I’ve been on a MAJOR bread kick lately, as you can observe. Every time I try to brainstorm a recipe idea that doesn’t involve yeast, I end up going right back to daydreaming about the next doughy masterpiece I could attempt. And though I usually do my best to exercise variety in my blog baking, I’ll admit that I haven’t exactly done much to fight my brain with this recent trend.
I think that the reason for this is that bread has to be one of the most versatile branches of baking. The exponential nature of the recipes one can devise using only flour, water, yeast, salt, and sometimes a sugar or fat thrown in truly amazes me. These ingredients that on their own look and taste so lackluster can, in specific proportions and in conjunction with the basic elements of time and heat, become the most beautifully diverse span of food. I mean, contemplating the combinations of these base components is staggering–I could bake bread every day for years and end up with a different, successful result each time. I suppose this is what keeps me from kicking my current obsession: every time I make one batch of bread I come to realize fifteen things I could tweak and possibly end up with a new result. Bread truly is the purest manifestation of science in baking.
I’ve appreciated the beauty of simplicity in another arena this week, too. Up until very recently, my year has been going largely without pause. You may have followed me through the overwhelming months of auditions, rehearsals, church events, injuries, and stress, when I struggled to find time to exhale. I don’t want to discount how appreciative I am for all that’s happened with the start of 2019 because I have so much for which I can thank God. But exciting as many of the reasons for this craziness have been, they have left my time with friends at a bit of a low. I hadn’t slept over with my best friend or had a movie night with my roommates or sat down to really talk with some my loved ones here since well before Christmas–and it was starting to bother me.
This Friday, after a full day of classes and rehearsals, I agreed to go with my friend to get her passport picture taken. I had decided without hesitation to come along of course, but part of me just longed for old times, when we got takeout and went to her place and put on Netflix that we never ended up watching because we just talked the whole time. As we rode to the courthouse, though, we started chatting, laughing, singing. Turns out the passport application service had already closed that day, so we decided to go to the store instead to get some groceries we both needed before heading home. Immediately, we were goofing off like we always do, trading “Remember that time” stories, and updating each other on our families. We hadn’t yet found a day to plan a sleepover or go do an activity–all it took was a little spontaneous grocery shopping for us to get that feeling of spending time with each other again.
I hope you always find ample time to spend with your friends. I hope you set aside entire days in your calendar to be with each other and do all of your favorite things. But when you simply can’t, don’t underestimate the in between times. Things like getting gas, Target runs, or errands that seem as bland as flour and yeast really can become as valuable as fresh bread if you’re with the right people.
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
Focaccia with Olives, Thyme, and Capers (V)
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp yeast)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 4-4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- variety of olives, pitted and cut in half (I used green and kalamata)
- fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 TBSP olive oil
- Mix water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow yeast to activate for 5 minutes.
- Stir salt and olive oil into the yeast mixture.
- Begin mixing in the flour with a rubber spatula. When the dough becomes very thick and scraggly, fit bread hook attachment on mixer and continue adding the remaining flour by mixing on low speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. When the dough begins to come together and doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl, you can stop adding flour.
- Turn mixer speed to low-medium, and allow to mix until dough is very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. When stretched, you should be able to see light through the dough without it breaking (this is called the windowpane test).
- Remove dough from bowl, grease the inside of the bowl, place dough back in the bowl, and cover with saran wrap or a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour for my apartment.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from the bowl. Lightly oil the parchment paper and your hands, and begin shaping the dough on the baking sheet. Gently stretch and press it until it forms a large rectangle, just under 1/2 inch thick. Mine measured out around 9″x14″.
- Place another sheet of saran wrap over the dough, and return it to the warm place to rise for another 20 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Uncover dough.
- Arrange olives and capers on top of the dough, gently pressing them into the surface.
- Press your finger into the dough to create holes all over its surface; push down all the way until you can feel the tray underneath.
- Drizzle the 3 TBSP of olive oil on the dough, spreading it out to cover the entire surface. Sprinkle thyme leaves/springs evenly on the top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the focaccia is slightly golden. Be sure to check both the top and the bottom of the dough for color to avoid burning the underside, especially if your heat source is on the bottom of your oven.
- Remove from oven, and enjoy it while it’s warm!