Saturday, February 25, 2012

Green Apple Sponge

She was crazy as a mouse, the Brazilian girl who first taught me her sourdough recipe. It was her mother’s recipe, of course. The crazy Brazilian girl worked with me at the honkytonk bar. It was after hours when she told me her mother’s process.

“Baby,” she began, “you gotta love it like nothing else, like everything, and you gotta be patient.”

She held the granny smith apple in her tiny, carnie hands, cupping it like a crystal ball. The apple had been left by the day bartender, who had neglected it for breakfast, and neglected it again after the lunch push, before happy hour. Green Grocers in the city thrive on the optimism of the service industry.

“Baby,” she continued, “you peel the apple with a knife. You know? Like this. You hold the apple like your lover, you know? Like you hold a knife.”

The crazy Brazilian bartender went on to reveal more and more of the apple’s flesh. She peeled away the skin like six and seven veils, each curling deliciously.

Skin of 1 Granny Smith Apple
1 CUP warm water

Slowly add the water to the flour/yeast/apple peel and mix with a wooden spoon. The warmth of the water should make the apple’s skin to blush, and the smell should be very nice.

The mixture will look weird and lumpy. Somewhere in between kindergarten paste and Dickens porridge. Don’t judge. Just gently stir the batter. It isn’t the worst idea to cradle the bowl in the crook of one arm while mixing the batter with the other. It’s also not a bad idea to hum – BEATLE’S SONGS are always good. MIX the batter for the length of a BEATLE’S song.

Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and allow the sponge to rest on the counter top for the better part of an afternoon. DO NOT ABANDON the sponge. Check in with it from time to time throughout the day. After the first hour the sponge will begin to slowly bubble, gentle but lewd, like a burlesque dancer. Stir it with the spoon three times and replace the damp towel.

After four or five hours cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the bowl in a warm dry place. The top of the refrigerator is good. I like to leave it on top of the piano, next to the bourbon; but I’m funny like that.

A week. That’s how long it’s going to take. A week.

Check in on it in the morning, before you are fully awake, and smell how the apple is breaking down, how the yeast is alive and loving the apple. Replace the plastic wrap covering after you are done cooing sweet nothings at it. Later in the evening, when you get home, check in on the sponge. Ask about its day and tell it about yours. Leave out the bits about road rage and a two party political system. The sponge is a baby, and doesn’t need to be scarred this soon in its existence. Besides, when you lift the covering off, and smell the sweet love coming off the sponge, who gives a fuck about the two party political system or the road. Stir ONCE at the end of the day, making one small wish each day.

After a day or two, liquid will start pooling on the top while the sponge will become thicker and denser. Yeah, denser. After a week’s time transfer the sponge into a sterile container and refrigerate until later use.

When you do decide to use the sponge, take it out of the refrigerator a day before intended use. The sponge should come to room temperature before divided and used for a dough. Like anything waking up, be gentle with the sponge. Sing to it gently, hold it lovingly, and know that it is delicious because you loved it.

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