Lately I’ve been going through lots of changes–no, not exactly like Peter Brady singing when it’s time to chaaaaaaange!–but maybe a little in reverse. A little of “I’m halfway through my life. OMG, how’d that happen?” with a touch of “Am I doing what I love?” and then throw in some “I’m searching for more meaningful moments”. I feel like every 7-10 years I go through some sort of weird crisis, where the inner weirdo me yells out “WHAT IS HAPPENING???” and the outer, um, a little less weirdo me answers, “I’m busy watching Project Runway. Leave me alone.” And then with or without me, crap turns all over on itself.
Somehow these times conveniently come at the change of seasons. In this case, Fall. Since it’s getting colder, and I’m planning what we call in this house “our winter hibernation,” (because we’re basically bears) it’s good to do one of two things: bake or make soup. I also feel like cooking/baking is the best therapy ever. I totally channel my grandma when I’m in the kitchen. I can hear her now, singing out her favorite hymns while she cooked (you have to have witnessed her singing to fully understand what I’m talking about here. She had a certain tone to her voice that I have never, ever heard again, that I can only describe as “very high pitched, squeaky violin with a southern Illinois twang”). It was always a good feeling (and maybe a little frightening) to hear her in the kitchen. With or without the singing, you always knew something good was coming–usually in the form of her famous spaghetti and meatballs or her apple pie.
[A story about her much loved and always requested apple pie: One time when I was about ten, she came for Thanksgiving. The famous apple pie was requested, so she enlisted me to help her make it. She would tell me what ingredients she’d need next, and I’d get them for her. After she gingerly placed her homemade crust into the pie plate she asked me for the sugar. I passed it over and she sprinkled it very generously on the bottom of the crust, and right before she went to wash her hands, she licked her finger. Her face turned into a grimace and I thought she was sick, but she wasn’t. What had happened was that Little Mary had given her salt instead of sugar. She sort of freaked out (in her nice, happy grandma way) and I cried (in my very unattractive childlike way) and then we spent the next ten minutes trying to brush the salt off the pie crust. The pie totally tasted fine and Thanksgiving wasn’t ruined, but EVERY time I make an apple pie now, I think of that, and double-check that my sugar is sugar.]
As I search for more meaningful moments in life, I have felt the urge to go back to basics: making my own chicken stock, making stews with dumplings, baking desserts that smell like Christmas, and baking bread. There’s something about the smell of yeast that I just love (and also think is kind of gross at the same time).
So for the past few weeks I’ve been working on perfecting my focaccia recipe. I finally found a recipe to build off of that worked, so here’s my adapted version of it. Focaccia is so easy I thought you might want to make some.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1 cup of tepid water
In a small bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let stand about 5-7 minutes until yeast is fully dissolved and mixture is creamy.
In a large bowl combine flour and yeast mixture, stirring well to combine. *Add additional water a little at a time, until flour is fully absorbed (I used about an extra half cup of water). When dough pulls together, turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 1 minute.
Thinly oil a large bowl (I also oil the ball of dough lightly). Place dough in bowl and cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place (I put it on top of my preheating oven) for 30-40 minutes.
Deflate dough and turn back onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Roll dough into about a half inch thick circle, place on an oiled parchment papered pan, cover with towel and place on top of oven. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. It’ll puff up slightly.
Indent dough to make “holes” every inch or so. Brush dough with a thin coating of olive oil and then sprinkle with kosher salt. Combine rosemary, thyme, onion and garlic powders and then sprinkle on top of dough.
Bake for 10-15 minutes (mine was perfectly done at 12), or until dough is slightly golden on top.
Enjoy dipped in olive oil or on its own.