Saturday, March 19, 2011


Yeast and I have had an ongoing kind of love/hate thing for quite a few years, I have to admit that is partly because I never had much experience as a baker or really in pastry of any sort.  Then there were all of the stories people would tell...

"You must mix yeast dough with a wooden spoon if you touch it with a rubber spatula it will never rise"

"Bread has to be mixed in a glass or ceramic bowl... it will get a metallic taste from a metal bowl."

"Lock your doors and put a towel under all of your windows!  even the slightest cool draft will make your bread fall."

Read your mom's old church cookbook the warnings are there,  I am not saying that I believed all of them but still I grew up a little afraid of yeast dough.  I have grown a little more accustomed to it now.  There is a method to yeast breads that is somewhat calming, the warmth of the kitchen the kneading, the rise and the gentle care that you take of it as it goes.  Years ago I started flirting with french bread when I was dealing with insomnia.

Does that make sense? let me explain a little, I couldn't sleep so I would get out of bed at 10:00 or so, open a bottle of wine and start a couple of loaves of french bread.  It worked like a charm, when the wine was gone and the fresh hot loaves were coming out of the oven I was ready to sleep! 

Last weekend I found myself a little stressed and I fell back on my old enemy come friend then therapist. Kris wasn't feeling well to the point that she had both of us a little shaken.  While she was being checked out by the Dr. the kids were playing with their new friends and I was alone in the house.  So Focaccia came to mind... why focaccia?  really I don't know but it seemed right.  Anyway here is how it went...

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Basil pesto and tomato sauce to top
a little Kosher salt

Mix yeast and warm water together in a bowl while that is blooming put flour and table salt into your mixing bowl.  After the yeast has activated (got all foamy around the edges of your bowl) add that to your flour mixture.  Blend with dough hooks for about 4-5 minutes then turn onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two.  Put your mixture into an oiled bowl and let rise, covered in plastic for about an hour until it doubles in size.  When that is done press the dough into a well greased (use about half the olive oil above for that) 10x15 inch pan and let rise (covered in a damp dish towel this time) for about 25-30 minutes.  while that is rising preheat oven to 400.

Now is the time to spread your toppings on it, I used pesto sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, minced fresh garlic and a bit of sea salt.  Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil then poke it with your fingers until it feels right, some of the holes should be shallow some should tear the dough all the way through to the pan.  Set this in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

Kris is doing fine by the way, several Dr.s checked her out from top to bottom.  It seems that as we age our bodies like to do something to shake us up every year or so.  Maybe it is nature's way of reminding us to take better care of ourselves.


  1. Focaccia is on my list of breads to try! This looks so yummy!

    Isn't the mythology of bread making so fascinating? My Grandma on my dad's side is Irish and makes soda bread (or brown bread) often, and firmly believes you need to cut a cross into the top of the loaf, because otherwise it isn't right. Apparently this comes from her mother, saying it was to :let the devil out". Hurray for bread making!

  2. Me too! I was scared of bread for years, due to all the warnings (thanks for the laugh). I use to make a lot of focaccia when living in the US but not so much now..... thanks for the reminder, yours looks fabulous by the way.

    Glad to hear Kris is OK. We really do need to treat ourselves kindly. Take care guys

  3. Interesting comment by Dana - I made 2 loaves of soda bread yesterday for a St. Patrick's Day party we were having and both had the cross cut into the top of them - wouldn't make it any other way!
    Foccacia looks and sounds great, will give it a try.

  4. Well, you know that I'm a bona-fide yeastophobe. But this bread looks amazing.

    So glad Kris was okay!