When I was young lady of 21 years of age, I briefly experimented with being a baker’s assistant. I aided my aunt, the pastry chef at the bakery, with making cookies; I prepped the tarts for the display case (including playing with the torch); I transported freshly-baked bread to their satellite location in Amenia, NY, returning tart shells to the main shop; and I washed dishes–of course (I was the low one on the totem pole, after all). Sadly, they couldn’t give me enough hours to make my ends meet: I just couldn’t afford to keep working there, no matter how much I wanted to stay. I moved on to a career as a municipal secretary. It was nowhere near as much fun.
While I helped with the desserts, the main event at the bakery was their bread. All kinds of bread. Sourdough was the biggest deal of them all: people would start lining up around 10AM, waiting for the fresh, crusty loaves of carb-o-love to emerge from the ovens. There even was a sign that would go out once the sourdough was done. Sourdough always was the last to finish, signaling the end of the bread bakers’ shift that started in the wee, ungodly hours–otherwise known as 3AM. Theirs was a labor of love that intrigued me.
At the end of the day, we were able to take home some of the leftover bread. One of my favorite leftovers was their focaccia. Somewhere between bread and pizza, it’s a meal in itself. They had tomato garlic and rosemary varieties, both lip-smacking good, even if they weren’t all that fresh when I got to them. It’s been many years since I’ve had their focaccia. Too many.
Today, I just had to have some.
I selected the recipe from Betty Crockers Best Bread Machine Cookbook, a book that makes bread-making all that much easier for the home baker. You use the bread machine’s dough cycle to do most of the work, only having to shape the dough and top it. A huge bonus for me was that I was able to utilize some of the rosemary growing in my garden–one of my goals this summer being to bake from my garden. Make sure you use fresh rosemary and chop it because it can get really sharp when baked. You don’t want that stuck in your gums. I may have to add a few more rosemary plants to the garden because this recipe was a hit with my family. Usually, The Big Guy will say something is “okay” or “alright,” being a man of few words, and even less adjectives to describe the food he likes. This received a rating of “good”–a rare honor! Now that I know how easy it is to make (far less laborious than getting up at 3AM to start the daily loaves!), it won’t be so rare in our home anymore.
- ¾ cup warm water (not hot–that will kill the yeast)
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil, softened, if not already
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 Tbsp evaporated cane juice
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1½ tsp bread machine or quick active dry yeast
- 3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
- 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves (4-6 sprigs)
- flaky sea salt
- Add ingredients up through the yeast to your bread machine, per manufacturer’s instructions (on my Sunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker, you put the wet ingredients in first, then the dry, with the yeast being last). Select dough cycle. Watch the dough kneading for the first five minutes to see if you need more water (dough just won’t come together: too dry) or more flour (dough is a sloppy mess just sloshing around the pan: too wet) and add accordingly, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together into a nice ball.
- Once the dough cycle is complete, remove dough from the pan with lightly-floured hands and put it on a lightly-floured surface, covering the dough ball. Let it rest 10 minutes.
- Grease a large cookie sheet (I used my rectangular baking stone from Pampered Chef). Pat out the dough on the sheet into a roughly 12-inch circle. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for 30 minutes, or until almost double in size.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Make depressions in the dough with your fingertips all over the surface. Drizzle the grapeseed oil over the focaccia. Sprinkle the rosemary and flaky salt (to your taste) on top of that. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or cool completely on a wire rack.