Bread-making is something of a tradition in my family. My grandma, Alice, was famous in her Minnesota town for the making and sharing her perfect loaves of sandwich bread. We would often spend part of our summer vacations at her lake cabin catching frogs, wakeboarding behind my uncle’s speedboat, and helping Alice make bread. I still remember how satisfying it was to watch the dough slowly rise and then to punch it back down. When my grandma passed away, each of the grandchildren were allowed to choose one item from her house (the same one my mom grew up in) to remember her by. I took the enormous, battered bread pan.
My mom started her own tradition of making bread as a way to remember grandma Alice and she has become quite accomplished at it. I gave it a few tries in my first post-college kitchens without much success. I would have trouble getting the dough to rise, it would come out too dry, or after a day of work and care I would burn it. I decided that perhaps I just wasn’t a baker and gave up for a while. And then I made this focaccia.
Ok, so I burned it just a little but otherwise it was amazing. I couldn’t believe that bread with such flavor and such a dense, springy crumb had come out of my kitchen. On top of that, it was easy! You make it over two days, which helped me sidestep the problem of bread-making becoming an all day project. You just put the dough together, set it in the fridge, and forget about it until you have time to bake it the next day.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be tackling (and mastering) grandma Alice’s bread recipe next!
Cherry Tomato Focaccia
makes 1 large loaf
recipe adapted from the August issue of Vegetarian Times
– 3 1/2 cups high-gluten bread flour, plus more for kneading
– 1 tsp instant yeast (you will need water and sugar to activate it)
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 Tbsp sugar
– 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the bowl and the pan
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp thyme, chopped
– 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1/2 tsp coarse salt
On the first day, activate yeast according to package directions. Place flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix. Add activated yeast, olive oil and 1 cup of water. Use your hands to mix together until a soft, shaggy dough forms. It should be quite soft and sticky, but still knead-able. Add a little more flour if it seems too sticky. Knead gently for a couple of minutes and then pour some olive oil over the dough so that it does not stick to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and set in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
The next day, take the dough out a few hours before you plan to bake it so it can reach room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper and gently stretch the dough into a large rectangle. Let it rest for about 10 minutes and stretch a little bit more, dimple-ing the top with your fingers. Drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil over the top, sprinkle with salt, and press cherry tomatoes, sliced side up, into the dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
* I shared this post with this week’s Foodie Friday, Melt In Your Mouth Monday, Mix it Up Monday, and My Meatless Monday.