Don’t ask me why, but I feel like bread making should just be something humans can organically do. Every human, including me. But, alas, I can not. My husband, the wonder baker, can make any yeast bread, just give him a recipe and a few hours and you have perfect loaves, or rolls, or Lardy Bread. Our families win the benefits of his baking experiments, getting half loaves of his creations. Don’t even try his chocolate bread………
But, I am convinced I should be able to do this. Somehow, someway, I was going to make something with yeast that worked if it killed me. I have tried making plain white bread, which rose to much, leaving me with dense loaves that deflated in on themselves. I have looked at countless yeast bread recipes, to no avail, I flip right past them in pursuit of something not so sure of failure. I have successfully made an English Muffin bread, but it had 10 minutes of rise time, and was fairly foolproof. Not the yeast bread perfection I was craving. Then came the answer.
Yesterday, Joe had an installation in Pittsburgh and asked if I would go with him for the ride(with the promise of Fathead’s Restaurant for dinner: they make a KILLER Cuban Sandwich, more on that later). Leaving the kids with my mom, we were off. After I dropped Joe off to work, I headed to Ikea, where I picked up dishes cheap, and a huge number of the bright colored plastic bowl they sell that have so many uses. On my way back to get him, I splurged at Barnes and Noble where I picked up a copy of the latest Taste of Home magazine. Flipping through it as I waited for Joe to finish, I saw it: Tomato Herb Focaccia.
Now the idea of focaccia seemed perfect to a novice yeast bread baker like me. The whole point is to have a flatter bread, not the big airy loaves of regular bread. And maybe, just maybe, if the bread itself was terrible, the toppings I put on it would carry it. Ahhhhh, wishful thinking.
So today was the day. I made Joe get tomatoes for me at the store, and I had committed myself. Pulling out that little package of yeast to dissolve in the water, I told myself I could do it(with a few questions to Joe first and a panic-y tone to my voice).
Once dissolved, I added the salt, sugar, herbs and oil. Then came the flour. It said to stir in the first increment of flour, then add as needed. Before adding more, this is what the dough looked like.
Once I added more, as I kneaded, it got more elastic and bread doughy. This is it after kneading for 8 minutes and putting into a bowl to rise.
An hour…….just enough time to convince myself I was going to go out and find a little lump of unrisen dough but……………….
TAAA DAAA! It rose! Yeah!!! So far so good. From here I punched it down,
And let it go another 10 minutes. Once that was accomplished, the dough got spread out onto a greased baking sheet into a 9×13-inch rectangle. Cover again and let double, another 30 minutes (this is why baking is so hard for me, so much waiting! I could make dinner for 10 in this amount of time!)
Now came the fun part, topping and baking. I used the recommended Roma tomatoes, cut thin, and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. I would love to try this with a really sharp Parmesan, sharper than what I had, but it turned out good anyway!
Into the oven it went for 21 minutes, and what did we have?????
BEAUTIFUL AROMATIC BREAD!!!! SUCCESS (at least appearance-wise) It was nicely golden, and the tomatoes were soft but not mushy. Now to taste………………..YUMMMMM! I agreed with Joe that it needed a sprinkle of salt, but besides that it was great. The crust cooked up nice and brown, with a slight crunch, and the topping were nice and not sliding off when you took a bite. The bread itself had nice tiny pockets of air, perfect for focaccia.
Overall, I did good! I am so proud of myself! Now I would love to say bring on the yeast bread, let me make bread for the kids lunches, and to give to the neighbors, and for all my catered events, but let’s not jump there just yet. My next adventure into yeast breads is a chocolate yeasted coffee cake, but for now, I’m going to sit back, look at my creation, and enjoy one more little slice.
Tomato Herb Focaccia
1 pkg active dry yeast(1/4oz)
1 cup warm water(110 degrees F to 114 degrees F)
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp each oregano, thyme, and rosemary, crushed
½ tsp dried basil
2 to 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 TBSp oil, salt, sugar, garlic powder, herbs, pepper and 1 ½ cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough(dough will be sticky). Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into a 13inx9in rectangle; place on a baking sheet. Cover and let sit 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Brush with remaining olive oil. Top with tomato slices, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.