Friday, April 10, 2009

focaccia is the easiest yeast bread that there is

Once upon a time there was a woman named Eileen. I met Eileen through my MFA program in Anchorage, and was privileged to work with her for a year on my research assistanceship through the college. Eileen graduated after my first year in the program, and to celebrate, she hosted a party at her house--the kind of casual potluck that has an open grill onto which you put your own meat (or tempeh, as the case may be) and the hostess provides wine and plates and salad.

Here's what I remember about Eileen: she has three daughters (which she was doing a bang up job raising) all while attending grad school and working part time. Here's what else. Eileen baked five loaves of fresh focaccia for the party.

I can remember gasping (in her glowing kitchen, brightly lit by the almost all-day Alaskan pre-summer sun) at her ability to be such a super woman, having made BREAD for a party at her own house. (Parties at your own house mean that you also had to clean said house before people arrived. That's extra work, folks, and if you didn't make bread, I think, people would understand.)

I remember Eileen laughing at me and saying, No, no. Focaccia is the EASIEST yeast bread there is.

I tucked that memo into the recesses of my brain, and it appeared just the other day (about eight years later), board from laying around and reading (and reading some more) and wanting to do something creative that didn't take all my mental and (short bursts of) physical energy, I googled focaccia recipes and set to work.

I picked the first one that came up. It said it was the easiest, so there. I did, however, read the comments that said the recipe was blah so I added salt to the dough as well as minced fresh garlic and rosemary (god bless you, Seattle, for being the perfect place for rosemary to grow all year long) from the newly awakening garden. I added the garlic and rosemary while kneading the dough--you only knead for ONE minute.

Focaccia is practically paint-by-numbers for bread makers: one minute of kneading, only one rise (and 30 minutes at that!), it's truly a "what are we having for dinner" kind of bread (assuming you work at home). I can't even tell you how good this bread was. I oohed and aahed my way through it. We ate all but two pizza-shaped wedges that night, warm from the oven.

And then, the next morning, my sweet husband toasted the remaining triangles, added cream, eggs, and fresh Parmesan, and threw our tiny casserole dishes under the broiler for a remarkable savory bread pudding.