Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring to do it: Sourdough

I know I say this a lot, but this month's challenge was something I was really excited about. Despite the fact that I am a "Daring Baker," I am still somewhat hesitant to try things that
have difficult reputations, so I was thrilled when Jessica announced that I would be tackling another one of my "someday" items.
Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

I love bread. Most types. But there is a special place in my heart for sourdough. Chewy, flavorful, crusty... it is just goodness! And, on a personal note, Hubby and I went to San Fransisco for our honeymoon, so there is a special place in my heart for sourdough... But it was always something that intimidated me when I thought abut making it. Sourdough requires a starter. A starter is kinda scary. It is a living thing that requires care. I know, I have children, I can care for living things. But a starter just seemed... scary. The science and art of it was confusing, and I was sure it was beyond my capabilities. Jessica's recipes and instructions were
heaven-sent this challenge! She was detailed, she was readable, she was just a great host! Using just whole wheat flour and water, over the course of a week I went from this play-dough like ball (over there on the left) to this wet clay-like blob (over there on the right), then finally had this bubbly, gooey concoction. Meet Eve:
You see, most of the Daring Bakers who have been cultivating their sourdough starters for many years had named their starters, as they are living entities. So I named mine Eve - mother of many things in my kitchen!
The first thing Eve created with me was a traditional Hannukkah treat - jelly donuts. (Sufganiot.) Using the starter fresh from the container I made a sweet dough which puffed nicely when fried in oil, had great tang to it, and tasted really good filled with strawberry jam and rolled in cinnamon sugar!
The next project for Eve was the French Country Bread recipe which Jessica had given in the challenge. This one required us to use the starter to make a production leaven, then use that leaven to make a rustic bread. Kneading this bread was interesting because it was all by hand, very sticky, and really needed a bench scraper. Which I don't have. So I took Jessica's advice and used the next best thing - a well washed (and used up...!) gift card. It worked really well. I do recommend reading the recipe, as there are lots of steps and lots of time involved. But the time really was the most difficult part, especially when you are as "patient" as I am. After most of the day, though, I had a beautiful crusty loaf, hot from the oven. Of course, since this had taken most of the day, it was 10 pm when it came out. So cutting into it had to wait. Which was really hard because the smell was fantastic. Like, really amazing...! So the next day the loaf went back into the oven to warm. When I cut it I was totally rewarded. I got the holes I was hoping for, and the taste was fabulous. Chewy inside, crusty outside... Kinda dense, considering all of the holes there, but so good.
There was leftover production leaven after making the bread, and I didn't want any part of Eve going to waste. So I played around and found a way to make sourdough biscuits. Sweet sourdough, again.. This is me, I try to make dessert versions of pretty much everything... The biscuits were really good. But I kicked it up a notch by making them into sourdough short cakes. Yum!

Jessica, this was awesome. I am really excited to have this new skill under my culinary belt, and to have this wonderful new addition to my kitchen/family! I am going to have so much fun seeing what other great things Eve and I make together.
I highly recommend that you take a look here to see what my fellow Daring Bakers created.
**Ok, Blogger is being weird, I don't know why it isn't letting me put in links. For the recipes go here: http://thedaringkitchen.com/sites/default/files/u11/62_Sour_Dough_-_DB_Dec_2012.pdf

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daring to do it: Cha Sui and Cha Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Cha Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Cha Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

I will be honest with you. When I first saw this challenge I was not impressed. Ok, I was impressed, I mean, this is something I would never have thought to make in a home kitchen. I guess it is more that I wasn't enthused. This is not really a Kosher/vegetarian dish. Traditionally, cha sui is pork. When Hubby asked what the challenge was, I said "barbecue pork buns." For a long time there I pretty much put it out of my mind, and figured I would just sit this one out. But I finally got to the point when I was about to go away for a week, and not come back until posting day. It was literally a case of do the challenge tonight or not do it at all. And when push came to shove, I didn't want to sit it out. And I am SO glad that I didn't! This was super yummy, and I am already trying to narrow down the possibilities for fillings when I make these again!
I started with the bun dough. This is a sweet yeasted dough, which didn't scare me, as I work with yeast pretty regularly. I was dismayed, though, with how my yeast-warm water-sugar combination looked after 15 minutes. Not frothy, foamy, or active looking at all. I was all of a sudden back to thinking that I wasn't destined to do this challenge... I stuck with it, though, and kept moving forward. Instead of using all A.P. flour, I substituted 1/4 whole wheat flour. Then I used the mixer to kneed. I had to add a lot more flour to get a good working consistency to my dough, but I eventually got there. Into a greased bowl, time to rise.
Next it was time to work on the filling. Generally speaking, the filling wasn't too strange - marinated protein sauteed with green onions and various sauce-making ingredients. (Yes, this is very much an over-simplification. Check out Sara's actual, informative, detailed recipe here...) After I did the measuring (and improvising, based on what ingredients I did and did not have on hand), I let Little Girl mix the marinade. The did a great job, and spilled a lot less than I would have! This was then poured over the tofu and left to marinate for not nearly long enough. (The flavor was good, but it would have been better if I had planned ahead and let it sit for the recommended time!)
I cooked the tofu in the oven for about 15 minutes, then followed the written directions for the pork filling Sara had given.
Filling done, it was time to work the dough. After more than five hours of rising time, my dough ball looked like this:
Not nearly as impressive as I would have thought, but, again, I stuck to it and continued. The dough was divided into 12 balls which were rolled out into disks. One disk, though, was commandeered by Little Girl to "work with." It became a snake, a turtle, a necklace... and eventually small baked (unfilled) rolls for her to eat, or not, as she saw fit. The filling was spooned into the disks which were then closed around it. (Hubby could not figure out how I had gotten the filling inside the buns... I probably shouldn't let him see this post and let him continue thinking that I am just that good!)
As I don't have a steamer basket, I baked my buns. I did not use the egg wash on them, even though the recipe called for it. They still developed an amazing golden brown color. And despite my concerns about the yeast, the buns were fluffy and light, so it all worked out for the best.
All of us around the table loved these "pork" buns. I was so glad that I finally decided to participate, and they were totally worth it. I am definitely going to make these again - both with the given (if somewhat altered) recipe and with yet to be determined fillings of a less traditional style!
Thank you so much, Sara, for teaching me something so new, and for being so supportive and encouraging. This was a wonderful challenge, and I highly recommend that you check out the versions created by my fellow Daring Cooks!