Glamour Bread


The summer before my senior year of college, I had a very random but well paid job where my main duty was to organize my boss’s office.  He was the legal counsel for the company and technically I was supposed to be learning something that would help me with law school applications, but I really spent my days reading books and magazines, making long distance phone calls and writing letters to my friends (ha! I’ve totally dated myself there. None of us had email at the time!).  I am not normally so irresponsible, especially when it comes to a job, but my boss was never there and after a week or two of trying to come up with projects, I’d get my filing done first thing in the morning and then enjoy my paid freedom.

 

For some odd reason, there were many years’ worth of Glamour magazines lying around (odd because my boss was a 45 year old man, but I’m not going to concern myself with that just now) which I would read cover to cover at my desk.  I turned 21 that summer, so of course I thought I was completely grown, knew everything and was just marking time until I would graduate and start on my adventurous, exciting, full of nothing but happiness and fun adult life.  Needless to say, the pages of Glamour, with their do’s and don’ts on everything from clothes to men to jobs became my bible.  I tore out page after page of what I should do and wear and say and eat and studied them with an intensity I maybe should have applied to my actual job.  I had spent my junior year in Paris, so the pressure was intense to return to college fashionable and worldly.

 

Each issue featured a recipe that a glamorous 20-something should master so that she could effortlessly whip up a little something in case a friend was sick or a gentleman caller showed up unannounced.  I tore out a lot of them, but I think the only one that I actually tried was for the herb-garlic focaccia.  I practiced it a couple of times over the summer and then took the recipe back to college where I would mix up the dough before class, come back during lunch to stretch and pull it into the baking pan and then bake it in time for dinner when we’d have a few friends over to drink cheap wine and talk about what life would be like after graduation. 

  

It’s a totally deceptive recipe, because it looks like you really worked hard on it, but is actually incredibly easy (which was probably the point of all of those recipes).  Once you get the basics down, you can add anything you want to it, varying the herbs or adding cheese or tomatoes.

 

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Even though things were not glamorous or fun for a very long time after college, I love that at some point I was innocent enough to believe that studying lists of the top 25 must haves and mastering a few recipes were the key to happiness.   Looking back, I think the fun was in the expectation of what lay ahead, that there would be places to wear all of the clothes I coveted and unexpected suitors who showed up at my door hungry.  Obviously it takes a bit more work than glossy magazines would lead you to think, but when you can cut into a warm slice of tasty bread that you made yourself in your own kitchen with good friends around you, it kind of seems worthwhile…

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Herb-Garlic Focaccia (this is the exact recipe from Glamour.  At the bottom are some tweaks)

 

Ø       3 tablespoons olive oil

Ø       2 cloves garlic, minced

Ø       2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried, crumbled)

Ø       1-½ cups lukewarm water

Ø       1 packet (¼ ounce) lukewarm water

Ø       2 teaspoons salt

Ø       4-¼ all-purpose flour

Ø       olive oil for brushing

Ø       1 teaspoon salt, preferably coarse kosher salt (for sprinkling on top)

Ø       additional fresh (or dried) rosemary

 

In a small skillet, place the olive oil, garlic and rosemary; stir over medium heat until garlic becomes fragrant (do not brown).  Pour into a large bowl.  Add the water and yeast and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Add 4 cups of the flour and stir with a fork until flour is moistened.  Using your hands knead the dough in the bowl, about 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining ¼ cup of flour.  The dough should be soft and tender but not sticky; if it is sticky, knead in more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour (you can tell that the dough has risen enough if when you gently press the center with your fingertips, the imprint remains in the dough).

 

Brush a 10×15 inch rectangular baking pan with olive oil.  Lightly oil your fingertips and turn the dough onto the pan.  Using hands, push, stretch and pat the dough until it fills the pan evenly.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until dough is puffy and has doubled in thickness, about 30 to 45 minutes (if it has been refrigerated, increase the rising time in the baking pan to an hour).

 

Set rack in middle of oven and heat oven to 425 degrees.  With your fingertips, gently make small indentations in the dough at 2 inch intervals.  Liberally brush top of dough with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt.  Insert small sprigs of rosemary into the indentations (or sprinkle with dried rosemary).  Bake focaccia for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden on top.  Remove from oven and place on cutting board to cool slightly before serving.

 

Variation: Onion focaccia

 

While dough is rising in the baking pan, sauté 1 large sliced Spanish onion in 3 tablespoons olive oil until wilted.  Scatter across risen dough.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (rosemary or thyme), 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Follow baking instructions

 

Notes:

 

Ø       Dissolve the yeast in the water separately from everything else and test your water temperature (about 110 degrees). 

Ø       Do not add the salt until after you’ve added the water to the flour and kneaded bit.  The salt will stop the yeast from activating.

Ø      I always kneaded by hand, but recently tried my KitchenAid.  Not as much fun as kneading by hand, but quicker.

 

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