What is your favourite smell in the kitchen? I have a few. Smell of onion and garlic hitting sizzling oil. Smell of cinnamon baking in apple pie. Smell of yeast and freshly baked bread… There’s almost nothing that is better than freshly baked bread. Don’t you think so?
Last summer I had a few problems with my dough rising. I still don’t know why that happened, maybe it was just my mood. I heard that you cannot bake bread when you are not in good spirits. Thankfully, that streak of bad-dough-luck has ended and my doughs rise perfectly.
I got this recipe from The Big Book of Bread, but although it is called focaccia there, I don’t think texture turned out to be like focaccia. I think it needs a little bit more oil to have proper texture. Regardless, it was a really good bread which I will definitely make again. It kept really well just covered with a kitchen towel for a few days without getting stale.
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Maple syrup (or sugar) – 1 tablepoon
Dried yeast – 2 teaspoons
Olive oil – 3 tablespoons
Warm water – 1 cup
Salt, sesame seeds, dried herbs etc for sprinkling
- In a bowl of a stand mixer mix flour and yeast.
- Add maple syrup (or sugar), oil, salt and enough water to form a soft dough.
- NOTE: I added about 1/2 cup more water because dough was too tough and then I added about 1/2 cup more flour to get proper consistency.
- Let mixer knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.
- Shape the dough into a round, then place in in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
- TIP: my favourite method for letting the dough rise is filling kitchen sink with hot water and then placing dough bowl in it. This is a photo of my dough in the sink filled with hot water. First is how it started, middle picture is about 30 minutes in and the last picture is after one hour.
- Punch down the dough and on a lightly floured surface divide into 8 equal portions.
- Roll each portion of dough into a ball, then flatten each ball into a round about 4 inches in diameter.
- Place dough rounds on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper, cover with kitchen towel and let rise again for about 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Drizzle some olive oil over each focaccia and sprinkle with salt or herbs. Spray with some water.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until focaccia are risen and golden brown, spraying them with a little water again after 5 minutes of cooking.
- NOTE: I don’t usually spray dough with water, but I alway sprinkle water inside hot oven a few times during baking to have create some steam.
It took me a long time before I was able to bake bread. I tried and tried, I followed recipe after recipe, but the dough wouldn’t get elastic, it wouldn’t rise, it wouldn’t bake through. I only figured it out after I went to baking school and took a bread baking class. I blindly followed recipes and that was my problem. Bread recipes are guidelines, you need to have a feel for the dough. The best TIP that I have gotten about making bread dough was to feel it. If it’s properly mixed, it will feel same as your EARLOBE. Of course, there are exceptions and there are breads that require much more liquid dough or the other way around, but in most cases, proper dough consistency is the same as your earlobe.
Now I usually start my breads one of two ways. First way is my favourite – I start with liquids that are required by the recipe and then I add flour to get to proper consistency. In most cases I add less than the recipe calls for. Or the other way around where I start with flour that is required for the recipe and add liquids to achieve proper dough consistency.