Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ah, the smell of fresh baked bread.

Baking is a hobby I've taken on in just the past few months.
It was brought on by boredom and a package of yeast found in my pantry.

In all my years of cooking (I suppose not very many since I'm only twenty-two), I stayed away from baking because I can’t follow recipes and I loathe measuring.

Allow me to clarify.

I like to read recipes, look at the beautifully staged pictures, and dream of the day when I could afford each of the listed ingredients. After finding a recipe where I have most ingredients on hand, I tend to substitute the rest. This practice typically turns into an entirely new, unique product—far from the original. (There's about a 50/50 return rate on the dish actually tasting good.)  I stayed away from baking because I knew I would not be able to substitute ingredients or stray from the recipe.

Those inhibitions went out the window.

Imagine having your home smell like freshly baked bread as guests walk in for a dinner party, or spending a rainy Saturday watching movies whilst your yeast, flour, and water turn into a fabulously flakey and perfectly imperfect pizza. That day has come.

If you are anything like me, yeast has always been a daunting ingredient. The yeast is ACTIVE?! It has to be proofed? (Whatever that means.) It makes the dough “rise”, only to smoosh it back down? What if it doesn’t rise?
I’m here to tell you that it’s time to incorporate some yeast into your life.
The following is adapted (only slightly!) from a Rosemary Focaccia recipe listed on epicurious.com.

You will need:

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (this is a standard package)
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 cups whole-wheat flour
¼ cup plus a few tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon (a few shakes) coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon table salt

What to do:

Mix together 1 2/3 cups hot (as hot as your faucet goes) water and yeast in bottom of a large bowl. Let “proof” (sit until it turns milky in appearance) about 5 minutes. Add both flours, ¼ cup olive oil, and 1 tsp table salt. Mix in stand mixer or with electric mixer until dough starts to form. With your hands, combine the dough into a ball shape.
Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead dough for a few minutes until smooth and slightly sticky.

Reform into a ball. Lightly oil a large bowl (I usually rinse out the one I used initially) with a couple tbsp of olive oil, and roll ball in oiled bowl until coated. Place plastic wrap (or a clean towel) over bowl and let sit in a warm area of your kitchen for at least an hour. An hour or so later your dough should have nearly doubled in bulk. Press dough into a large cookie sheet. To spread evenly, a rolling pin works best. Cover pan with a clean towel and let dough rise for another hour. While dough is rising, mix together chopped rosemary and a few tbsp of olive oil. The rosemary will infuse the olive oil (this oil is great for dipping, in the future).

Preheat oven to 425 °F.

Press indentions into the dough with your finger in rows from one end to the other. Brush with the rosemary oil (all of it!) and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove immediately from pan by inverting onto kitchen towel and placing right side up on a large wooden cutting board or serving platter.

Serve with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper. Or, make quick tomato sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, basil, mayo, and black pepper. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did with our community-style Sunday feast.

Bon App├ętit!


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