Focaccia and Happiness

So, what actually started as a fun distraction, has become my favourite part of the week. I have been making a new loaf of bread every week for almost a month and a half, and haven’t bought any bread in that long. 

Making bread might sound like a cute, quaint, pioneer woman sort of hobby, but I had read before of the almost meditative quality it can have. I’m sorry to say that I had brushed this off as hippie-talk, but I have become “one of them”. Somewhere between waiting for the yeast to proof and kneading the dough over and over, I’m able to forget whatever has happened to be stressing me that day and lose myself in the comforting process of combining flour, water, yeast and salt in varying combinations and with varying degrees of success until I’m face to face with a beautiful golden loaf of gluten-y goodness.

It’s amazing how good bread makes people feel. As soon as the first hint of that yeasty, warm smell comes wafting out of the oven, my friends start asking when they can have some, smiles on their faces. Bread has always had a communal quality about it, something to be shared. It’s one of the most basic, and one of the oldest foods in existence, and there’s something almost primal awakened when a warm loaf is cut open.

This past week was incredibly busy. I found myself tired and exhausted most evenings, overwhelmed with work, and counting down the days until the end of the school term. I’m typically an early to bed, early to rise kind of person, but one night after an evening class, I came home absolutely wired, knowing there was no way I was going to be able to get to sleep any time soon. Without really thinking, I pulled out flour, salt, olive oil and got to work making focaccia. For a little while, I was still running through everything I still needed to get done for the week, assignments to be done, lessons to prep, but after a while, my mind quieted down, focusing on the texture of the dough, whether it needed more time to rise, was I kneading it enough, and before I knew it, I had a pan of focaccia that my roommates and I were tearing in to. I was calm, happy, full and sleepy. 

So for this week, I hope you find the same kind of happiness and peace, whether your belly is full of bread or not. But, you know, if you have the option, pick the bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water 
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (plus extra)
  • Sea salt flakes for sprinkling 

Directions

  1. Combine the warm water and sugar, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit until foamy. If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and get new yeast!
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, olive oil, and foamy (!) yeast mixture. Knead until mostly smooth and soft. If it gets sticky, add some more flour.
  3. Lightly grease a bowl with some olive oil, then put the dough in and cover. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
  4. Grease a rimmed baking pan with olive oil. 
  5. Once the dough has risen, take it and stretch it out, whether by testing your pizza dough tossing skills or by putting the dough on the pan and pressing it to cover. Turn the dough over to coat with oil on both sides.
  6. Let rise for another hour until puffy.
  7. Drizzle more olive oil on top and sprinkle WELL with sea salt (put more than you think you need).
  8. Bake about 20-30 minutes, until golden and beautiful.
  9. Let the bread cool before serving. 
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