homemade bread

Adventures in Bread Winning

I. Love. Bread. I know this is a quinessential, middle-class white girl thing to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I buy myself half baguettes and just enjoy them as lunch. I love dipping sourdough in olive oil and italian seasoning, having Baby Bells and ciabatta, eating peanut butter and banana on whole wheat toast. I’d sell my left foot for a fresh Wegman’s bagel right now. Bread is right up there with potatoes—the ultimate comfort food. CARBS ON CARBS ON CARBS.

Anyway. Since I love bread so much, I’ve often dreamed of making my own someday. I’m sort of put together in the kitchen, but my mother had never made anything past banana bread, and yeast freaked me out. What if I mess it up? It takes hours to make a stinking loaf of bread, and how dumb would I feel if it all went to hell?

Good question. Which is why, here at Staving Off Disaster we cut corners to feel maturer faster. Enter—focaccia.

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By now, you all know about my obsession with the boys over at Sorted Foods. They’re dedicated to making getting into the kitchen as a 20-something a little less painful. And they’ve got a fantastic focaccia recipe if you’re like me and terrified of something with the words “high active” in the name.

Luckily for all of us, the recipe is pretty straightforward.

Here’s what you need:

-4 cups of flour (the recipe calls for bread flour, but I used all-purpose, and everything turned out great)*

-A packet of active dry yeast (7g)

-About 1 1/2 cups of warm water (you won’t use all of this)

-2 tsp sugar

-2 tsp salt

-2 tbsp olive oil (and more for drizzling)

-assorted bread toppings you deem fit (I used chia seeds, black pepper, and sea salt—they used fresh rosemary, garlic, sea salt and pepper)

First, I’d recommend watching this video. It seems that bread is closer to cooking than it is to baking (in that measurements and timing don’t need to be exact-exact), so it’s a good idea to watch someone make the recipe before you start on the adventure.

After that, add the packet of yeast and about a 1/4 cup (or less) of warm water into a small bowl, to get the yeast starting its yeasty dance. Stir it a bit, and leave it to the side.

Next, add the flour, olive oil, sugar, salt and yeast-water mix to a bowl.

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I’m lucky enough to have a roommate with a KitchenAid mixer, so I got off the hook in the kneading process. If you’re doing it by hand, it’s time to get elbow deep in this recipe. Mix the flour-y madness with your hands, adding the water in small doses to get to a stretchy yet not sticky consistency (in the end, I think I used a little less than 1 cup). Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes. Or cheat knead in the mixer for 10 minutes, like me.

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Once your bread is at the right consistency (mine leaned toward the drier side, but it didn’t negatively affect the final product), form it into a nice, chubby ball. At this point, pat yourself on the back. This thing is darn cute, and you made it. Nice job!

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Next, you’ve got two options. You can leave it, covered with cling wrap, at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or you can leave it in the fridge overnight. Whatever you choose to do, by the time you move onto the next step, make sure your cute chubby ball of dough has doubled in size.

Get yourself a nice baking tray (we have a pizza one, but I think you can use any sort of pan), and roll out that bad boy so it looks a little more like focaccia.

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Beautiful! Next, use those digits your mama gave you to press a bunch of holes in the top of the bread, giving you pockets for your toppings, and the look of focaccia. Drizzle generously with olive oil and start throwing on your mouth presents. Chia seeds? Oregano? Sea salt? Cinnamon? You do you, kid.

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Preheat your oven to 400 degree F, and let this precious lump of pride rest for another 30 minutes, since you did just man-handle it a bit. After it’s had a nice nap, it’s time to bake! Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top. Pull that darling out, let it cool for around another half hour and then TUCK THE HELL IN. Because this monster is delicious.

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A little bit of butter, maybe an egg sandwich, whatever you want to put with it, you do it! This is your bread, your wonderful creation, and I won’t judge you if you eat it all in one sitting. I thought about it.

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Happy cooking!

*Make sure you consult a whole wheat recipe if you decide to go the whole wheat flour route. Whole wheat flour creates a denser final product, and you might need to cut down on the measurements. Otherwise, you can always mix bread flour and whole wheat flour. Again, consult a substitution chart.