Monday, January 17, 2011

I Made Bread!!!!!

I did it! I am so stinkin excited. I made homemade bread today. For the very first time. And you know what? It's really good!

For Christmas I received the book Sarabeth's Bakery, From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine. It's a fabulous book that focuses on several aspects of baking and pastry creations. Its chapters feature Morning Pastries, Muffins and More, Beautiful Breads, Everyday Cakes, Party Cakes and Company, Pies and Tarts, Plan and Fancy Cookies, Spoon Desserts, Frozen Desserts, Spreadable Fruits and Frostings, Fillings and Sweet Sauces.

The first recipe I tackled was Rosemary Focaccia Bread. My Hubby is a complete carb fiend. He could live off of pasta and bread for the rest of his life and be in complete bliss. Throw a little rosemary in there and watch out! Plus I had some left over fresh rosemary from my attempt at Paris Mushroom Soup.

I have always heard that making bread is simple with just a few ingredients. But bread making, like much of baking, is a science. I am not much of a scientist....but generally speaking I can follow directions. Don't get me wrong...following directions doesn't always work out. But the bread Gods were with me today.

The part that made me most nervous was the yeast. I used dry yeast sprinkled over barely warm (not hot) water then dissolved after 5 minutes. Was it supposed to bubble or do something special? I consulted Sarabeth's book and I felt better because she said some dry yeast will bubble, depends on the brand. I didn't know what my brand was supposed to do, but it definitely wasn't bubbling. Just go with it. The yeast goes into a mixing bowl along with 1 and 3/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary. With the mixer on low 2 cups of flour go in. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour. Knead for a few minutes and voila! Bread Dough.

Transfer it to an oiled bowl and cover tightly for an hour until the dough doubles in size. And guess what? After an hour my dough doubled in size. Apparently the yeast was working.

Then the dough gets stretched into a well oiled half sheet pan. Next it needs to "proof". To be honest I don't really know what that means. But the proofing in this case involved a tall kitchen trash bag and 2 tall glasses of hot water. Sound weird? I thought it did. But I put one large glass of hot water inside the bottom of the bag (sitting on the counter of course), placed the sheet pan of bread in next and then another glass of hot water. The glasses keep the bag tented over the dough and give it a nice warm environment to get "puffy" as the recipe describes. This takes about 45 minutes. The puffed up bread gets a few dimples poked into it with your finger and a generous coating of olive oil.

The bread bakes in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. Before closing the oven door pump a few sprays of water onto the walls of the oven. This helps to create steam which will help the bread crisp.

I was so excited when I took the bread out of the oven. I couldn't stop smiling. My bread looked pretty darn close to the bread in the book!

Not only did it look good, but it tasted just like I thought it should. Chewy and slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Wow! I did it! You would have thought I had solved world peace or something. But maybe delicious bread could instill a little bit of peace? It's possible. Look at that bread!

We had the bread for dinner in sandwich form. With roasted eggplant, zucchini and red peppers with pesto mayonnaise and fresh buffalo mozzarella. Yum, yum! If you have thought about making bread and haven't gotten around to it yet, just do it!

Rosemary Focaccia
by Sarabeth Levine

2 cups cold water
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 ounce (2 packed tablespoons) compressed yeast or 3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, as needed
1 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons high quality, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for the bowl

1. Place the water and rosemary into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Crumble yeast into the bowl. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk to dissolve the yeast. (If using active dry yeast, sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup warm, 105 to 115 degree F, water in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl. Add 1 3/4 cups cold water and the rosemary and whisk to combine.)

2. Attached the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the flour, then the salt. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed just until the dough is smooth and it cleans the bowl, about 3 minutes. Do not overknead. Gather up the dough and shape into a ball.

3. Coat the inside of a medium bowl generously with olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bow, and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

4. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a half-sheet pan, and spread evenly with your fingers. Punch down the dough and transfer to the oiled pan. Using your hands, coax and stretch the dough to fill the pan. If the dough is too elastic, cover the dough in the pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes, then try again.

5. Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan into a tall "kitchen-sized" plastic bag and place two tall glasses of very hot water in the bag at opposite ends of the pan to keep the plastic from touching the dough. Tightly close the bag, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy, about 45 minutes.

6. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Fill a spray bottle with water. Remove the glasses from the bag, then the pan. Using your fingers, gently dimple the top of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top of the dough. Using the palms of your hands, taking special care not to deflate the dough, very lightly spread the oil over the focaccia.

7. Place the focaccia in the oven. Aiming for the walls of the oven (and not the top of the focaccia), spray water into the oven. The water will create steam to help crisp the focaccia. Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes before serving. Cut into rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. Great job on the focaccia, Gloria - it looks outstanding! Yeast bread can be intimidating, but it is such a satisfying thing to bake. The first thing I made from that book was an apple bread and it was excellent.

  2. Congratulations!! It's so exciting to make bread for the first time, and truthfully, it's still just as exciting the 20th time :) Your focaccia looks perfect!