Tuesday, March 03, 2015
It's hard to understand how I could have such fond memories of the biggest baking disaster of my life--this very same beautiful rosemary focaccia, the first bread I made from The Bread Bible, and one that almost led to the death of my nascent bread-baking hobby.
Those who have known me for a while know this story already, so feel free to skip through it. I got The Bread Bible for Christmas in 2005 and decided I would bake all the recipes in a year. I got a new KitchenAid mixer and started in. You know the part of the recipe where it says it will take 20 minutes of steady beating to turn into dough? Well, I mixed and mixed, and it never did. After 40 minutes, I gave up, and stuck the runny mess into the oven, after which it became a mass of gummy cardboard. I sent off an indignant email to Rose, never expecting to hear from her, but in less than a half hour, she sent me a kind email telling me that lots of people had trouble with this bread, but it really was fantastic if it worked. Only after my second failed attempt, when a clever blog reader noticed a picture showing me using the dough hook instead of the paddle attachment did I realize that the fault was not in Rose's recipe, or even in the stars, but in me and my apparent inability to read.
The bread works when you use the paddle attachment.
In fact, it's really fun to make because it goes from this....
To this.... Look at that gluten developing! You know it's going to work now.
This dough is so aesthetically pleasing, and so wonderfully tactile. At some points you almost think it doesn't even matter how it turns out, because it's so fun to work with.
The dough rose with gusto the first time (it was in my proofer at 78 degrees). The pan didn't fit in the proofer, so it rose - very slowly - in my cold kitchen for the second rise. After a while, I decided it had been out long enough and I would rely on oven spring for the rest.
I dimpled it, tore off fresh rosemary leaves, and sprinkled Maldon sea salt all over. Back in the day, I didn't have Maldon sea salt. Don't you sometimes marvel at all the food that you use routinely now and had never heard of 20 or 30 years ago? Maldon sea salt is one; actually, focaccia is another. Probably some of you young people never had to undergo a life without focaccia, but I did. And I also walked 5 miles to school.
It took a little, but not much, longer than 13 minutes to reach a stage of golden brownness. I wish I'd thought to poach the garlic and do that variation because it's delicious. I also wish I'd used a bit more rosemary because it dried and shrunk in the oven.
Otherwise, I have no complaints. As I look through the cookbook, I can't believe that I made every bread in the book in just one year. But I'm glad we're going at a slower rate this time.