Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour


Breads you can't buy

Warm, fresh-baked breads are the ultimate in kitchen heaven! Making, baking, smelling and eating give great pleasure to anyone within nose range. And Contrary to the belief held by non-bread bakers, they are practically fool-proof to make. All that you have to do is not kill the yeast and the only thing that will kill those willing little workers is too much heat usually in the form of water which is too hot when you add the yeast to be dissolved.

The soft Italian bread call Focaccis has become very popular. Here are some rather exotic Italian suggestions for turning that baked bread into sandwiches: 1) Fresh roasted red peppers layered with anchovy fillets, sliced ricotta, salsa and basil leaves; 2) Thin sliced prosciutto or other ham, red onion wheels (fresh or roasted) fresh sage, cheese of your choice; 3) Mashed avocado, tomato slices, shrimp, coriander, grated lime zest, olive oil and a dash of Tabasco sauce. We have to face it, exotic Italians dream up exotic sandwiches.


HERB FOCACCIA BREAD

Excellent with salads, soups and sandwiches. Or, cut each loaf in strips about 1 1/2-inches wide and 3 or 4-inches long to be dipped into good olive oil. This dough also makes excellent pizza.

4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon coarse salt (seal salt or Kosher salt)

Move oven rack to lowest position. Combine flour, water, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl and mix with dough hook, if you have one, or by hand to form a dough. Increase speed to high or knead by hand until dough becomes elastic. Stop mixer after 8 minutes to check. Grease your finger with butter or oil and pull off a small piece stretching it between your fingers. It should be shiny and smooth, and not break apart when it is ready. Form into a ball and place in greased mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 1 hour, until it has increased to 1 1/2 times its original size. Turn dough onto floured surface and divide into 2 pieces. Grab part of the outside edge of one piece between your forefinger and thumb and pull it into the center. Press down firmly and give the dough a quarter turn. Repeat 11 times, for 3 complete revolutions, and turn the dough over. At this point the dough piece should be round and the outer skin sufficiently stretch but not broken. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Place the balls on lightly floured tray to rise. Cover loosely and let rest 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven 475F using your hands, gently press the air out of the dough balls and shape into focaccia, applying more pressure around the edges to taper them slightly. Each ball should be about 9- to 10-inches in diameter. Transfer the focaccia to parchment lined baking sheets, lightly covered with cornmeal. Use a razor blade or sharp knife to slash the dough in a crisscross pattern, leaving about 1 1/2-inches between each cut. Brush the loaves with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and then sprinkle the herbs and coarse salt on top. Generously mist the breads with water and transfer to tray to the lowest rack in the oven. Spray the oven bottom with several tablespoons worth of water to make steam in the oven. Bake about 20 minutes until golden brown. Makes 2 loaves.


WHOLE WHEAT BREAD WITH ROASTED GARLIC

You can buy roasted garlic paste or make your own by roasting heads of garlic in a slow oven and when very soft press the cloves to release the garlic and use it as a spread.

1/4 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cups plus 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt

Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon yeast in 3/4 cup water . Add 1 cup bread flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour; stir until blended. Let stand at room temperature until it rises and crests. Surface will be bubbly and shiny. To make dough, dissolve 1 tablespoon yeast in 1/4 cup water. Then add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to the sponge; stir to loosen. Combine 2 cups bread flour, 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, garlic, sponge, yeast and salt. Knead with a dough hook on medium speed for 4 minutes and then high for 4 minutes more. Or, knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead until smooth adding flour as needed; return to bowl and let rise again. Preheat oven to 500F. Transfer dough to floured surface and shape dough into 12-inch long, rectangular loaf. Let rise until doubled, 1 hour. Reduce oven to 450F. and bake 45 minutes or until crest is deeply browned and it sounds hollow when tapped. Makes 1 loaf: Note: This can be baked in clay bread baker if you have one (most of us don't.

FRESH BREADS DON'T LOAF AROUND FOR LONG

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