There is nothing in the world like the smell of baking bread. And nothing like the taste of fresh bread that you’ve smelled baking. I got a bread machine for Christmas my sophomore year of college and was so incredibly excited. Rather than buy boxes of bread mix, I returned to my dorm room after Christmas break with canisters of flour and yeast and other necessities and proceeded to bake my little heart out. It was a good quarter to be in school.
I bake my own bread from time to time because it is very enjoyable and so very satisfying. The problem, though, comes with the fact that I LOVE bread and could just sit and eat a whole loaf of the fresh stuff and this is something I try to avoid. There are times, though, that fresh bread is just what you need and so you make it. Take this focaccia, it was just what I needed.
A blog I have recently come across called girlichef (go read, it’s fantastic!) has a feature called Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB) that I wanted to join up with, so it was time to bake some bread. I also have been meaning to make some fancy grilled cheese (stay tuned for that), so I picked something that would be thin and crisp up nicely and be a little different than regular sandwich bread. What I ultimately made was some focaccia that I adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. The dough is pretty sticky, so the dough does the second raise on the baking tray that is liberally oiled which results in the bottom being golden and crispy, almost fried. Delicious.
You can click on the recipe to get a downloadable copy so you don’t have to write it down. I definitely recommend you try this focaccia–it’s great for sandwiches and any leftovers can be made into superb croutons. I also recommend that you go visit girlichef and the BYOB link up and see what other people baked up.
- 1 Russet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 cups (8.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ cups (7.5 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 10 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, add the potato, reduce heat to medium high and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and move to a bowl. Mash gently with a fork, and then measure out 1 1/4 of the mashed potato, packed lightly.
- 2. While the potato cooks, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour with the warm water and yeast. Mix with a fork, then let stand, covered, for 20 minutes to make a sponge.
- 3. Once the sponge is ready, attach the bowl to the mixer and add the potato, the remaining flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix with the paddle attachment until the ingredients are fully combined and then switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. The dough will be very wet.
- 4. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn to oil the top. Cover with cling film and let rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in volume.
- 5. Generously oil a baking tray with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Move dough onto the baking tray and using wet or oiled hands, gently spread dough to all edges of the tray and into the corners. If the dough springs back and does not spread easily, let it sit for 10-15 minutes and try again.
- 6. Once the dough is fully spread, cover with cling film covered with cooking spray and allow to rise again until the dough is puffy and doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- 7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- 8. Remove cling film and poke with wet fingers all over to dimple the surface. Drizzle with remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with remaining kosher salt.
- 9. Bake bread for 23 to 25 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Cool slightly on a rack, then cut into pieces and serve warm. Keep leftovers in an airtight container.
How about you, bread fanatic? Or bread indifferent?
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