We are on a continuous sourdough learning curve here. 18 hours in the fridge for sourdough bread dough is too much cold. There was almost no expansion. Next we’ll try 7 hours out in the heat of the kitchen and just refrigerate it overnight. It’s like walking a tightrope between the heat and needing a slow rise to develop the flavor. It’s been about 86 degrees here with 74% humidity. Step into a kitchen running three ovens and it’s hard to do a slow rise. I believe it’s possible though, we just need the patience to work through and figure it out.
Today we made ciabatta bread using the recipe posted by Mike Avery at http://www.sourdoughhome.com. This man is my sourdough hero and all of my efforts here to teach sourdough in China would be much more difficult without his amazing website. Thanks Mike! Ciabatta is a two day process, so in the interests of time, I made the starter for it at home the night before. I love the way Mike posted this recipe because he uses both U.S. Measures as well as the weights in grams for all the ingredients. The weights made it so much easier for me to teach this bread to Coco’s bakers. Never having made this recipe before, I said my prayers and put a lot of trust in Mike’s recipe. I told Coco this was an experiment for me too and… it worked!! Yay! They will need to tinker with the size they want their loaves but soon Coco will be able to sell grilled ciabatta sandwiches. I’ve loaned her my grill press so she can show some workers and get a couple of them made for herself. China is the land of "if you can show us what you want, we can copy it for you".
Besides the successful ciabatta bread, today I showed Coco how to make sour cream in a yogurt maker. You simply take about 2 Tablespoons of sour cream (this is your "starter") or yogurt, and stir it into a quart or liter of whipping cream, pour it into the yogurt container that comes with the machine, place boiling water into the machine to surround the container of cream, plug it in, and in about eight hours you have sour cream! Easy peasy lemon squeasy. Pretty soon maybe Garden Cafe will sell tacos…
We got talking over lunch, Coco, Miss M, and I (Miss M brought down the grill press because I forgot it), and I mentioned that we had a really good brownie recipe if Coco ever wanted to try it. It just so happened that Coco’s baker had been experimenting with a brownie recipe he had. Coco took one look at it and said it looked like cake and we agreed. We tasted it and it tasted nothing like brownies. We asked about his recipe and learned that it had bananas in it and no vanilla. It also seemed a little low on the sugar. I was nervous about putting down his efforts but when we offered to stay and show them our recipe, he was eager to learn and even help. That man is an artist. Coco says he’s not, he’s just patient. I think they work out to be the same thing. He makes the most beautiful breads. If he can apply some of the sourdough techniques to his bread, it will be beautiful and taste great. The brownies came out great except for the fact that I don’t understand commercial ovens so they weren’t done all the way in the middle. It was ok though, the time and temperature won’t be too hard for them to adjust now that they know what real brownies are supposed to be like. As soon as Meg and I left the kitchen all the employees swarmed the kitchen and gobbled them up gooey part and all and seemed to love it. I think the level of enthusiasm for this somewhat beleaguered beginning will ensure that they are making great brownies in no time. I need to learn the name of Coco’s baker. He seems like a great guy, he ought to have a name.