Ah, freshly baked bread. One can wax rhapsodic about it being the staff of life and though it goes in and out of fashion (low carb craze anyone??), there is no greater joy than coming home or entering a kitchen and enveloping yourself in the aroma, never mind the fabulous taste of freshly baked bread, Somewhere along the line, a few people got the misguided notion that bread is difficult to make. Nothing could be further from the truth. It does indeed require a little understanding of the fundamentals of yeast and a dedication of a certain amount of time. For example, the water in which dried yeast must be dissolved needs to be quite warm, warmer than you might think. The ideal temperature is between 105F and 115F – so quite warm but not hot. If the water is too tepid, then your yeast will not proof properly. Too hot and the water will kill the somewhat fragile yeast. Stirring some sugar into the warm water helps activate the yeast whereas salt will help prevent it from doing it’s initial job.
Bread also demands good 8 to 10 minutes of kneading to promote the gluten in the dough. It needs time to rise unprovoked and then to rise again. Then of course, it needs time to bake. There is one vital ingredient that is never talked about however, When I was in cooking school, many moons ago, a noted bread baker and cookbook author, remarked that if you love your bread, your bread will love you back. And that’s what I have been doing ever since. I love the quirky science that turns water, yeast and flour into crowning burnished loaves, I love the zen like motion of kneading and the anticipatory time as the dough rises. I also love knowing that I’m serving my family something that I have made, a loaf without preservatives but with wholesome ingredients. And of course, much love.
Make sure you use the sun dried tomatoes that are packed in oil. Their extra moisture works well with the foccaccia.
I have been making this bread for a long time and am so thankful it makes two loaves as it never seems to last very long. It makes excellent toast and I relish the fact that it has so many healthful ingredients.
Pumpernickel or rye breads take to take a little longer than most conventional breads since they require a starter. Here, I’ve streamlined the process to avoid that step but the results are no less wonderful and satisfying.