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Croissants

Ready to Proof

Each year, as I write down my list of resolutions for the upcoming months, I section off a portion of the items to tackle in a “Food” category. They typically range from specific projects, to broad scope themes such a portion control, to monthly challenges and a general overall reminder to not be afraid to try new things. As days pass, I return to this list and make notes of tasks I’ve accomplished, or at least those I’ve worked on – the later is something I highly recommend. It can be a bit dispiriting to look back at the list at the end of the year and see nothing completed, but if there’s a note that says “hey, I tried” it’s not nearly as depressing. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I see the “let’s get in shape this year” bullet point.

One of the food challenges that has been on my New Year’s Food Resolutions list for longer than I care to admit (okay, fine, since you asked, I think we’re on the third year) has been a baked good with its own recognizable shape – Croissants.

After watching the much beloved Julia Child work her magic on The French Chef via Twitch with her croissant recipe, I realized the process may not be as challenging as I had built it up in my mind to be. With an arsenal of cookbooks in my kitchen, I decided upon using Sarabeth Levine’s recipe as my guide. Croissants are a bit time consuming, but what I found the most challenging during the entire process was making sure I had my timing down in terms of what day I would make the dough for what day I wanted to bake the goodies off. Ultimately, timing was on my side, and these were the perfect Easter morning delicacy! Given that this was my first time trying my hand at croissants, I may adjust my baking time on my next go-round — the finished product was a bit too browned for my liking, although that might also be due to their rather diminutive size. Still, another checked item off the ol’ resolutions list and another success from Levine!

Baked Croissant

Croissants
Adapted from Sarabeth Levine’s Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Croissant Dough
Makes 2 batches of croissants

Détrempe
2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Beurrage
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons bread flour

*Make the dough at least two days before using

  1. To make the détrempe, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm milk (105° to 115°F) in a small bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to bloom, about five minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, then add the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.
  2. Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the bowl of the stand mixer with the yeast and milk mixture. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding enough of the remaining flour mixture to make a soft, sticky dough. Do not overmix. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, knead a few times to smooth the surface, and shape into a ball.
  3. Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the pan and cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top of the ball to mark it into quadrants. Sprinkle with flour on top and refrigerate.
  4. Immediately make the Beurrage. In a clean mixer bowl with clean paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds more. Transfer the butter to a lightly floured surface and press any remaining lumps out with the heel of your hand, and shape the butter into a 4-inch square. Place the beurrage on the half-sheet pan next to the détrempe and refrigerate all together for about 15 minutes.
  5. Flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the end of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. [For a visual on the dough making process, I highly recommend looking into Sarabeth’s cookbook, as she has fantastic step-by-step photos and I neglected to take any.] You will notice four quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2 ½ inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves”. Use a tapered rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6-inches long and 5-inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to demark the square.
  6. Place the butter in the center, on top of the dough square. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and sides of the butter square, brushing away excess flour. Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap of dough up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the dough so that the open ends now face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the now north- and south-facing flaps of dough to completely cover the butter, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.
  7. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough so the four folded over flaps face down, with the open seam facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top of the dough to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside the dough. Roll the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like you would fold a letter, brushing away excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  8. Lightly flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam of dough facing you. Dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough out into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn, also known as a book turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  9. Repeat rolling and folding the dough into a final single turn (see step 7 for a reminder). With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
  10. The night before using the dough, transfer the frozen dough to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once defrosted it will begin to rise, so make sure to roll it out immediately.

Egg Wash

Croissants
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
½ recipe Croissant Dough, thawed overnight or for 8 hours in the refrigerator
1 large egg, well beaten
You will also need: two large kitchen bags, two tall glasses, and very hot water

  1. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Dust the work surface well with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the open seam of the dough facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heaving rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Don’t press the dough too hard; let the weight of the rolling pin do much of the work. If you change the position of the dough while rolling, it is important to keep track of which side contains the seam.
  2. Turn the dough with the seam facing you. (If you’ve lost track, look carefully as the sides of the dough – you should be able to discern it, even though it is faint.) Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick, neatly trim the rough edges. Cut the dough in half lengthwise to make two 16-by-6-inch rectangles. Fold each rectangle into thirds, place on a half-sheet pan, and refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. On the lightly floured work surface, unfold the dough strip and gently roll, allowing the weight of the rolling pin to smooth the creases created by folding the dough. Using a pizza wheel, starting at the top left corner of the strip, cut down to make a half-triangle with a 2-inch base; set aside. Measure 3 ½-inches from the top left corner of the strip and make a notch with the wheel at this point. Cut down diagonally from the notch to meet the bottom left edge of the dough strip to make another triangle with a 3 ½-inch base. Continue cutting, alternating diagonal cuts, to cut out 6 triangles. The last cut will also yield a half-triangle with a 2-inch wide base.
  4. Place a triangle with a 3 ½-inch base on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Stretch the bottom slightly so it is about 5-inches wide. Pick up the triangle. With one hand, hold the dough triangle at the bottom and stretch it with your other hand until it is about 7-inches long. Return the triangle to the work surface. Starting at the bottom, roll up the triangle, and finish with the tip underneath the croissant. Place on one of the prepared half-sheet pans. Curve the croissant by bringing the two ends closer to each other, crossing the two ends over each other and pressing together if needed. Repeat rolling the remaining dough triangles, placing them on the half-sheet pan with decent space between them. Overlap the two 2-inch base half-triangles at their long sides and press the seam together. Roll up as described for the large triangle and add to the half-sheet pan. Alternatively , gently stretch the 2-inch base half-triangles into modified triangles, with a large base and small tip, and roll as described for smaller, slightly odd croissants.
  5. Repeat cutting and rolling croissants with the second half of the dough. Once all croissants have been cut, shaped, and set on the two half-sheet pans, choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip each pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag. Place a tall glass of very hot water near the center of each pan. Wave the opening of each bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create “head room,” being sure that the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist each bag closed. Let stand until the croissants look puffy but not doubled, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove the glasses from the bags, then the pans. Lightly brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until the croissants are crisp and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes longer, rotating the pans halfway through. Serve warm or cool to room temperature, if you’re able to resist the flaky goodness.

Flaky Goodness.jpg

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Beans in a Cheesy-Lemon Broth – aka A Big Bowl of Comfort

Beans Edited.jpg

I’ve been noticing lots of posts and photos circulating of beans – dried, soaked, and set to simmer on the stove top until perfect. With a bag of precious Rancho Gordo Mayocoba beans stashed in the pantry, I thought it was about time I give this old comforting classic a shot.

The last time I recall having dried beans, now so many years ago I was barely able to see over the stove, they had been on the shelves so long that, even after a good soak and a slow simmer, they were still crunchy. Not in a good way, either. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to try my hand at beans, but after reading up on the subject and seeing the precious heirloom legumes at a local natural and gourmet food store, I was excited to see what would come from the little bag of jewels.

All I can say is – I have been placed under the dried beans magical spell. I’m already excitedly planning to scour the dried beans aisle to see what I can find for my next batch, and plotting other things to do with these delectable little pods of wonder. Mixed with some fresh herbs, a bit of Parmesan rind, a squeeze of lemon, and bacon, the beans transformed into tender, nourishing bits of comfort wrapped around intense flavor. Do yourself a favor and grab a bag next time you’re at the store and prepare yourself for a truly transforming experience.

*Please forgive the photos – I grabbed my camera in excitement at what my dutch oven held and realized that my battery had become exhausted over the holidays, leaving me stuck with nothing but my iPhone to rely on.

 

Beans in Cheesy-Lemon Broth

6 slices of bacon
1 1lb bag of Rancho Gordo Mayocoba beans (or similar), soaked in water overnight
4-6 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
1 3-inch piece of Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf, torn in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary – 1 whole, 1 finely chopped
1 sprig fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated Parmesan and your favorite olive oil for topping

  1. Cut slices of bacon into ½ inch wide piece and render in a 4-qt dutch oven or other sturdy pot on medium heat, cooking bacon in batches if necessary. Cook bacon to your crisp-ness preference, but be sure the fat renders and is left in the bottom of the pot. Remove cooked bacon and set on a paper towel to absorb excess fat, set aside for later.
  2. Add beans to pot, stir to coat with the bacon fat, and add 4 cups of liquid (I used a half chicken stock/half water mixture). Bring beans to a full boil and let cook for five minutes, skimming foam off the top as needed.
  3. Lower heat to a simmer and add Parmesan rind, bay leaf, the whole sprig of rosemary, and kosher salt. Set beans to simmer, covered, for at least two hours. Check on bean tenderness and, if necessary, add more liquid and allow to simmer longer as needed.
  4. When beans are nice and tender, remove the Parmesan rind, what is left of the rosemary sprig, and the bay leaf pieces. Add the finely chopped rosemary and oregano and lemon juice. At this point, taste the broth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. Just before serving, add cooked bacon pieces to beans and stir. Serve warm with plenty of both beans and broth in each portion. Top with grated Parmesan and a hearty drizzle of olive oil.

Beans Cooking Edited.jpg

Aperitif

Hi. Remember me? It’s been a while. I’ve been busy. Work…life…some technical problems…how difficult is it to have a reliable computer? Maybe more difficult than it should be, for me at least, but I digress.

Well, I’m hoping to come back. I’ve been wanting to come back. Will you have me?

Something happened at work today that made me think of you and all the good times we’ve shared. I’ve been longing to login again and leave a little something for you.

Like this – here’s something I did earlier this year, I hope you enjoy it, Food52 Community Piglet Cookbook Review: Death & Co.

I’ll see you again soon, I promise.

Make A Wish…

It’s birthday time again!

This past weekend the family celebrated Smidget’s birthday. For the special occasion, I wanted to make something tasty and different for dessert. We had some apricots that needed to be eaten up, and since they are Smidget’s favorite, I figured it would be great to have a cake that used the fresh flavor of the apricots. Remember that time I made the plum cake that was a Dorie Greenspan recipe? Well, that’s just what I did again, but this time with apricots!

Dorie does say in her cookbook that other stone fruits can be used instead and even gives some directions on her favorite combinations of fruits and spices. Since the plum cake was such a success, I decided to barely mess with the perfection of Dorie’s recipe. One of my favorite parts about the cake was the subtle hint of spice that came from the cardamom. Dorie recommends using cinnamon with the apricots, but I knew it was all about the cardamom.

Needless to say, it was delicious. The cake was moist and sweet, with that hint of spice thrown in. The apricots that delicately dimpled the top were sweet, juicy, and just a tad tart in the best possible way that apricots are. Instead of just leaving the cake un-topped like I had previously, I took some of the mascarpone cheese we had (anybody else tempted by the cheese’s recent appearance on the shelves at warehouse stores?) and whipped it together with a hint of honey for sweetness, creating a delectable and not-too-sweet frosting.

The birthday went well, Smidget seemed to really enjoy the day and her present load. I’m actually listening to one of her presents right now…SMASH soundtrack, anyone? But it was the cake that really ended the whole day on a high note. Plus, with the fresh fruit and cheese and honey topping, it was actually a rather healthy cake! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Dimply Apricot Cake with Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 fresh, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter, jiggling the apricots a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the apricots’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

 

Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

6 oz. Mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. honey
Splash (about 1 tsp.) of whipping cream

1. Whisk together the Mascarpone cheese and honey, adding a splash of whipping cream to smooth and loosen the cheese. Whisk until thoroughly combined and reached desired consistency and flavor.

Blue Moon Cupcakes

A good friend and I went for a hike today, even though the trail is completely covered with snow and we had to balance along the part that had already been packed down by previous hikers. We, the city of Anchorage, did break out record for snowfall in one season this year. Did I mention that? We broke the record by just over an inch, which our local paper headlined as “In By An Inch”. Hehe, dirty. Anyway, back to the hike.

View during our hike - taken via cellphone

I have been friends with this lovely lady since high school and after a few years spending time working towards an art degree (she’s an amazing drawer, absolutely fantastic) she has decided her heart lies is in writing. So, naturally, us two writers struck up a conversation along the trail about our craft. She’s been big into writing fan fiction of some of her favorite stories while working on her own plot lines and characters for school work, but she mentioned having a hard time recently with coming up with her own ideas. I knew exactly what she meant: drawing blanks on what to write about is an issue I often have as well.

One of the great things about the writing classes I took in college was the prompts I walked away with to write about after each class. Now that I don’t even have a small writing group to work with (planning on changing that in the future…) and share prompts with, coming up with my own stories has proven difficult. Luckily I stumbled upon a great tool the other day. The group behind NaNoWriMo has another writing challenge called Script Frenzy, where you are challenged to write a 100 script in the month of April. I decided not to participate this year, as scripts are not my thing yet, but maybe in the future I will take up the challenge. What I did find great, though, was a small thing on the homepage called the Plot Machine. It creates, wacky, fun, and all together silly yet inspiring plots to get you going with writing.

I mentioned this wonderful machine to a few writing friends of mine, including the one I went on a hike with today, and am eager to try my hand at a few of the random plots I find. Up first: After suffering a heart attack, the entire cast of Riverdance goes on to try out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders team.

Let the writing begin!

To keep me going along the process I find it important to have a few things, including baked goods and good drinks. Ever since seeing Blue Moon Cupcakes on Pinterest, I knew I had to try my hand at them. They are delicious, velvety cupcakes with a hint of orange and wheat. The original recipe calls for a light meringue frosting, which I would love to try, but since my batch of cupcakes wouldn’t have been eaten up entirely in a few hours, I opted for a longer lasting orange cream cheese frosting. So get on up and make yourself a batch, they are worth it. And you’ll even get a little bit of leftover beer to enjoy while the cupcakes are baking!

Blue Moon Cupcakes

3/4 cup (a stick and 1/2) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 drops red food coloring*
10 drops yellow food coloring*
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 cup Blue Moon beer
1/4 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 24 cupcake trays with liners. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar a little bit at a time, beating well. Once it’s all added beat for 2 more minutes.

Add eggs, beating after each.

Add vanilla, food coloring and orange zest and beat.

Mix beer and milk in a measuring cup. Alternatively add beer / milk mixture and flour mixture to butter mixture in the large bowl, beating after each. End on the flour mixture.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 18 minutes until cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Once cool, frost each cupcake with a generous amount of frosting. Just before serving, garnish each with a small orange slice.
Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tsp. orange zest
juice of 1 orange
5 cups powdered sugar (plus more, if needed)

Beat the cream cheese in mixer until fluffy. Add in whipping cream and continue to beat on medium speed until cream in mixed in fully and has gotten slightly fluffed.

Add in orange zest and juice, continuing to beat on medium speed.

Slow mixer speed and add in powdered sugar a cup at a time, making sure sugar is incorporated fully before adding next cup. If you want your frosting stiffer add more powdered sugar, if you want your frosting thinner add more whipped cream.

Frost on top of cooled cupcakes.

*Instead of using liquid food coloring drops, I used a bit of orange gel food coloring.

Recipe adapted from: Miss Make

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti: Take 2

Remember over a year ago when I made the disastrous chocolate-pistachio biscotti via Martha Stewart? Well, after a long time of looking up some recipes, getting pistachios prepped, leaving said pistachios in a plastic baggy on the kitchen counter for probably far too long, and actually deciding on a recipe to use, I finally got around to making a better version!

I had mentioned that I had wanted to find a better recipe and make the biscotti again, but who would have a good recipe? Why, Dorie of course! I grabbed the copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours from the kitchen bookshelf and found her recipe for a chocolate-almond biscotti. By simply substituting the pistachios instead of almonds, I reached the wonderful taste I was looking for when I originally thought up mixing chocolate and pistachios.

These biscotti are a little soft in the middle still, so if you like your biscotti really crunchy I suggest baking them for a bit longer during the second baking. The chopped up pistachios spread evenly throughout the cookies and are much easier to deal with than the whole ones I tried with the Martha recipe. The little bits of chocolate bring a hing of moist, tasty treats as you much along. Even the pinch of espresso powder brings out more of the chocolate flavor and make the biscotti smell slightly coffee-esque. Nom.  Eat them alone or with a cup of coffee or tea, (Although I wouldn’t recommend the pomegranate green tea pictured. I used it because it’s tea I like, so I would drink it after the photo shoot.) and enjoy!

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pistachios
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

sugar for dusting

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes; the mixture may be crumbly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes; don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the chopped nuts and chocolate, then turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 12-inch-long logs. Flatten both logs with the palm of your hand, so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high, about 2 inches across and sort of rectangular, then carefully lift the logs onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle each log with a little sugar.

Bake the logs for about 25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm. The logs will spread and crack – and that’s just fine. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, put it on a cooling rack and cool the logs for about 20 minutes. (Leave the oven on.)

Working with one log at a time, using a long serrated knife, cut each log into slices between 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Lay the slices on their sides – you’ll have an army of biscotti – and bake the cookies again, this time for just 10 minutes.

Transfer the biscotti to a rack to cool.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan and Baking: From My Home to Yours

Rosemary Focaccia

I have recently begun experimenting more with bread making. While back at school it was difficult for me to really do anything big in the kitchen, and making bread never seemed like an option. So, while I visited home during summer and winter holidays I looked up some simple, rustic bread recipes.

One of the first recipes I decided to try was, oddly enough, for Rosemary Focaccia. I had gotten the cookbook Sarabeth’s Bakery as a Christmas present and decided I wanted to try her recipe. I am so glad it was the first bread I ever truly tried. It is AMAZING.

The process may seem a little weird to anyone who has never made this type of bread before, the first time I made it the whole thing baffled me, but it really creates an incredible crusty, fluffy, flavorful bread. Plus it’s soaked in olive oil, which gives the loaf (if that’s what you can call it) a nice fruity and fresh feeling. It will also make the whole kitchen smell of freshly baking bread and rosemary, which are two of my favorite smells!

Rosemary Focaccia

1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups cold water
3 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
1 3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
4 Tbsp. high-quality, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for the bowl
You will also need:
a spray bottle filled with water
two tall glasses
very hot water (enough to fill the two tall glasses)
a “kitchen-sized” plastic bag

Place the 1 3/4 cups cold water and rosemary into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, let stand until frothy (about 5 minutes), then add to the water and rosemary in the stand mixer bowl.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low-speed, gradually add half 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 over-knead. Gather up the dough and shape it into a ball.

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

Pour 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a half-sheet pan, and spread evenly with your fingers. Punch down the dough and transfer to the oiled pan. Using you 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.

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.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450˜° 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 olive 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.

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 (and it will not harm your oven, it’s just water). 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.

Recipe adapted from Sarabeth Levine and Sarabeth’s Bakery