As Amy knows, I have been on something of a bread “kick.” That is to say, I want to make bread ALL THE DAMN TIME lately. Yeasty, yeasty things – that’s all I want to make. But I have to be patient, making sure it fits into my schedule.

First off, I actually cheat and use my KitchenAid instead of kneading the dough by hand. So that cuts down on the impressiveness when I say I have made bread 3 times in the past two weeks. It is awfully easy to make bread when a tireless machine pounds the dough into shape for you.

Second off, I need to admit that I now have a bread addiction, one that has currently supplanted my baking addiction. And we all know how much I loved that.

So far, I have made French bread once and focaccia twice, using 2 different recipes. The first focaccia recipe was from my gourmet cookbook, which I halved because it called for FIVE cups of flour. The dough was very stiff and unyielding once I took it out of the bowl and was stretchy like gum that has been chewed a little longer than it should have been. This yielded a bread with a firm outer crust and a soft, tight crumb, sort of like Papa John’s pizza dough or French bread. The second recipe was from a book I checked out at the library, The Bread Bible. This one yielded a result that was pourable and thin and called for only 2-½ cups of flour and a bread that was soft with large air pockets throughout the bread, sort of like panini bread.

So here are the recipes for all three. I’m sure as I rifle through the The Bread Bible, I will be posting more. One nice thing about this book is that it describes consistencies and expected results, although there is still margin for error when you have an oso technical engineering mind. 😉 That’s what I’ll tell myself anyway.

Mark Bittman’s French Bread

3-½ cups bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water
Kosher salt and herbs (optional)

Preparation: If yeast is refrigerated, let come to room temperature and place in bowl 15 minutes before other ingredients.

1/ Mix salt, yeast, water and half of flour in mixing bowl with paddle. Switch to dough hook and add remaining flour a quarter cup at a time. If dough is dry, add a little water a tablespoon at a time. Consistency should be a sort of “shaggy ball.”

2/ Dump dough into a large, oiled bowl. This will prevent annoying clean-up. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let sit in a warm place for 2 – 3 hours.

3/ Sprinkle flour onto a flat surface and cut dough into 2 – 3 equal pieces and shape into a ball, sprinkling with more flour if necessary. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

4/ Spread a large piece of canvas or cotton onto the table and place the dough ball on there. Fold it in half once, then once more (the same direction both times). Pinch the seam together gently.

5/ Roll into the shape of a snake.

6/ Place the loaf seam side up and cover with a cloth. Let sit for 1.5 – 2 hours.

7/ Preheat oven to 450-degrees. This may take up to half an hour. When about ready to put the dough in the oven, spray oven with a few squirts of water. The water will act like it is exploding once expelled.

8/ With sharp knife, slash the top of the dough. Sprinkle salt and herbs on top. Slide dough onto baking sheet and place this in the oven.

9/ Every few minutes or so, open the oven and spray a few more times. Rinse and repeat until bread is a golden brown and tapping it yields a hollow sound. Remove from oven and spray with water if you want a shiny crust.

10/ Let cool.

Servings: Lots of bread!

Focaccia Bread
* from The Gourmet Cookbook

1-2/3 cups warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2-½ tbsp.)
1 tsp. sugar
5 cups unbleached AP flour
¼ cup + 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2-½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. coarse sea salt

Preparation: If yeast is refrigerated, let come to room temperature and place in bowl 15 minutes before other ingredients.

1/ Stir together warm water, yeast and sugar in mixer bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2/ Add flour, ¼ cup oil and regular salt and beat with paddle attachment at medium speed (approx. setting 2) until a dough forms.

3/ Switch to a dough hook and knead at high speed until soft, smooth and sticky, 3 – 4 minutes.

4/ Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, approx. 1 – 2 hours.

5/ Generaly oil a 15x10x1 inch baking sheet and press dough evenly into pan. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place for approx. 1 hour.

6/ Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425-degrees.

7/ Combine rosemary and 3 tbsp. oil in a small bowl or cup. Make shallow indentions on bread with fingers and brush oil on top, letting it pool in the indentions. Sprinkle with salt.

8/ Bake until golden brown. The recipe calls for 20 – 25 minutes, but mine baked in less than 18 minutes. Immediately remove bread from pan and let cool.

Servings: Lots o’ bread

Result:

Focaccia Bread
* from The Bread Bible

2-¾ cups flour
3/8 tsp. instant yeast
2 cups water minus 2 tbsp.
¾ tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp., divided
2 tsp. fresh rosemary needles
¼ tsp. sea salt

Preparation: If yeast is refrigerated, let come to room temperature and place in bowl 15 minutes before other ingredients.

1/ Combine the yeast and flour using a paddle attachment at setting #2 if a KitchenAid. Gradually add water, mixing until the dough just comes together, about 3 minutes. It will be VERY soupy.

2/ Increase the speed to medium (#4, KitchenAid) and beat until the dough is smooth and shiny, approx. 20 minutes.

3/ Scrape the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl and spray with cooking spray on top. The dough will look like melted mozzarella and still be slightly runny. Cover and let sit for about 4 hours.

4/ Coat a sheet pan with olive oil and pour the dough into it. The dough will be thin enough to pour but very stretchy. Coat hands with oil and stretch the dough as thin as possible without tearing. Let relax, then spread until it fills the sheet, trying to maintain the bubbles in the dough. If the dough will not stretch, let sit another 10 minutes. Cover and let sit for 1 hour.

5/ Preheat oven to 475-degrees and place oven shelf at the lowest level with baking sheet on top.

5/ Drizzle oil on top and sprinkle with rosemary and salt. Place in oven and bake for 12 – 13 minutes or until top and edges are golden brown.

Servings: Lots!

Result:

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