Saturday, December 15, 2012

Homemade bread for the post-surgical patient.

There's a whole lot on the Internet about wheat these days. Must eat whole grains. No, wheat is evil. Wheat is responsible for the obesity epidemic.  Humans haven't really evolved sufficiently to eat grain.

I need to eat more produce, I know this. I also know that I've eaten wheat in various forms all my life and it hasn't killed me yet. I don't have celiac disease. So I am going to eat the stuff here and there. 

I went looking for "easy bread recipes" before I had my surgery and bookmarked this recipe from PBS . I came back to it last weekend when I thought I could stand to do a little cooking, but kneading was not going to be a good idea.

Very simple ingredients:
  1. 500 grams all-purpose or bread flour (17.5 ounces)
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  4. 1 1/3 cups warm water
  5. 1/4 cup olive oil
  6. 2 tablespoons olive oil, in a small bowl

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast to evenly distribute all the ingredients. Add the water and 1/4 cup olive oil, and then mix everything together until you have a uniform dough. You can use your hands, but you'll lose a bunch of dough because it will stick to your fingers. (I love instructions like this. I used a wooden spoon) Using something narrow and sturdy like metal chopsticks or the handle of a wooden paddle works great because they have very little surface area for the dough to stick to.
  2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for 18-24 hours to rise. (for this I have found I have to turn the oven on and leave the dough on the counter.)
  3. Once the dough has risen, you can either make one giant focaccia with all the dough, or split it up and bake smaller loaves. I use a pan that’s 7.5" x 9.25", and it's perfect for half the dough. If you end up keeping some of the dough for later, just cover it back up and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  4. Put the olive oil in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the bottom and sides of the pan with a generous coating of oil. Drop half the dough into the pan, and turn it over a few times to coat it with oil so it doesn't stick to your fingers. Press the dough towards the edges of the pan in an even layer with your fingertips. This is how the focaccia gets its dimpling, so while you want the dough to be roughly the same thickness, the little divots your fingers leave are a good thing.
  5. Use the pastry brush to spread a layer of olive oil onto the top of the dough. Cover and let it sit in a warm place until it doubles in height.
  6. When your dough is almost done rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C). 
  7. When the dough is finished rising, sprinkle the toppings onto the top of the bread. I used kalamata olives (rinsed and chopped) and fresh rosemary. Put the pan in the oven and let it bake until the top is golden brown (about 20-30 minutes).
  8. Remove the pan from the oven, and then carefully transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool. The focaccia is best eaten the same day, but you can put it in a sealed container once it’s cooled all the way if you want to keep it for longer.
 My dough came out a little sticky, so I added a few more ounces of flour. This is also where I discovered I need to generate sufficient heat in the kitchen in order to get my dough to rise.

We ate the bread with some piave vecchio cheese. It didn't look very pretty, but it was delicious. We only left it to cool enough so we could pick it up and eat it. I did one on Sunday with half the dough and another the following day. This will be done again.

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