Saturday, January 26, 2013

Three Kinds of Bread

For the third time in as many years I gathered a few weeks ago with women friends and baked bread. The friends gathered around the table have shifted slightly each time, but there has been a core group.

At first there was a fair amount of trepidation. That 'fear of yeast' is not uncommon. The first year we used a stand mixer since I thought that would help - just let the machine do all that kneading! Not as successful as I had hoped, so last year we went with breads created using thawed frozen bread dough. That worked for getting past the fear and some lovely breads were made after, all on their own.

This year I decided that we should get our hands covered with dough as we made focaccia. In case you haven't guessed, I'm teaching during these sessions. Seemed to me that we were ready to start from scratch and really get the feel of silky, supple kneaded dough. It worked! Everyone created great focaccia (in teams) and I think they all feel confident now to make it on their own.

The other two breads which I demonstrated were Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread (no yeast) and the shaping technique for the Pesto Rose that the Bread Baking Babes made in October. We did a cinnamon and sugar version of it, too. Next time? Already have requests for Sticky Buns and scones. Just wish I could do a Bread Baking Day like this with the Bread Baking Babes one day. I'll post Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread another day with more how-to photos.

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her fabulous Yeastspotting weekly event. Stop by there as often as you can for yeast bread inspiration!

Your Guide to Making FocacciaIn general: Start with ingredients at room temperature. Gather together the items (including pans) needed for the recipe to make sure you have them, and enough of them. This is called mis en place, or gathering in place. Read the recipe all the way through at least once before starting. Feel free to contact me if you find yourself stuck at any point when you make this yourself. Sometimes it takes a few trials to feel comfortable with the process.

Ever since ancient times women have mixed flour, yeast and water together to make bread, working and kneading the dough with their hands until it becomes smooth and supple. This bread is a good one because it only has to rise a little and it has the lovely fragrance and taste of olive oil and salt. I like to add fresh rosemary, too. We are going to do a rapid rise version, but if you have lots of time, you can use less yeast and let it rise a few times before baking. For even more flavor, you can put the dough in the fridge overnight and then let it rise a few times.

Fast Focaccia

1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toppings: olive oil, fresh rosemary, minced; Parmesan cheese, grated; sea salt, olives


1. Mix the yeast, sugar & water in a small bowl. Let proof for 10 minutes (bubbles begin to form)

2. In large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Make a well in the center for the yeast mix and oil.

3. Add the yeast mix and olive oil to the dry ingredients and combine. Dough will be shaggy.

4. When dough has pulled together, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 - 10 minutes.

5. Gather into a ball. With hands coated with olive oil, oil the surface of the dough ball. Turn the bowl over the dough ball. Let dough rise in a warm place for 25 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil into bottom of 9 or 10 inch diameter cake pan. Swirl to coat bottom and sides with the oil. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons olive oil in another pan.

7. Punch risen dough down.

8. Divide dough in half. Place one piece of dough in each in oiled cake pan. Spread dough toward sides with your fingers, pushing fingers down into dough to create dimples or pockets.

9. Drizzle top of each pan with 1 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with fresh rosemary and some Parmesan cheese or sea salt, if desired. Cover and let rise 15 minutes. Uncover.

10. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Turn out of pan and turn right side up.


  1. Its lovely that you get together with friends and bake. Must be great to chat while you work and you get to eat the results afterwards :)
    The foccacia looks delicious

  2. How cool is that? You all must have had such fun! And well done getting your friends to get their hands right in the dough. It's such a nice way to become less frightened.

    I love rosemary on focaccia too. And thinly sliced red onions drizzled with olive oil - I love the way they get caramelized as the focaccia bakes.

  3. Sounds like so much fun! I wish I could have been part of it. I like it that you chose focaccia to overcome their fear of hands-on dough. It is such a rewarding result.

  4. You r such a sweetie

  5. wow looks so delicious! must try this!

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