The Alpha Bakers group, not ambitious enough with the goal of baking through Rose Beranbaum's new The Baking Bible, has spawned a subgroup to bake from the older The Bread Bible. We'll only bake together once a month on this one, and will follow the order of the breads Marie Wolf used when she tackled the same project back in 2005. As a little background, Marie's efforts with The Bread Bible led to her friendship with Rose, and then to the Heavenly Cake Bakers and the current Alpha Bakers group efforts.
First up is the Rosemary Focaccia, which I vaguely recall making before. The lovely open, hole-y character of focaccia is produced by a very wet dough, almost a batter, and in my world is only going to be tackled with the help of my stand mixer. To be honest, I've never been a person who found hand-kneading dough to be relaxing, or stress-reducing, or in any way attractive, so I almost never tackle a recipe that doesn't appear to be do-able with mechanical aid for almost all the kneading. Rose's focaccia is even more suited to a stand mixer, as the dough/batter is beaten for about 20 minutes, during which is (eventually) develops enough gluten to sort of glom onto the paddle. The recipe it will become a ball....but that's something of a overstatement for mine. The character did change, though, at about 15 minutes into the beating, not 20. To be safe, I kept beating until close to the full 20 minutes in case it really did become a ball. But no...
The not-a-ball of dough then is poured/scraped into a container for the first rise. Then the very spongey looking dough is scraped onto a sheet pan that's been generously coated with olive oil, both to prevent sticking and to develop a crunchy crust. There's then a brief period of trying to encourage the dough to cover all of the sheet pan, without getting yourself and your counters covered in dough, and without deflating all the bubbles. Once that's done, perhaps with a couple of rest periods to let the dough relax a bit, One more rise, then more olive oil is drizzled on top, rosemary needles and sea salt are sprinkled over the surface, and it get baked with the pan sitting on a pre-heated baking stone in a hot oven.
The results are a thin, crusty, bread, very chewy, and flavored with the olive oil, rosemary, and salt. Wonderful stuff, and it was hard to not eat half the pan by myself while it was still warm from the oven. I did restrain myself, and shared some with sister-in-law before packing the remainder for my work lunches.