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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Progress Reports

Yesterday afternoon I noticed five bubbles in my first "real" sourdough starter made with only flour and water, which means I've captured some wild yeast from either the flour or the sweet Madison County air. You might be able to pick them out:

There may be sourdough bread in our near future, who knows? I'm not entirely sure what comes next. If only for my own future reference, here's what I did. This starts out close to BBA, but then veers off on day 4 as I worry it's not working (and as I reach my "viewing limit").
Possible sourdough starter

Day 1: Combine 1 cup whole organic rye flour and 3/4 cup lukewarm water; press the mixture (it was like a paste) into the bottom of a tall plastic container. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2: Scrape the mixture into a bowl and mix in 1 cup King Arthur unbleached bread flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water; press the dough (now a stiff ball) back into the container. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 3: Discard half of the dough ball. To the remaining, add 1 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water; press into the container. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 4: Add 1/2 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water directly to the container and mix it in with a rubber spatula. (It's runnier now, and easier to mix.) Put a piece of tape on the outside of the container to mark the level of the mixture. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
It's about 5 a.m. right now on day 5, the stuff has risen about 3/4 inch above the tape, and that's all I know about this sourdough thing for now.

Last night I made my first attempt at kung pao chicken. I should say that I don't cook a lot of Chinese food, at least not Americanized Chinese (although once at about 3 a.m. after a big night out with my now husband I made us my mom's moo goo gai pan, and I do have a few Chinese Chinese dishes in my regular rotation—ugh, "rotation": this is why I want to try more new foods). I don't know much about stir-frying, and I don't own a wok. So I was pretty much at the mercy of actual recipes this time. I couldn't find any that seemed just like West Side Cottage II's: the "authentic"-looking ones didn't have the vegetables (I like it with crisp carrots, celery, and water chestnuts), and the ones that had the vegetables seemed lame on the sauce front. In the end, I kind of winged it, and the results were wonderful. I won't post a recipe yet, because what I came up with was close to what I wanted but not quite right (the marinade and sauce were based on Fuchsia Dunlop's gong bao ji ding). I know that the elements of most takeout versions are fried in tons of oil, and of course I didn't do that—the only real problem was that the sauce was too sweet and had too much soy flavor. I think I can fix the latter by using Chinese light soy sauce next time.

I'm all out of black vinegar or I'd make a second attempt right now and post a recipe. Soon, folks.

Sorry for the crappy lighting. It looked better than this.

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