Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rosemary Focaccia

January 1, 2006

Total and complete disaster! Here is what Rose has to say about this dough: "Who would have thought it even possible to make a dough this wet and still produce bread?" That should have been a tip-off. In fact, it may not be possible, and it sure isn't for a novice bread baker.

I'm all excited about my first loaf of bread. Jim volunteers to go to the grocery store for me, and I put instant yeast and sea salt on the grocery list. He comes back with regular yeast. I tell him, not very nicely, really, that Rose says "instant," and so it must be. He goes back to the store, not too happily, and returns with instant yeast. I cheerfully mix the dough, using the bread hook attachment on my new KitchenAid mixer for the first time.

Step 1: "With the mixer running, gradually add the water (lots of water) until the dough comes together.... It will be very soupy." Check. "Beat until the dough is transformed into a smooth, shiny ball, about 20 minutes." Hmm. Not smooth, not shiny. It's still potage a la bread.
Another 10 minutes. Nope. Still soup. Add a little more flour, give it 10 more minutes. No transformation yet. 10 more minutes. The hell with this. I don't have all day to wait for this miraculous transformation. Might as well just go on to step 2.

Step 2: Let the dough rise until double. Check. I now have twice as much soup.

Step 3: "Shape the dough and let it rise." Have you ever tried to shape soup? It doesn't work.
I pour the dough on the pan, let it rise again, put on the fresh rosemary and the sea salt, and put it in the oven, still hoping that some kind of miracle will occur in the oven. It doesn't.

What comes out is no longer soup, but it sure as hell isn't bread. I hack a piece off the big lump that is both sodden and burned at the same time. It tastes a little like soft, salty cardboard with rosemary. How can it be both soft and cardboardish? I don't know. Try it yourself.

I find Rose's blog on the internet and complain bitterly. She answers me in about 1/2 hour. She tells me that a lot of people have trouble with this bread, but some don't. She says weighing the flour is more exact than measuring it. She says maybe the bread should have a little more yeast. I feel that she's telling me that if I were a better person, my bread would have come out better. But I won't give up. Yet.


saratimandtobias said...

Oh no! You must make this one again and add the pockets of garlic! I think it's my favorite bread. I would eat it every day if it didn't take so long to make...

breadbasketcase said...

Sara--Let's bake this together and you can show me what I'm doing wrong--and then we'll both have wonderful bread.

Nic said...

You may consider checking out this site:

breadbasketcase said...

I heard about the errata sheet before I bought the book, and I even went through my book and made all the changes, but I still flubbed this bread. I think eventually I'll have to try it again.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Incredible that you did another after that!

breadbasketcase said...

I know! It was pure stubbornness.

AnnieB47 said...

I just made focaccia, from another author, for the third time, and am now convinced that I need a new recipe. It comes out too flat and hard. Portions of it are almost cracker like! I googled bread disasters and came across your incredible blog, and am now inspired to possibly start my own. We'll see. It's not as if I don't have enough projects underway already, knitting, taxes, home tour 2008, fundraising, oh yeah, a job. Anyway, I'll keep searching for the reason my focaccia is more boardlike than I'd hoped. I suspect the water to wheat ratio is a tad shy. Might also have kneaded too long. Anyway, haven't read all of your entries yet, but just zoomed through your New Year's Eve progressive dinner. I was full at appetizers. Perhaps another time.

breadbasketcase said...

Did you look at my second try at the rosemary focaccia from The Bread Bible? For some reason, everything fell into place the second time I tried it (one version with rosemary and one with roasted garlic). I was afraid to try this one again because it was so awful the first time, but ended up being thrilled with it. Don't give up!

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem the first time I tried the recipe, but I was undaunted and the second time it was heavenly- I dry-measured the second time instead of weighing the flour as I usaully do. It was magic when the dough became a silky mass on the beater. Really. It is worth the effort and frustration to get it correct.

Nicola said...

Oh Marie, how I wished I had read your guiding words this morning before I baked the fickle focaccia. Mine turned out exactly like yours and with the same accompanying dialogue. And you also mixed yours with the dough hook... But also inspired that it is amazing when it comes together. Will attempt again.