Sunday, May 4, 2014

Seed Starter Progress and a New Salad

I am still in the process of creating a "Seed Starter" from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", as I wrote of in the last two blog posts. If you are just now catching up here, I acquired a bunch of new (to me) cookbooks, a few of which are on serious bread baking, with a lot of the real science being taught alongside expert technique. One thing I had never done is make a seed starter.

A seed starter is putting together some flour and water and allowing it to set at room temperature and ferment using little wild yeasts that exist everywhere. This is the very beginning of making a sourdough starter. This process may be aided by the addition of a tiny amount of active yeast, and I had done this years ago. This time though, I am following the instructions in one of the books, using a time-honored method of allowing the wild yeasts found everywhere around us to do their thing. It takes about 4 days to make the seed starter. I posted a photo of the first mixture and then the same mixture with the addition of the second day's flour and water feeding. The first day the book stated, there would be little or no activity yet; there was not! At 24 hours from when I mixed up the first day's starter, I mixed up  the second day feeding, combined the two and set this back into the jar. 
Starter mixture on Day 2, then the fermentation occurring later in the day and next day

By late that day, there was significant activity in the mixture, shown in the second of the series of photos above. The following morning, the starter was actively bubbling (photo 3 in the above series) and it had risen and fallen. The fact that the starter grew significantly and then fell is expected. There was not enough yeast and gluten built to hold the starter up just yet. On the morning of day three I discarded half of the starter. I made another batch of the flour and water feeding and combined it with the remaining seed starter. After just a few hours it had already risen by about a third of its original height (photo 1 in the series below). By this morning it had grown to fill the jar and the bubbling was very active (photos 2 and 3 in the series below).
Day 3 Starter: After 4 hours and after 24 hours, very active
Today is the beginning of Day 4, the final day of the seed culture. Today again I discarded half of the mixture. I again added the flour and water to feed the starter. It was advised that this last day's activity could be finished in as little as 4 hours and up to 24. Because my starter has been so very active, I anticipate the timing will be on the low side. The photos below show the starter at the level it began this morning, and then after only 2 hours. The new flour and water feeding has not yet been completely incorporated, but it is already bubbling merrily. My little wild yeasts are very happy, and so am I.

Day 4 starter just mixed, and after only 2 hours
Later today, if all goes as anticipated, I will be adding in a significantly larger amount of flour and water, allowing this to ferment at room temperature for 6 or so hours before finally having become what the book calls a "barm". This barm will be good for about 3 days, refrigerated before needing to be refreshed with more flour and water. I am planning to use one portion of this barm to make a caraway rye bread, and I will freeze the other portions so I can have this wonderfully fermented mixture ready within a day's notice.

Meanwhile, back when all the guys descended upon our household last month, one of them, Dick, had given me a "recipe" of ingredients to make a salad. It is a combination I may never have thought of, but i love all the ingredients and so he wrote them down. Yesterday, finally, I got around to actually putting this together. He gave me ingredients, but no amounts. I created a mixture that could be anywhere from 2 to 4 servings, depending on your idea of a serving, and what you are eating alongside. I ate half the mixture last night for dinner to accompany a grilled cheese sandwich, and it was just a delight. Hence the name!

Dick's Delight
Dick's Delight

Dick's Delight

Dick's Delight
Dick's Delight
Serves 2 to 4

1 1/4 cups grapes, halved
1 1/4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Haas avocado, in cubes
8 to 10 olives (I used Greek olives - your choice)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
fresh herbs of choice (I used basil)

Place the first 4 ingredients into a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the balsamic and olive oil with salt and pepper if desired. Pour this dressing over the ingredients in the larger bowl and toss gently to combine. Add in the blue cheese and the fresh herbs and mix gently before serving.

NOTE: This salad with the addition of the avocado will not hold well. If making ahead, the grapes, tomatoes and olives can easily be mixed with the dressing and held. Add the avocado, herbs and blue cheese at last moment.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.