Last night I celebrated a much needed victory.  After my lackluster bread-bowls this past weekend I was feeling…well, less than successful in my baking quest.  I knew I had a good dough, I knew I had made some elementary mistakes, but I knew that my shaping needed work. 

When I arrived home last night I got to work doing two things. 

1.  Make a great looking Boule

2. Practice my focaccia-making skills

I failed miserably in the boule-making deparment.  I even watched a really great bread forming video on You Tube (thanks The Fresh Loaf!).  The fabulous baker, Ciril Hitz, author and instructor at Johnson & Wales, gives a quick tutorial on how to form some basic bread forms. 

Shaping Video

The video and tutorial were great and I even set up my laptop on the kitchen counter to follow along but found that the surface I was working on (large wood board) and the surface he was working on (countertop?) created totally different results.  I could not get my boule to look anything like his, so I tried for the next best thing and created a pretty darn handsome baguette.   Sure, it was still a little bulgy in places, but for my second attempt I was still pretty happy.

My real triumph was my very first focaccia!  It, also, wasn’t without it’s difficulties and imperfections. For example, I began reading the wrong recipe and didn’t realize that I had to shift the dough to a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper until I already had the spices and cheese on top of it.  So I stood there with 3 spatulas trying to move it with as little tearing and dripping as possible off my wood board and onto the parchment paper.  But, once there and into the oven it went our apartment was filled with amazing smells.

I took about a pound of my new olive oil dough, rolled it into a ball and then used my hands to push and pull it outwards, pound it down, into an almost square shape.  Once done I drizzled a little olive oil on the top and then sprinkled with garlic powder, rosemary, and grated parmesan cheese.  Into the oven it went after sitting out for 20 minutes and after baking for 25 minutes out it came. 

The final product tasted fabulous!  None of the flavors overpowered the others, the dough was chewy and soft, like a thick crusted pizza, and now I cannot wait to try other toppings.  And next time I’ll make more dough as this one focaccia seemed to use half of the dough I had made.  If I make these into gifts I’ll need a lot more dough.


The Great Bread-Bowl Caper, Part 1

In my family there is a history of crazy Christmas’.  With 3 sisters, all with families of their own, in-laws, and plans, it’s hard to get everyone together for Christmas, even after Christmas.  But this year, while missing a husband and a nephew, we are finally able to gather at the same time to celebrate Christmas, even if a week late. 

The problem?  The meal decision has been made for a hearty beef stew in homemade bread-bowls.  That involves me and my new baking skills.  Pressure!  So we have a total of 9 people coming over, thanks to an impromptu visit from our dearest friend from Washington DC, Rob.   So that is 9 bread-bowls I have to make.  Why am I nervous….well, I’m nervous over a few items….

  1. My bread, up until now, has been for me so if it turns out deformed there is no one to judge but myself and possibly my wife.
  2. I will be trying to make more than a couple loaves at a time, I’ll have to make 2-3 bowls at a time and my pizza stone is relatively small and I’m worried that they’ll get stuck together or burn, or come out warped and I’ll have to start all over. 
  3. Our friend Rob loves to make bread and I feel a little competitive, which normally I’m not.

I think I have the game plan all set.  I’ll start making the bread bowls in the morning and once one batch of dough is gone I’ll make another batch, and so on until I have all the bowls done.  This should also allow for a few horrendous mistakes. 

The great news is that my special King Arthur’s Flour package arrived last night.  Look!

Once this weekend is over I’ll try my hand at Olive Oil bread and spend next weekend making focaccia’s as thank you gifts for my coworkers/executives who gave me Christmas presents.  I’m looking forward to it but it is pushing off my pastry dough work.  But, it’s necessary.  Word of the loaf of bread I brought into work has made it to the execs and they’ve been asking about it.  Now is the perfect time to bake some great bread and give it as gifts.  

Now I need your help.  I know there are a few of you checking out my blog and I could really use your thoughts on what types of focaccia bread I should make, so I’m setting up my very first poll!  Please vote, let me know what you think, and I’ll make a few of the top choices and share them with you when they’re ready!