I don’t know about you, but I don’t often find myself with a few spare hours and nothing to do but bake. Right?
And I have to admit I don’t know the first thing about baking bread. I tried it once about 10 years ago – the yeast was dead (but I didn’t know because I’d never used yeast before) and I got bored after three minutes of kneading. Needless to say, the ‘loaf’ turned out more like a mummified pig’s head – and that was the end of my baking career.
Until this victorious moment, champagne friends!
Because now I have three children, there is nothing I like better than getting filthy and punching the shit out of an inanimate object. And because then for a good ten minutes, I get to use my best sing-song voice to say, “Mummy can’t break up that fight/lick that yoghurt off the ceiling fan/unstick your tongue from the freezer because Mummy is busy baking bread!” (Why do we speak about ourselves in the third person? Is it to remove ourselves from the horror? Yes, that’s probably it.)
Suck on that, Marion Cunningham.
I was possessed by the spirit of Danielle at Keeping Up with the Holsbys while I was at the supermarket. She recently published a great recipe for spelt hot cross buns – next on my list of things to bake (and if you need another reason to read that post, try these words: “And will be as embarrassing as the penis in the meat department…” I’ll say no more.). But the point is, I bought a shit-ton of yeast, brought it home, and thought I should honour its existence (cause it’s a living thing – respect, y’all) by taking it out for a spin. And it’s all Danielle’s fault.
So who better to teach you to bake than a woman who knows diddly, right? The upside is that, if I can pull this off, anyone can. The original recipe described focaccia as a ‘free spirited’ bread – meaning you can eff around with it and it forgives you every time. Sort of like that doormat boyfriend you had back at uni – remember?
And I really did pull this baby off. My kids think I’m a freaking super hero and are begging me to make it again already. That never happens. Even Husby was impressed. Also rare.
Want to try? Sure you do!
- 1/4 cup hot tap water
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- slug of maple syrup (about 2-3 teaspoons if you prefer actual numbers)
- 1.5 cups cold water
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for the bowl and pan
- hefty pinch of sea salt
- 4 cups plain flour (I usually prefer wholemeal or spelt but I used white for this one – because have you ever seen a wholemeal focaccia? I think it’s one of the early signs of the apocalypse.)
- whatever you want to throw on top (I used thyme and a large bucket of sea salt)
- Put hot water and maple syrup into your mixing bowl and swirl around to combine, then add your yeast and allow to sit for 10 minutes – until it’s a bit on the frothy side and smells like a beer.
- Add your cold water, olive oil and salt. Mix together and then add your flour in bits, mixing along the way, until all the flour is in. Then mix it together with your hands until it comes together in a ball.
- Sprinkle some flour on your bench and then bring your dough out and give it a good knead for 10 minutes.
- Put the dough in an oiled bowl, then turn it over so it is all covered in oil. Cover with plastic wrap (I forgot this and just used a tea towel – it still went just fine) and leave to rest for 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Remove your great big puffy dough from the bowl and punch the living bejinkies out of it so it deflates. Just give it 30 seconds or so – don’t go to town on it as a channel for all your pent up rage. Save something for your children.
- Oil whatever dish you want to use. You can also just use a cookie sheet or other tray and free-form it. Do whatever your Susie-homemaker heart desires. It’s your bread.
- Spread your dough with your hands and then poke holes in it with your fingers. Or have all three of your children help you out, as I did. Why does focaccia require those little holes? Why does the caged bird sing? Who the fuck knows.
- Drizzle the shizzle with more olive oil and top with whatever toppings your heart desires. Rosemary and salt is pretty standard. Olives and roast garlic is also good. Then leave that baby for another hour to rest. Shhhhhhhh.
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees while you’re waiting.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes. It’s done when you get that hollow tapping sound in the middle (you have to tap it, it won’t do it all on its own).
- Get that sucker out, then slather it with your body weight in butter. Yeah.
Are you a baker or are you more of a bread appreciator? What’s your favourite bread?