25 December 2014

Baby Kale Grapefruit Pomegranate Salad

Baby Kale Grapefruit Pomegranate Salad / www.delightfulrepast.com

Are you in a salad rut? I tend to get in a salad rut, putting together the same (for the most part) ingredients over and over. Then one day I realized two of my favorite fruits, grapefruit and pomegranate, were in season and decided to team them up with a new-to-me salad green, baby kale. 

The regular "adult" kale is perfectly wonderful, and what I always buy, but I thought Baby kale, okay, I'll bite. 

This is so simple, a very short recipe. The three simple ingredients mingle their contrasting colors, tastes and textures in the bowl with a splash of good olive oil cut with the juice captured when dicing the grapefruit.

Like my Chard and Kale Winter Salad, it can be made--and dressed--ahead, so it's the perfect salad to take to potlucks. 
The baby kale might be closer to lettuce than "adult" kale is, but it won't wilt like lettuce when dressed ahead of time.

Baby Kale-Grapefruit-Pomegranate Salad / www.delightfulrepast.com

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Baby Kale Grapefruit Pomegranate Salad

(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

The Salad

1 5-ounce container baby kale
1 large grapefruit
1 medium pomegranate

The Dressing

Juice captured when dicing the grapefruit
About 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 Wash the baby kale and spin it dry. Even though the container it comes in will tell you it's been washed three times and is ready to use, wash it. Put it in a bowl.

2 Wash the grapefruit. Even though you're not going to eat the peel, wash it. Cut off the top and bottom. Following the curve of the fruit, cut off the peel and pith. Cut the peeled grapefruit into rings and then into bite-size pieces. Do this on a plate rather than a cutting board so you can capture all the juice. Add the grapefruit pieces to the kale in the bowl. Pour the juice into a glass measuring cup.

3 Wash the pomegranate (even though you are most definitely not going to eat the peel). Open the pomegranate and remove all the arils. Do this carefully so the red juice doesn't fly everywhere and stain everything in sight. Add to the salad bowl.

4 Whisk some extra virgin olive oil into the grapefruit juice. Taste it. I like it just the way it is, but you might want to add about 1/8 teaspoon each salt and coarsely ground black pepper or whatever you like. Pour it over the salad and toss it around a little. Put a lid on it and refrigerate until dinner time. 


18 December 2014

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter / www.delightfulrepast.com

I know I said this in my 72-Hour (Semi) Sourdough Bread post: Making a sourdough starter is straightforward enough, but unless you're making a loaf or two every week, keeping a sourdough starter going is more trouble than keeping a cat!

Since then, I've decided to give it another go. It's been many years since I had a sourdough starter living in my kitchen for any length of time, and I guess the cat wasn't keeping me busy enough, so ... 

But you know what? It really isn't that much trouble! 

You can make your own sourdough starter using nothing but equal weights of organic unbleached all-purpose flour and filtered water. You can do this with measuring cups, but a digital scale is a must if you're a stickler for accuracy.

With a digital scale it is a simple matter to just set the bowl on the scale, press the Zero button to temporarily set the scale to zero, spoon in flour until it registers so many grams or ounces, press the Zero button again and then pour in water until it registers the same number of grams or ounces on the scale.

But if you don't have a digital scale and don't plan to get one, you can make a sourdough starter just fine with your measuring cups and spoons. Just pick a measuring method, cups and spoons, ounces or grams, and stay with it throughout.

I'm no expert on sourdough, but one thing I've learned is that sourdough is more art than science. So I'm more inclined to go with those experts who wing it a bit than with those who insist on precise measurements. 

Start with maybe 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 1/2 tablespoons of water (roughly equal in weight). If using a scale and going by ounces, start with maybe 1/2 or 3/4 ounce of each. If going by grams, maybe 15 grams of each.

Tip: For the same reason I recommend making the starter in a 2-cup glass measure (so you can easily tell how much it has risen), I like to use a 2-quart glass measure for the dough when making Sourdough Sandwich Bread or other not-too-large recipes.

Sourdough Bread Dough / www/delightfulrepast.com
Sourdough Bread Dough

You should start with a very small amount of flour and water because at a certain point you'll be discarding* some of the starter. If you're using large amounts, you'll be wasting a lot of flour. Of course, rather than throwing it in the trash you could compost it or even use it in a recipe such as sourdough pancakes.

* But with my method you'll be discarding far less of the starter initially and none at all throughout the years you're using it!
Your starter might be "ready" in one week, or it might take 2 weeks or more. So plan on babysitting your starter for at least 2 weeks. It will continue to develop flavor and strength, some say for another 30 to 90 days. 

Since this will be on the counter for a week or two, pick a spot where it won't be in the way and where the temperature will be fairly consistent (70 to 75 degrees would be ideal). Pick a time of day that will suit your schedule; you'll need to feed your starter about the same time every day.

If you use a straight-sided clear container, it's very easy to watch your starter's progress. A wide-mouth pint glass jar is fine, but I found I prefer a 2-cup glass measure. Then I store the starter in the jar with a square of plastic wrap held in place by a loose canning ring.

You'll find people who tell you to use grapes, cabbage leaves, pineapple juice, certain grains of one sort or another, or even milk to make your starter. Some people say you cannot make it in a metal container or even use a metal spoon. Some people insist you must use a scale and be very precise.

I'm not saying those things don't work. If that's how you make and maintain a sourdough starter, stay with it. But if you're new to the game, I'd say try it this way first. Sourdough starter really isn't all that fussy. I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour and filtered tap water.

Sourdough Bread Dough / www.delightfulrepast.com
Sourdough Bread Dough

Sourdough Starter

Organic unbleached all-purpose flour
Filtered water

Day 1 In glass or ceramic 1-pint container, stir 2 tablespoons flour and 1 1/2 tablespoons water until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a slightly ajar lid. Or 1/2 ounce or 15 grams of each.

Day 2 You may or may not see a few bubbles in your starter. Feed the starter same amounts; stir vigorously until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or slightly ajar lid.

Day 3 You will probably be seeing some bubbles now, and the starter will be smelling a little sour. Feed the starter again, just as on Day 2.

Day 4 The starter should be very bubbly and may have doubled in volume at some point, and it should be smelling quite sour. Also, it should be looser in consistency. Feed the starter again, just as on Days 2 and 3.

Tip: The speed at which sourdough starter develops depends on many things. My latest batch of starter did not double until Day 12.

Day 5 The starter should be frothy and may have doubled again since yesterday. It should smell even more sour and be even looser in consistency. This time, discard all but 1/4 cup starter and feed it with 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons water. Or 2 ounces or 60 grams and feed it with 2 ounces or 60 grams each flour and water.

Tip: At some point in the process, your starter may start smelling like acetone (nail polish remover); don't be alarmed, just carry on. Or it may develop a layer of liquid ("hooch") on top; just stir it in and carry on.

Day 6 Discard all but 1/4 cup of the starter and feed it with 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons water. Or 2 ounces or 60 grams and feed it with 2 ounces or 60 grams each flour and water. 

Day 7 Repeat as on Day 6.

Day 8 Sourdough starter is ready to use when it is both one week old and doubling in size between feedings. On Day 8 it will be one week old, but if it is not doubling, just be patient and keep going! It may take 2 weeks. Keep discarding and feeding. 

Tip: At this rate of feeding, after one week you will have at least a cup of starter--enough for a recipe and to hold back 1 ounce of starter to store and build up again for a recipe. If it's not ready, though, you'll want to proceed with a reduced amount of starter to be fed with equal weights of flour and water until it can double itself between feedings.

Update 10/28/17: I've kept my little batch of starter in a little half-pint jar (no discarding ever) since 2014. 

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter / www.delightfulrepast.com
Sourdough Boule Rising

Using and Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Cover it and refrigerate. Get into the habit of taking the starter out and feeding it once a week, letting it sit out overnight before returning it to the refrigerator. It will continue to develop flavor and strength, some say for another 30 to 90 days.

Make Sourdough Artisan Bread or Sourdough Sandwich Bread.

Check out my Sourdough Bread Tips.

11 December 2014

Sourdough Sandwich Bread - Wild Yeast Bread

Sourdough Sandwich Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

This sourdough sandwich bread is a classic sourdough bread, meaning it is made without the addition of commercial yeast. Baked in a loaf pan, it has the chewy texture of an artisan loaf but in a shape handy to slice for sandwiches or toast. Ohhh, the toast!

You don't need a heavy-duty stand mixer or strong arms for kneading. You don't need a pizza stone or a cast-iron Dutch oven, just a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; I use this equivalent 9x4x4-inch pullman loaf pan (without its lid). 

Sourdough Sandwich Bread in Pan / www.delightfulrepast.com

Here's How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter soon. It's really simple. All it takes is unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably organic), filtered or bottled water (not distilled or chlorinated tap) and lots of patience. 

Sourdough without added yeast is definitely as much art as science, so prepare to adjust to its timetable; it's not going to adjust to yours! It can take as long as 34 to 42 hours, but that's mostly time it's sitting around doing its thing while you're going about your business. 

Sourdough Toast / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sourdough Sandwich Bread 

(Makes one 26-ounce loaf)

1 1/2 cups fed 100% hydration sourdough starter (Follow Steps 1 and 2)
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 dip-and-sweep cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided 

1 Feed up your starter to 1 1/2 cups: Take 2 tablespoons starter out of refrigerated storage container. Put it in a 2-cup glass measure (It actually holds 3 cups, so shouldn't overflow when it doubles). Stir in 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. Stir vigorously, cover loosely and let stand at room temperature for 8 or 12 hours. 

Tip: See schedule below to plan your bake. 

2 Stir down starter and add 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Proceed as in previous step. 

Sourdough Starter / www.delightfulrepast.com

3 Stir down fed starter and measure 1 1/2 cups of of it into 2-quart glass measure. With a dough whisk or large spoon, stir in water, salt and 1 cup flour. When all the flour is incorporated, stir in 1 1/2 cups of flour a half cup at a time. Stir until dough just comes together into a shaggy dough (fairly stiff, but still sticky). With one hand, knead dough right in the bowl, just enough to incorporate all the flour, about 20 times in all. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap or lid and let stand at room temperature overnight. 

Tip: Any leftover fed starter can be added to your stored starter in the refrigerator (Stir it vigorously and let stand at room temperature for a few hours; this feeds the starter for the week) or just kept on the counter if you're making more bread in a day or two.

4 Grease bread pan. I use a 9x4x4-inch (1.5-pound) pullman pan (without its lid). It's about the same capacity as a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. 

5 Using no more than 1/8 cup altogether, sprinkle countertop with some flour. Gently scrape the dough onto the floured countertop. Sprinkle with flour. Press gently into a roughly 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Using a bench scraper, fold one third of the rectangle toward the center, then fold the other end to the center, like a letter. With the bench scraper, place folded dough in the pan, pressing it into the corners. Brush on a little water. Cover it loosely with an oiled or cooking-sprayed piece of plastic wrap. 

6 Let rise until doubled. If using 9x5x3-inch loaf pan, it should rise an inch or two above the rim of the pan. If using 9x4x4 pullman pan without its lid, the dough should rise to below or just even with the top of pan. This can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. The dough needs to rise until the dough doesn't quickly spring back when poked with a floured finger or knuckle. 

Tip: Check on the dough's progress regularly. After making it a few times, you'll have a better idea of how long it will take. And that will change as the weather changes. I keep my house rather cool in winter, so sourdough bread takes much longer to rise now than it does in summer.

7 Toward the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Just before baking, brush the loaf with a little water.

8 Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and continue baking for about 30 minutes or until crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf registers 210 degrees on instant-read thermometer

Tip: For reasons I won't go into (something about lactobacilli and yeast and ...), sourdough bread sometimes doesn't brown as well as other breads. If you're into the well-browned crust, take the loaf from the oven about 5 minutes early and brush the top with a little olive oil and put it back in.

9 Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack for 1 1/2 hours before slicing.

Sample Baking Plans

Schedule with two 8-hour feedings
Day 1
6:00 am First feeding
2:00 pm Second feeding
10:00 pm Make dough
Day 2
10:00 am Shape loaf

Schedule with two 12-hour feedings
Day 1
9:00 pm First feeding
Day 2
9:00 am Second feeding
9:00 pm Make dough
Day 3
9:00 am Shape loaf

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04 December 2014

Magical Coconut Pie

I've been cooking way too much lately. I needed a break, but I also needed a dessert. Something quick and easy, but "from scratch." So I'm going retro, baby! With Magical Coconut Pie. 

Anyone who grew up, or cooked, in the 1970s might remember Impossible Pies, so called because they formed their own crust (not really) while baking. They were made with Bisquick, which we never had in our house because my mother never used mixes of any kind. I still don't. 

So when I had some extra organic coconut on my hands and decided to whip one of these up, I needed to come up with a formula that did not contain the popular baking mix. No offense to the Bisquick people, but until they come up with an organic "whole" version, I'll just do my own thing.  

We were out of regular milk, so I used rice milk with a little heavy cream mixed in for a better approximation of milk. I seem to recall people used to mix up their Impossible Pies in a blender, but I go low-tech whenever possible so just used a whisk. 

This "pie" puffs way up while it's cooking and then shrinks down as it cools. If I wanted to end up with larger pieces, I would increase the quantities; but I like having it end up about 8 inches in diameter for daintier serving sizes.

What is your favorite quick and easy from-scratch dessert to make when you just don't have the time or energy to get too carried away?

Magical Coconut Pie 

(Makes one 9-inch pie, 8 servings) 

1/3 cup (2.33 ounces/66 grams) sugar
1/3 dip-and-sweep cup (1.67 ounces/47 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces/355 ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. 

2 In medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and coconut. Add eggs, butter, milk and vanilla; whisk until thoroughly combined (I whisked vigorously for about 30 seconds). 

3 Pour into prepared pie plate. Bake about 45 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and set. A little wobble is fine; it will firm up as it cools.

4 Let cool to room temperature before cutting and serving or refrigerating. Serve with some barely sweetened whipped cream.