Today I went to teach my friend Coco how to make sourdough bread. She wants to be able to sell it at her cafe, and I’ve been promising her since we came here last August. Finally the stars aligned properly and I could do it. I showed up at the cafe, and she had all of her employees there, because she told them, "You need to be here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. No one in China knows how to make this kind of bread."
I stood there thinking, "Wow. I’m a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever been that before. China is full of firsts." So I showed them how to start a starter from scratch and Coco translated everything into Chinese. They were very surprised when they discovered that they would not be using any instant or dry yeast to make the starter. Then, with some active starter that I had brought with me, I showed them how to make "San Francisco-Style" sourdough bread. This bread dough needs to sit about 18 hours before we will shape the loaves and raise and bake them. I plan to go back to the cafe tomorrow morning for that part. As I told Coco, sourdough bread is not rocket science. Still I find myself praying that this batch of bread will turn out wonderfully flavored and that the crust will be perfect (I figure if I’m asking for heavenly favors, I might as well be specific). I’m a little nervous that we didn’t use enough salt. We were measuring all the ingredients with metric measurements and a metric scale, so I was flying by the seat of my pants to some extent.
Also tomorrow morning, Coco wants to learn how to make a "faster" bread using sourdough starter. This should be fun. It’s funny, but I kind of feel like a sort of American National Treasure sent to visit China. Silly, I know, but truly no one here seems to know how to do this, so even though I have never worked for or run a bakery, and I’ve only ever done this for my family and good friends, I feel… significant. Like what I’m doing this week might be a small ripple that could spread over a large pond. Then again, Coco has a way of making everyone who comes in her place feel loved and important. That, even more than the good food, is what really keeps people coming back to her place again and again.