Rosemary Focaccia

Mmmmm....!
Mmmmm…!

My advisor from my master’s thesis (>8 years ago)  got back in touch with me a few weeks ago, after noticing the links to my blog posts on my Twitter feed. I remember one Friday afternoon, sitting in his office at UW, having our weekly chat about my progress, his research, teaching, life, the universe, and everything, when he mentioned that he typically made pizza for his family on Friday nights. I asked him if he had a favourite pizza dough recipe, because at the time, I think I was just using a recipe that came with the breadmaker my parents had. He suggested that I should check out The Bread Bible, by one Rose Levy Beranbaum, and if I couldn’t remember her name, to go look up http://www.realbakingwithrose.com. I did. Then I went to the nearest bookstore. And, even though I was a grad student, I found the money for The Bread Bible, which was quickly followed by The Cake Bible, and adding Rose’s blog to my RSS reader.

One day, a post popped up on Rose’s blog, which linked to this post on Marie Wolf’s blog. It talked about a bake through project. I’d never participated in anything like that, but I knew it would be a good way to force gently encourage myself to a) actually thoroughly explore a cookbook for once, and b) actually put content up on a blog. With cookbooks, I have a tendency to buy them, pick a few recipes that jump out at me, and make those same things over and over again. See the basic white, yellow, and chocolate butter cakes, and the neoclassic buttercream in The Cake Bible. Pizza dough, white sandwich bread (which I’ve converted to whole wheat sandwich bread), and (more recently) Rye Sourdough in The Bread Bible. Pie crust in The Pie & Pastry Bible.

The Heavenly Cakes bake-through had many lovely results. I ‘met’ a wonderful group of bakers from all over the world, and got to bake with them most weeks for a couple of years. Most of our blogs went somewhat quiet for a while between then and now, and it’s been great to reconnect, recently. As one of the active participants in that bake-through, I also given the opportunity to help Rose and Woody with testing some of the recipes for The Baking Bible, which was a real insight into the amount of work that goes into a book like this. We followed the recipes, measured and weighed the components at every stage of the process, gave feedback on taste, texture, clarity of instructions, etc. Rose’s response to our feedback provided another level of insight. When something got universally low ratings, she completely swapped out a crust recipe. We struggled with a process or ran into crystallization issues on a sugar syrup, and something got tweaked. I mentioned the other week that my interest in baking is related to a love of watching simple ingredients turn into something completely different. It’s also deeply intertwined with a love of science, and specifically, food science. I did a grade 7 science project on the different results between using honey and sugar to sweeten cookies, and I thought that a career in food science was where I’d end up, until I discovered computer programming. Long story short, the level of detail and explanation in the way Rose authors her recipes really appeals to me, and satisfies my inner food science nerd.

I think I’m getting around to my point. A couple of weeks ago, someone in the Baking Bible bake-through group suggested that maybe we should bake our way through The Bread Bible as well. I thought “No way, I can’t manage that, with everything else I’ve got going on.” Then, I thought.. why not? I already bake bread for Jay and I every couple of weekends. Bread is also generally relatively forgiving, if you have to leave it at some stage. It takes a lot of clock time, but usually not a lot of active time. So, I’ve signed up for another bake-through! This time, it’s bread! We’re baking once a month, and it looks like posts are going to be “due” the first Wednesday of the month. We’re following the order laid out by Marie on her Breadbasketcase blog, which is what started this whole journey!

This dough, as Rose outlines in the notes, is very very wet. When you’re mixing it, it’s hard to believe that it will turn into something other than pancakes, but trust in Rose. 🙂

Very wet dough
Very wet dough

You mix it for 20 minutes with the paddle mixer, and you can see the progress in the next couple of shots.

Starting to develop
Starting to develop
You can see it transforming...
You can see it transforming…
Smooth ball of dough!
Smooth ball of dough!

I tried to get a picture of it with the mixer stopped, but it just looks like this within a second of the mixer stopping:

Bread dough soup
Bread dough soup

To illustrate just how runny the dough was, I managed to grab this shot one-handed:

I have never seen a dough so stringy
I have never seen such a stringy bread dough

Once it’s poured into my trusty bread dough rising container, I marked with tape where double would be.

Marking double
Marking double

A few hours in the sun later, and it was ready to go. The bowl on top is my sourdough – this week, that’s my contribution to Thursday pot luck lunch.

Risen! With a friend!
Risen! With a friend!

The dough was much more dough-like after it had rested and risen. It actually held together fairly well when I dumped it out of the container.

Floop goes the risen mass
Floop goes the risen mass

Now go prune your windowsill rosemary that has been waiting all winter for its chance to shine.

Windowsill rosemary
Windowsill rosemary

Stretch it out on a well-oiled pan, brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh rosemary and salt.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

The recipe says to consume immediately. As you can see, we did.

Hot and fresh
Hot and fresh. Not Pizza Pizza.

We had some friends over on Saturday night for a camp fire in our back yard, since we try to do that at least once a winter, and they helped finish off what was left from hubby and I snacking on Saturday. 🙂

This is another one of those recipes that I never would have tried if it weren’t for this bake through. I love projects like this because of that, along with the community that we’ve built up where we can ask each other for validation. Things like: “My dough’s doing this weird thing. Is yours that way too?” “Oh, wait, it’s supposed to be the paddle attachment? D’oh, I missed that, I was using the dough hook!” If I were to make it again, and I probably will, I’d probably use a bit more rosemary, and maybe try to stick the rosemary into the bread somehow, because I found that it seemed to fall off the top.  Maybe a bit more salt, too.

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12 thoughts on “Rosemary Focaccia

  1. ב”ה

    Lovely post. It really is nice to bake with the all the alpha bakers.

    In another Rosemary foccacia recipe I made the rosemary was chopped up and mixed with dough so it dispersed through-out.

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  2. I just finally decided to look up the characters that you always put at the top of your posts and comments, and I learned that it is a reference to Proverbs 3:6 – “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.” Is this true? I think it’s lovely, so I want it to be true. 🙂

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  3. Awesome post! I agree with you and Mendy that it is nice to bake with all the alpha bakers. I planted mine in stalks..LOL! they didn’t come out but it did look weird though when you look at it. I love your window stills photos.. can see that it is still winter with snow.. the sun looks sunny but must be weak right?…cos my mind has been set to register ‘sun=hot’… Campfire during winter? So interesting! Won’t you feel too cold? From your kitchen window, looks like your neighbour is very far away..i cannot see any houses except trees!

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  4. One thing I like about winter is the intensity of the sun, oddly enough. On a sunny day in the winter, it’s so bright out, with the crisp blue sky and the almost blinding light of the snow. Also, because the sun is lower in the horizon during the winter, it streams in the windows more, rather than being up high overhead, and shielded by the roof or walls… so I feel like my windowsills are sunnier in the winter.

    Campfire in winter isn’t too bad if you dress appropriately and keep a good fire going! 🙂

    Our house backs onto the local park, so we have no backyard neighbours, but we do have neighbours to both sides. I’m not sure exactly how far away, and our lot isn’t quite rectangular, but I know it’s about 60 feet wide at one end (18m).

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  5. ב”ה

    Literally, it is an acronym that stands for “With the help of the Divine name.” But the reason we write is in the spirit of the verse from proverbs, as you said.

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  6. Brilliant post! ” force/ gently encourage myself ” yes, exactly! It is so much fun baking with everyone instead of trying to muddle through a recipe, as if I would since this book has been crammed into my fictional reading cookbook shelf. The first time I had focaccia the herbs were mixed throughout the dough. I’ll do that next time and really up the amount. Fresh rosemary is so good.

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  7. hi Kristina, thanks for sharing that story about how you come to the group. It;s so nice to get to know you. Rick and I go camping throughout the summer with very little equipment. We cook on the fire and live simply and quietly. Our final outing every year is Thanksgiving (Canadian) when the leaves are just past their peak. It gets quite cold at night, but with a fire neither of us notice. We really enjoy it. Anyway, great post!

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  8. Loved your post! Cookbooks, especially good ones, are something that I will always scrape up the money for. Your focaccia looks superb.

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  9. Kristina: I really enjoyed your post! I am loving this new group already! Your focaccia is beautiful. I am looking forward to seeing springtime out my kitchen window (and yours!). Meanwhile, stay warm and well, and we shall bake on!

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