soups I’ve tasted. I made it because I had a half a head of cabbage pestering me from the fridge….now I’m going to be looking for an excuse to make it again. :) I love the cheese soup as well.

    • says

      So happy to hear this! This probably is my favorite soup as well — I have been making it all winter because we get so much cabbage in our CSA. So glad you like the cheese soup too. That’s such a good one this time of year!

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