First Bread Bible Bake
The Bread Bible Alpha Bakers launched this week with rosemary focaccia.
The first time I tasted focaccia was in San Francisco at a little pizzeria on Green Street. Huge pans of pizza in the window stopped us in our tracks.
The combinations were not the typical with or without mushroom choices. This was back in 1980, before pesto was a household name.
Inside people stood knee deep eating pizza. Every stool was taken, all three tables filled. Behind the counter the pizza maker kneaded dough. He was crammed among pans, sacks of flour and proofing buckets with barely enough room to turn around. .
One bite and we were forever ruined.
Pizza would never be the same.
Edging our way through the crowd we asked the man what kind of pizza we were eating...
Never heard of it. He was a gregarious fountain of information. Many questions later, we learned just about everything there was to know about focaccia. For instance, fog in San Francisco directly affects the quality of the dough. Hot days ruin it. The foggier the day, the better the focaccia.
The guy was hilarious. Is there anything more infectious than someone who is passionate about their work?
That was what, thirty five years ago? We still risk life and limb, navigating the car up the steepest hills in SF. It's a game of jockeying for a double parked space, jump out, run in and grab pizza to go.
Sunday was the day to try my hand at making focaccia. First step, poaching garlic in warm olive oil. Honestly, it didn't seem like much was happening until I tasted a clove. It was mild and didn't have that sharp bite.
Mixing up the dough taxed a twenty five year old Kitchen Aid. Soon a giant lump of dough resembling mozzarella wrapped around the paddle.
So far, so good.
The stretchy dough was peeled then placed into an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap and shut away in the microwave for four hours, Thankfully it more than doubled in less than the required time.
Turned onto an oiled half sheet pan, it was left to rise for another hour. I decided not to use the garlic cloves, afraid of deflating the bubbles. In fact, I was leery of stretching the dough at all.
I was stunned to open the oven door and see golden focaccia.
The first slice revealed a light and airy bread. I learned from reading that focaccia is the highest of the Italian flatbreads. So different than commercial focaccia .And surprisingly easy to make.
A quick batch of pesto and we were in business!
Nothing short of a yeast miracle.
Years ago I followed Marie's Breadbasketcase chronicles and felt quite envious there wasn't a bake along. My Bread Bible book had been sitting on a shelf for years. I read it like fiction.
Making the Baking Bible Swedish Apricot Bread planted a seed. When I posed the question to the Alpha Bakers FB group in reply to Michele's question about bread shape during baking, there was instant enthusiasm. Not a tech person, I knew there was no way I could host such a thing. Luckily, Glori is. She picked up the torch and ran with it. Plus it turns out she has hidden talents. Being a professional photographer, she set up a beautiful blog for all our Bread Bible adventures.
Here we are less than a month later going full steam ahead! It's going to be a yeasty learning curve for the next few years. Safe to say we are excited for the challenge.
Released in 2003, The Bread Bible is still in print and available to buy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Alibris .along with Rose Levy Beranbaum's other baking and cooking books.