Chicken, potato, macaroni salad

Half chicken left over from this baked chicken dinner.

Lemon, pickle relish and mayonnaise, but not so much as you might think. Only two tablespoons. It is all that I had on hand.

My tomato had dirt on the bottom! That's how real it is around here.

French onion soup

Usually gruyere or some other Swiss type of cheese is used but this Italian cheese worked very well.

I cannot do better myself than this frozen beef broth.

And I cannot do any better than with my own Denver sourdough.

Onions must cook slowly, never singed, usually more browned than this. Sometimes scant sugar is added to increase caramelization. 

Sometimes wine is added to increase interest but I did not do that this time.

There used to be a restaurant in downtown Denver that served the best French style onion soup that I ever tasted. Toni and I made a practice of dropping in there during the period she insisted we hold season theater tickets. We saw more experimental theater crap than I care to remember but I can never forget that excellent soup. I was bummed out when they closed. You can tell when the soup is authentic by the tiny black bits that float around in the broth. That is charred remnants of marrow from producing beef broth from bones. The way the cheese clumps in the broth as you proceed forms a thick melted cheesy wad wet with beef broth that is compellingly delicious. Good thing I still have some left, but I will have to switch to a different type cheese because I am out of this Asiago. 

Peach and cereal

There is more peach than cereal.

An imperfect peach that is perfectly ripe. 

I have no idea what these peaches cost. They are perfect and have been all season. Not at the regular grocery store, no, those things are already hard, already mealy, but somehow Tony's manages to keep fresh ripe peaches and tomatoes in stock all through the season. I think they have agreements with local producers. So I buy them by the dozen and I do not even look at the sales slip.

But they do get bruised up by packing them into a bag and jostling them home.

Within another day, maybe two, these bruised areas will begin to ferment, and when they do that then fermentation will add another layer of extraordinary flavor to the whole peach that already drips all over the place with its wet soppy ripeness. 

I nicked off a portion of overly ripened bruised and fermented peach and tossed it into my sourdough culture whereupon it disappeared entirely. I was reminded of Anthony Bourdain's description in Kitchen Confidential of Adam the bread maker tossing into his sourdough starter overly ripe grapes, rotting mushrooms, basically all types of compost that you would not consider for sourdough levain, but then Adam did produce the most flavorful bread that Anthony Bourdain ever tasted, and that description of Adam's work left a lasting impression on me. 

So, imperfect indeed, leads to perfection. I have a newfound respect for bruised crushed and old fruit.

Baked chicken dinner

Baked in a pie dish on a pizza stone under a large upturned bisque bowl that I use sometimes for bread to create a small tight clay oven within the stove's oven. 

The chicken is sitting on top of potato and sliced fennel rolled in lemon. A cut lemon is inside the cavity. The butter has garlic and ginger and chile breadcrumbs.

Next time I do this, if I do, then I will rub the brined chicken with flavored butter and drizzle breadcrumbs onto it the butter or oil so they stick more evenly rather than mixing the dry breadcrumbs into the butter. It globbed in patches and failed to apply evenly.  

Maui sourdough sponge and longterm storage

Loose highly active and unsalted sponge, a small amount of starter is left to proof for hours inside a jar until it foams. The watery sponge foamed quite a lot, the bulk 1/4 of the jar foamed to the top, proving the starter extremely active. 

A few tablespoons of active sponge is spread thinly over a plasticine sheet for easy removal once it dries and breaks into flakes.

But why bother?

For backup. In case I forget to reserve sponge for new starter. To ensure my collection does not disappear. In case my starter dies for some reason, most likely neglect.

The remainder of the jar of starter is mixed with additional water and sufficient flour to form a thick sponge but not so much flour as to form a sturdy dough. The organisms will produce more liquid as the sponge proofs and I do want the dough to be wet to accommodate a high-heat and closed clay cloche technique of baking. This is loose, wet, for bread dough and over days in cool storage it will become even wetter. It will be held until the whole batch shows signs of leavening and then the whole bowl will be inserted into the refrigerator to ferment over days. How many days will determine the strength of the sourdough. If baked immediately you will notice a great difference between this and ordinary bread due to its complexity, but held to ferment over just a few days will produce a difference in strength, complexity and flavor that is quite extraordinary.

After this proofs for a few days and develops intense flavor and before it is salted then a small portion will be reserved to inoculate the next batch. That small portion will be fed and refreshed in a jar and brought up to full activity before being put to use. 

Update: This is a few hours later. Ordinarily sourdough would take 8 to 12 hours to pervade and lift this amount of sponge. This Maui starter did this in just a few hours, about 1/3 to 1/4 the usual amount of time. It surprised me. The bowl was placed in the refrigerator for cold storage and fermentation. It can be baked right now and it would be excellent. But in a few days its flavor will develop even more strongly. It is a powerful culture. 

You can see that the bulk more than doubled. Usually they cannot go this far and almost never this fast. This is at room temperature. This means that I can probably get away with including more than the usual amount of whole wheat flour. 

Denver sourdough longterm storage

Unsalted starter at peak activity is spread thinly across the surface of plasticine wrap. The storage wrap makes it very easy to remove.

Processed to powder. My little processor is not so sharp so reduced to chunks this time.

This batch was revived from powder stored frozen in the wasabi tin for what must have been years, say, five or possibly six years. Provided water and scant flour to form a thick sludge and heat from a 40W fluorescent lamp the starter leapt back to life within 24 hours. This is remarkably fast. By comparison the freeze-dried starters from Sourdough International can take up to three days to revive.  Similarly, Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon trail can take up to two days

I believe this is the Denver starter that was collected over a period of a few days during winter. 

There was more powder than could fit in the tiny wasabi tin. This is extra. This is about double the amount you will receive if you order Carl Griffith's (memorial) sourdough starter online. Carl's starter is free. It is distributed by Friends of Carl to keep the memory of his generosity alive. The starter is vaguely similar in characteristics to regular Denver sourdough starter, although not so cold-inured as this winter collection. But then why wouldn't it be? The Oregon trail begins in Independence Missouri going through the center of Wyoming immediately north of Denver, so pretty much the same or similar weather systems the whole way. Except Carl settled and lived most of his life on the western coast and their sourdough starters there are markedly different. Incidentally, of all of the sourdough starters I've tried, San Francisco is the weakest of them all. Even just inland from San Francisco, at Antioch, and the Northwest, and Alaska have all been sturdier, more reliable, more active, less touchy than the three San Francisco starters I've tried. So how is it that San Francisco is the most famous of all? Marketing. That's how.

Roast beef on Denver sourdough bread

Denver sourdough culture collected as loose flour/water slurry for well over a week, nearly two weeks. I kept hoping it would rain into the collection bowl and each day it appeared as if it would rain but then didn't, such is the weather in near desert. For so long collecting the culture exploded to life within hours when refreshed with 1/4 C water and 1/2 C flour and provided warmth of 40W light. That is unusual. Quite fast. It attests to the strength of the culture.

Now bubbling starter the culture inoculated bread dough as sponge of 1/3 whole wheat 2/3 all purpose white flour that proofed for four full days and five nights. The alcohol fermentation odor that arose as bouquet when the plastic was removed indicated the sponge would bake unpleasantly strong. Actually too sour. An additional 1/2 C water and  1 + 1/4 C flour mixed whole wheat and all purpose white was kneaded into the sponge to dilute its sour flavor, to take it down a notch. Or two.

I had already discussed this whole process with one of the clerks at Tony's Market down the street where I've been buying tomatoes and peaches all summer, it seems. The clerk was incredulous. He interrogated me on my process that sounds like a fantasy, capturing live organisms from air. He told me he hadn't heard of any such thing. He challenged me to prove it. So I did. This batch made two loaves, I took one loaf back to Tony's, half expecting the clerk would not be working today. The clerk was at his usual station. In fact, he told me he had just then been thinking about what I said and wondered if I might make it back in, that he was just that moment thinking, and bang, there I am, as if I had been conjured. I gave him the loaf wrapped in kitchen towel inside one of their own plastic bags and proceeded shopping. Upon checkout he reported he and the other clerks sampled the bread and were stunned with its profound sourdough flavor. He related my story of culture collection to them and the whole group was impressed. They are all foodie types working there. Pleasant as can be. Whole Food type people. To a person they are all interested in deli-type speciality food. The clerk rang me up and applied his own employee discount to my purchase bringing my charge from $44.00 down to $37.00. I wasn't expecting anything in return. I only wanted to show him what I was talking about earlier, as I do. Instead my simple gift turned out to garner a $7.00 return gratuity. Not bad at all for a simple loaf of bread, don't you agree? 

The taste of this sourdough lingers. There is horseradish on these small sandwiches but I can can still taste the sourdough long after the sandwiches are finished. Small as they are, the bread is substantial. Just a few slices of deli meat, a single tomato and two small slices of my bread and I'm full and satisfied for dinner. 

It's also addictive. Although full and quite satisfied for now I'm still thinking about my next sandwich.

BLT on Maui sourdough bread

Maui sponge made Friday, brought to full development, held in cold storage Saturday and Sunday, so three days fermentation. It collapsed following full activity. At this point unsalted. The sponge rim is cut off and put into a jar with additional fresh water to dilute it and fresh flour to feed it doubling its size in the jar. It is left to continue proofing and becomes the starter for the next batch.

The remaining bulk of the sponge is stretched cold and folded with salt additions between folds. 

The Maui culture bakes particularly crusty. It is the most thick crusted of all the sourdough cultures. Flavor concentrates in the crust.

Philadelphia cream cheese.


These open face sandwiches (not sandwiched by definition) are chewy. Strong jaws and good teeth are required to enjoy them. If your mouth is frail then better to stick with softer less challenging and less interesting, less full flavored sandwiches. 

Broccoli, onion and angel hair pasta in beef broth with avocado and tomato

The soup was born as simple seared broccoli with a small snack of angel hair pasta with parmesan cheese, the sort of thing one whips out early morning following a night of the clubs.  Then it developed to soup by boiling the pasta right in beef broth. Or chicken broth if you like with additional vegetables and more complex flavors. 

Now it's become a comfort type craving.

Sear vegetables, burn them on one side in a pan and lift off with an ounce or so of wine. The controlled burn creates a layer of flavor diffused by the wine. Let that sizzle a few seconds until nearly evaporated then douse with some kind of stock. For years I used the stock that comes in cartons but now I like stock prepared by a nearby market and frozen. The stock is a meal by itself.

Angel hair pasta is preferred because it is fast. You do not need a whole plateful. You do not need a whole portion. Its surface starch will thicken the stock very slightly and absorb its beef flavor while swelling. 

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