My grandmother is a very sweet, very old, very mormon lady. This week she’s been just south of Seattle making her annual voyage from SLC to the Sewing Expo.
Some background is that shortly after we bought our house, I wrote her a letter and enclosed photos of the house and yard. She never responded, but acknowledged to my father that she had received the letter. Her oldest granddaughter living in sin and not following God’s way is tough for a woman nearly a century old to stomach.
We usually see her annually, taking her to dinner and then the airport to catch her plane home after the expo is over. This year she told my dad that she wanted to see my house. When I was growing up, my parents used to hide all of the alcohol in the house so my grandparents wouldn’t know they were sinners. That’s not really going to be possible for us. The kegerator, closet full of beer making paraphernalia, bottles of beer, wine and vodka in the fridge/freezer, and the shelf in the pantry that holds our liquor cannot easily be packed up and hidden, especially when she’ll be requesting a tour of the house.
I figured my best bet would be to impress her with my obscene domesticity, then maybe she’ll forget, miss, or ignore the vast quantities of alcohol in the house (all the alcohol means that we don’t drink that often, if I drank constantly, there’d never be anything in the house, I’ve been in that situation too). Not knowing if she has trouble with spicy or hard food, I figured I’d play it safe with a gourmet twist on an old comfort favorite. I’m making tomato and roasted red pepper bisque (read: creamy soup) with grilled cheese made from freshly baked pugliese bread, sharp Tillamook cheddar, double cream brie, and bacon. Instead of steaming broccoli, I’ll roast it in the oven. For dessert I made a cheesecake with an oreo crust, and a raspberry puree reduction sauce. It’s a little intense, but I’ve been eating relatively healthy all week. For good measure (and because I’ve been feeling a little guilty about abusing my starter lately, I’ll also be making a loaf or two of sourdough bread. If I’m going to be home all day baking, I might as well get lots of bread out of it. Besides, sourdough lasts longer than normal bread. The acid in it helps to preserve the freshness and keep mold from growing.
So last night I started my starters. First was my simple pugliese biga, a little water, a little flour, and a tiny teeny weeny bit of yeast. I like to use the “cellar” approach with bigas, the house stays cool enough to let them proof extra long which is favorable for optimal flavor development. Since I’m not sure how big it’ll get, and it’s convenient, the biga is living in an old yogurt container.
My sourdough starter is a slightly different story. I usually just use a slack soupy starter, you tend to get a cleaner less bitey sour flavor from the wetter starters, but apparently also tend to get smaller bubbles and less rise in your final dough due to the gluten structure not forming quite as nicely. Starters provide a very interesting framework that allows for a crumb you’ll not find in breads that don’t have either a starter or cold ferment. I started with my jar of liquid starter in the fridge, let it warm up a little, then poured some of it out into a bowl and worked in flour until it became a very viscous, hard dough. I let that ferment overnight (last night) and this morning I took about 1/3 of that and added enough flour/water to create a dough of similar texture. I’ll let that do it’s thing until tonight and step it up one more time. This creates a slightly less intense sour flavor so your bread won’t stomp all over whatever you consume it with. It’s my first time doing so many upsteps too, so we’ll see how it turns out. I trust Rose’s recipes.
I also bought a new book today. I’ve been dying for it lately, and had a barnes and noble gift card to blow. I was in Lynnwood getting a small colander to make a cheap version of a banneton, and figured I’d swing by and “just look.” So now I am the proud owner of Charcuterie: The craft of salting, smoking, and curing. I’m gonna try salami now!