Cake Ann’s Chicken Soup & Dinner Rolls
Cape Ann first met the Kouign-amann (pronounced kween ah-MON) — a cupcake-sized Breton treat of puff pastry, butter and sugar — when Inga McCarthy, with the help of her husband and two sons, set up a tent at the Rockport Farmers Market about five years ago.
Word of Kouign-amann spread like high tide in a full moon through knowing channels. By week two, the Rockport Farmers’ Market staff knew to get them early because they’d be sold out by mid-morning, leaving only choices of — not exactly a tragedy — tender cupcakes towered in butter cream and tucked into parchment cones.
McCarthy’s butter and sugar talents made her instantly famous on this island. She served her master works, the moistest crumb and the fluffiest frostings, under a sign with the best bakery name ever: Cake Ann.
Three years ago Cake Ann graduated to a brick and mortar storefront (in the small mall adjacent to the Common Crow) where you can purchase Kouign-amann everyday except Monday, but they still sell out. Today, Cake Ann’s specialty are practically a local tradition.
I wanted to know what our famous baker made in her own kitchen in mid-Winter, after the last of the hundreds of Buches de Noels have been festooned with meringue mushrooms and delivered.
It turns out McCarthy is mortal, too.
Like the rest of us, she makes chicken soup for her family, but she leaves us regular dinner-makers behind when she also offers the best dinner roll recipe ever.
Warm from the oven beside this chicken and noodle-rich broth, these dinner rolls make sure the dark season isn’t Spartan. The “fluffy” and “tender” Cake Ann theme happily endures in these rolls — like everything, best when eaten straight out of the oven with butter.
Here’s what McCarthy says about this winter favorite:
“I like that it feels sort of light, but it’s not ‘diet.’ It’s just for those days when you feel like you can’t get warm inside — perfect for the cold, and keeping you healthy. The soup is not cream-based, which feels a lot more calorie intensive. It feels clean but substantial.”
The soup can be as complex or as easy as you like, McCarthy says.
You can roast bones or even smoke them (McCarthy’s husband is an avid meat smoker, so they often have smoked bones available for dreamy broths) and make your own homemade stock, which would elevate this soup to a meal fit for entertaining. Or you can buy broth and keep it simple.
As for the chicken, you can roast your own chicken breasts or, if you are really pressed for time, grab a grocery store rotisserie chicken. The Japanese noodles (available in the Asian section at Market Basket) cook in two minutes, a built-in shortcut. Traditionally these Tomoshirago noodles are served chilled in summer, but they work well here, too.
The rolls, McCarthy says, double as a great repertoire recipe. They are relatively easy. You just need to account for rising times, and make a dramatic presentation.
Who doesn’t love freshly baked dinner rolls? If you need more of an excuse to make them, these dinner rolls, McCarthy says, are the best reason to turn on the oven and warm up your kitchen.
Cake Ann Chicken Soup
6 cups of Chicken stock
2 bone-in, roasted chicken breasts (roast chicken in oven — skin on — seasoned with salt in pepper at 375º degrees for about 30-40 minutes)
1-2 bundles (2 bundles makes a noodle-heavy soup) Tomoshiraga Somen (Japanese noodles)
½ cup chopped scallions or green onions (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice or to taste (optional)
Chopped cilantro (optional)
Red pepper flakes or finely chopped fresh serrano chilis (optional)
Heat broth to a simmer and add the shredded roast chicken.
Add one or more bunch of Tomoshiraga Somen. Simmer for 2 minutes and the soup is ready.
Serve immediately in heated bowls.
Add your choice of scallions, lemon juice, cilantro or red pepper flakes as toppings.
Cake Ann Dinner Rolls
1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees)
1/2 ounce fresh yeast (or 3 tablespoons Active Yeast)
¼ cup sugar
1 1/2 cups warm whole milk (115 degrees)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl and pans
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
6 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface
In a mixing bowl mix water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes to make sure the mixture is bubbly.
Add the warm milk, melted butter and eggs. Stir in the flour — one cup at a time — until you have a shaggy dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes — until smooth. Put into a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled in size. (about 1 1/2 hours)
Punch the dough down and cut dough into approximately 1.7 oz balls or to the size of ping pong balls. Flour a baking sheet, and line it with the dough balls, spacing them approximately ½” apart. Let rise again for another hour.
Preheat oven to 375, and bake rolls for 10–15 minutes.
Enjoy hot from the oven with lots of butter.
▶︎ Cake Ann, 214 Eastern Avenue #2, Gloucester (978) 865 4100. Hours: Tue, 9am–5pm; Wed–Sat, 8am–5pm; Sun, 8am–2 pm.