I was totally on schedule through the first 12 breads of The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge: one per week, truckin' right along. But then I went to Australia, and my three-week vacation turned into a six-week yeast hiatus. Yes, yes, there was significant jet lag when I arrived back in Ohio. But there was also the somewhat pathetic fact that it just took me longer than usual to pick up with my real-life habits and routines. Case in point: it took me at least a week and a half to feel like cooking dinner (thank goodness for Husband and his mad culinary skillz). And I was making these incredibly easy and utterly lame to-do lists, like Monday: go through the mail. Tuesday: pick some of the ripe tomatoes. Wednesday: clean the kitchen in an extremely cursory fashion. Thursday: unpack socks. And when I'd accomplish the day's task, it was sofa time. I was physically unwilling to do more than one chore on any given night.
Did I mention I still haven't put away my suitcases? Yeah. I haven't exactly been focused on picking back up with The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge.
But there is one thing I have learned: there is safety in numbers. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was feeling very guilty about my bread-baking break. I was hoping that my co-challengers still loved me. Within moments many of them (including our fearless leader!) chimed in that they were behind schedule, too. I exhaled and prepared to make the next bread -- focaccia -- this weekend.
And? This focaccia is good. Damn good. Shouldn't-have-waited-so-long good. Why-put-away-the-luggage-now?-you'll-probably-need-it-over-the-holidays good.
Reinhart's focaccia method is a lot like his ciabatta method: that is, a wet dough that involves much stretching and folding. As with my ciabatta, my focaccia dough could have been wetter, because the holes in my finished product weren't as large as they could (should) have been. Regardless, it's an exquisite bread, awash during its several rises in a copious amount of herb-infused oil. When making it you will think, Really? This much olive oil? Certainly I am about to cause a fire in my oven. But no! The bread miraculously absorbs all the oil that gets "dimpled in" with the tips of your fingers, resulting in a flavorful, crisp-around-the-edges and rich bread. Reinhart offers many suggestions for toppings, but I went simple with a rough chop of the herbs that are still alive on my Northern Hemisphere mid-October back porch: rosemary, sage, flat-leaf parsley. I also added a little garlic powder, gray sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.
Husband is out of town for work this weekend. I sent him a photo of the cooling focaccia and he called me, breathlessly, saying "I want your bread" in a hushed, vaguely creepy tone. Normally an 11" x 17" slab of bread would stick around for a few days, at least until Husband gets home. But with this focaccia I'm thinking: not so much. It will be gone long before "Glee" airs on Wednesday. Sorry, dear.
The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not post the recipes from Reinhart's book. But if you've taken a recent bread from flour, yeast and water, I can't think of a better time to dive back in. Turn your copy of the book to page 159 and rediscover how awesome it is to have home-baked bread in the house.
Additionally, you may wish to turn your attention to some of my fellow Bread Bakers and their excellent focaccia:
- Carolyn at Two Skinny Jenkins also thinks this is the best focaccia she's ever had.
- Way More Homemade's Donna experiments with freezing Reinhart's focaccia dough.
- Flour Girl Heather wants to make a focaccia topped with dried cherries and scallions. Intriguing!
- Jeff at Culinary Disasters tops his focaccia with an enticing mix of several varieties of caramelized onions. I'm having a Pavolvian response just thinking about it.