Bread is one of those things that I always want to be in my life. I know this from the (albeit) brief times that I’ve taken a break from it. One time was while miserably adhering to a diet geared toward weight loss that prohibited grains, legumes, sugar, and dairy. Ugh. The other time was during a self-imposed month-long gluten free and vegan diet experiment I undertook during the height of the busy season at work, where we were running out of room on the ticket spike for dupes and services consisted of nights with upwards of six hundred covers. I’m getting the panic sweats and my eyelid is starting to twitch just thinking about it. It wasn’t my best idea ever. Maybe I’m just weak, but what I’ve learned is that allowing myself the simple pleasure of bread is something that I have no desire to deprive myself of. And I’m okay with that.
I’m reminded more fondly of when I worked at an awesome little unsuspecting cafe that specialized in gluten free cooking and baking. Many a time someone walked up to the counter, informed me that they had celiac disease, or were otherwise gluten free, and asked with shoulders slumped, their bodies betraying them in a sign of preemptive defeat, what items on the menu they could eat. Many a time I saw adults brought to tears when they learned they could eat all of it: pizza, sloppy joes, hot dogs, sandwiches, soups, chilis, fries, hush puppies, fish and chips, cookies, coffee cake, cupcakes, but what they wanted most of all, was bread. “You don’t understand,” they’d say. “How hard it is to find good bread that I can eat” or some variation of the like. It was humbling, and felt like being a part of something incredibly special to see the defeat transform into unbridled glee. It’s the kind of joy that shines from the inside out. That is the power of bread.
So, if you’ve never partaken in the magic of making your own bread, or you have but it’s been awhile, why not get after it? There are plenty of things I wouldn’t recommend doing just for the novelty of being able to say you’ve done it—I keep a mental list which is ever-expanding—like, say: Skydiving! Bungee jumping! Swimming with sharks! Eating Tide Pods! But, making your own bread? People have been and hopefully will be eating bread for millenia longer than millenials will be eating laundry detergent. Fingers crossed.
I adapted this recipe and technique from a combination of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Bread Recipes. With some time and patience you’ll find yourself leaning over top of this focaccia, outright laughing to yourself as you giddily waft the scent upwards to your face with your hands. Or at least that’s what I found myself doing, because everything about this bread is intoxicating. Gaze lovingly at the tomatoes which are juicy, sweet and and an ombre dream of red, orange, yellow and green. Embrace the passing heat of the jalapeño which punctuates the occasional bite. People love when you bring them focaccia, I’ve discovered, so if you’re the benevolent and giving sort share this with your loved ones. Or, you can have it for dinner with pepperoni, and smoked provolone. Maybe throw in a simple salad for good measure. Whichever way you go, mouths will rightfully water.
Yield: 1 loaf
*Note: The Mediterranean seasoning is something I buy in the bulk section of my health food store. It has dried fennel seed, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and a few other things. For the olives, I used a combination of Cerignola and Castelvetrano.
Well hello! I'm Kat, and
I'm always either cooking or thinking about what I want to cook next. For me, food is always about so much more than just my next meal. This is a place for sharing stories and recipes from a life lived through the lens of food...