At first the idea of homemade bread can seem a bit overwhelming. You look through a recipe and get bamboozled by the kind of flour you need, yeast, temperature of the water, If you need a sourdough starter, second mortgage, cuddly toy. It can be enough to put anyone off. In fact I think this can be applied to lots of tasks in life.
At first glance the project can seem too complex, there’s so many different things to take into consideration. Throw anxiety into the mix and you can start to worry about the simplest of tasks. Your mind will come up with a list of potential hazards and before you know it you’ve withdrawn from doing all the things that you used to love. Or indeed the challenging things that used to give you a sense of achievement. What’s often left is a lack of confidence. We feel as if we can’t do anything. We make excuses to people and withdraw from life. This is a vicious cycle that gets worse and worse.
Often anxiety means you don’t work through your problems and consider:
1. What’s the worse that can happen
2. What’s the best that can happen
3. What’s the most likely outcome
Instead you let all your worries sit in a fog that you carry around with you, this fog grows and grows as we never logically asses if our worries are necessary or not. Therefore no learning occurs and we continue down this negative pathway.
You might be wondering what happened to the bread? Although I digress a little I think bread it’s a great example of a task that can show us we are able to achieve something even when we’re feeling down on confidence. Bread is therapeutic, for me it’s the magic of making something from virtually nothing, the outcome far outshines the sum of its parts. Others find the kneading cathartic, they can work out their stress on the dough. Good bread also needs time, so it teaches us patience. You can’t rush it, it needs to rest and relax to get the best results from it. Like us in fact. You can’t make dough rise faster by shouting at it, only by letting it sit in optimal conditions. We can learn a lot from bread.
So work through this bread recipe when you have a spare afternoon and while the dough rests please try and rest to. Clear your mind, don’t try and fix your list of worries. Wear something comfortable and chill! Then once it’s baked you can relish in the smell and taste of warm, salty and fragrant focaccia. You’ll feel proud and content and your friends and family will love you too!
Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia
Makes 1 x 20cm square loaf
400g strong white bread flour
20g fresh yeast or a 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
About 240ml lukewarm water
2 tsp honey
10g sea salt plus extra for sprinkling
2 tbsp your favourite pesto
3 large sprigs Rosemary
chilli flakes, optional
About 4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
Tip the flour and salt into a stand mixer or large bowl. Mix the yeast with the water and honey and stir to combine. Leave for 5 mins if using fresh. Tip into the flour and allow the mixer to run for 8-10 mins. Give the dough a touch, it should be soft but not sticky. Add a tiny bit more flour if it’s too sticky. You can also make this by hand mix all the ingredients until you have a soft dough. Knead on a oiled surface (oil your hands too) for 10 minutes.
Oil a bowl and shape the dough into a ball by pulling the sides back into each other. Leave to rest in the bowl, covered with oiled cling film or use a clean shower cap, for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Take a 20cm x 20cm baking tray roasting tin, give it a good old glug of oil, be generous, this is Focaccia, use good olive oil or flavoured oil if you want to. Add a generous pinch of sea salt too. Turn the dough out on to your well-oiled tin, using oiled hands (no flour remember) knock it back with your knuckles. Press the dough into the tray using your finger tips to ease it to the edges, don’t worry too much about how it looks – it’s meant to be rustic and might not spread out all the way to the edges yet but will be easier to shape once it’s rested. Cover with oiled cling film and leave for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7. After 30 minutes, the focaccia should look a little puffed up and spongy. Use your index finger to poke dimples all over the dough right through to the bottom of the tray, this should help it reach the edges of the tin as well.
Poke a sprig of rosemary into each hole, dot the pesto all over. Drizzle the focaccia with the olive oil, allowing it to seep into the dimply holes. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and some chilli flakes, if you like. Cover with the cling film again and leave for 30 minute more. Remove the film before cooking.
To cook, bake in the centre of the oven. Mine took 25 minutes, check them after 20, then should be risen and deep golden brown. If you’re making a large one check after 25, it may take up to 35 mins, if it’s getting a bit dark cover It with foil. Once cooked brush or drizzle with more oil and sprinkle on some more sea salt. Cool on a wire rack then remove from the tin and cut into squares serve warm or at room temperature. For best results eat on the day you’ve made it. If you’re anything like me this will not be hard.