Parsley, sage, rosemary, and time

Yesterday I had a whole day at home by myself while Bryan was in Reading, trying to get his car inspected (inspection computer was broken) and helping his brother de-spam his Dell. Although I had a hard time getting started with my day, I eventually ended up planning the week's meals, grocery shopping, scrubbing the refrigerator shelves, cleaning out the utensil drawer, making a batch of meatless meatballs, and baking a tray of granola. Whew! So by then it was 3:00, and I still couple springs of deteriorating rosemary to use up, plus some time to kill until the husband returned. (Get the title now? Get it?)

Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread. Anyone who knows me also knows that when it comes to culinary adventures, I'm not the most patient or precise person. I've always had a heartfelt kitchen goal of baking my own bread, but terms like "knead" and "oiled bowl" have always made me wary. But in thumbing through my hippy-dippy seasonal cooking stand-by, Cooking by the Seasons, I stumbled on a recipe for Rosemary Focaccia that involved a bread machine and no kneading by hand.

Considering this was my foray into bread making, I'm pretty happy with the results. There are things I'd do differently next time, sure, but it didn't turn into the burnt, crumbly disaster I'd feared, so I give myself points for that. This was also my first time using my bread machine, so I have some things to iron out there too. I did lose a good 20% of the dough, I'd say, between the cutting board, the plastic wrap, and my hands. The dough was super sticky, and I don't know enough about bread to know how to get around that. Also, if I make this again, I'd use flakier salt, as my sea salt was a bit reminiscent of sidewalks in the middle of winter. I'd also use a finer cornmeal, but coarse was all I had on hand!

The following is Allrich's original recipe, as I don't feel confident enough in my adaptations to pass them onto my readers yet!

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary [I snipped the leaves into tiny pieces]
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Later, you'll need:

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary [again, leaves minced]
  • More cornmeal
  • Coarse salt

Steps:

  1. Add the first set of ingredients into your bread machine according to your manufacturer's directions. Choose the "dough" setting.
  2. When the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a board dusted with cornmeal, cover [With what? I used plastic wrap.], and let rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle the dough with cornmeal, flatten and roll it out with a rolling pin, or your hands, to a 12 to 14-inch oval or circle.
  3. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet and place the focaccia dough on the pan. [I don't know how you could possibly do this without leaving a lot of dough behind, as I did!] Brush the surface with 1 Tbsp evoo and cover with a clean towel, letting it rise for 20 minutes, or until doubled in height. [It didn't rise much for me.]
  4. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. When the dough has risen, use your fingers to dimple the focaccia surface all over. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of rosemary. Drizzle remaining evoo and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place the focaccia in the upper half of your oven.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes; then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 12-15 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

When I first took it out of the oven, I thought, "Oh no! It didn't rise at all!" While it was cooling, I ran upstairs to Google "focaccia" and discovered I had mentally mixed up focaccia with ciabatta. I was expecting something more airy and puffy, but focaccia is supposed to be flatter and denser. When I discovered that, my goodness, I was like a proud mother. A proud mother with a slightly ugly baby, that is. I wanted to cart that bread out into the street and walk around with it, accidentally meeting up with people on purpose and starting a conversation with, "Oh, how are you? I baked this."

Even though the cornmeal/salt topping was too granular, the bread itself is delicious. The herbs are perfect, and I love how the rosemary stands out from the others. There's just enough punch from the garlic and red pepper, too.

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