It starts with Focaccia.
Or perhaps more accurately, it starts with a Saturday afternoon in October where I decide I must bake 6 loaves of bread even though I’ve never baked bread before. Or even before that – a book about sourdough bread that makes me so deeply crave a fresh loaf I begin Googling “how to make crusty bread on a cookie sheet.” Or the day my dad made a set of egg-washed, slightly burnt buns that seemed like pure magic. Or the little Pillsbury rolls I popped onto a baking sheet that made 5 year old me feel like a chef.
Or it’s just me being in isolation with a lot of time and pent up energy.
Whatever it starts with, I am now, for better or for worse, bread-obsessed. Bread really is the perfect line between science and art, a mix of precision and instinct that results in something beautiful and one-of-a-kind. Plus it’s delicious and, in its most basic form, doesn’t require too many ingredients beyond a whole lot of time (and mark my words, time is a crucial ingredient, one you can’t skip or fudge).
And time is the reason I start with Focaccia. Because at this point in my bread journey, I am hugely impatient and I just want fresh bread and I want it now. Focaccia’s pretty good at filling that demand – in about 3 hours, you can have a wonderful loaf resplendent with the rich fragrance of olive oil*
* Yes I realize that if you have the patience to let the dough rise overnight, the Focaccia will taste deeper and more complex. But we don’t all have that patience, okay? Sometimes you just have to 80/20 it.
I use this recipe: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/rosemary-focaccia-bread/
- I choose this recipe because the pictures look great and it looks like a fast process (it is!)
- I replace the 2 tsp of sea salt with 1 tsp of table salt. Sorry no fancy salt in my kitchen at the moment!
Things that go right – The top is a lovely golden brown. The crumb (aka the inside part of the bread for you bread noobs) looks about right, with dense, small little air bubbles packed close together. It tastes fragrant and flavorful, largely thanks to the fresh rosemary, and my family happily eats the whole loaf with hot soup.
Things that could improve – Slight overproofing makes the whole thing taste rather yeasty, and I could have spread the dough out more on the tray. It’s just a little too thick to really be Focaccia. And I could have used far more olive oil than the recommend tbsp so that the top and bottom get that perfect, almost-fried-but-not-quite crust.
I would say it was a mild success, and I’ve now purchased some flaky sea salt to really make the flavor pop. I’ve also developed enough patience that I’m willing to try the overnight version to see if it really is all that.
And that’s the end of Day 0, when I thought I’d scratched the bread-making itch, but it turns out just to be one loaf in a long parade of bread (much to the horror and delight of my parents).