Ok people. Notice anything in these pictures? Yep. I make faces. I even knew my son was taking pictures and I still made faces without even realizing it until a few days later when downloading my camera. Not a single picture captured a non-facemaking face. I pretty much can't do anything creative without doing it. When I was a teenager in a small ballet company, I made faces. Not very elegant, I know. The teachers were always telling me to smile. I always thought I was smiling. But no. I was making faces. I suppose TV appearances are not in my future. Oh well. My family still loves me. They only laugh at me every once in a while.
And did you notice the mess I was making? A huge sticky, I-need-my-son-to-turn-the-cook-book-pages-cuz-my-hands-are-full-of-doughy-goodness kind of mess. I was following a recipe for the first time from Amy's Bread which I purchased last summer. But since our sunny beach was calling out to us, I neglected to actually do any serious baking. And, let me tell you, this book is for serious bakers - which if I could quit making faces, maybe I could be one. Well, maybe. My family was laughing at the sticky mess on my board, and on my hands, and on my sleeves, and on the floor.... I told them to look at the pictures in the book. Their dough looked just like mine. Really. I didn't see any messy clothes or floor in their pictures, though.
I was a little overwhelmed by the whole process. This dough started the evening before with a Biga Starter that needed to develop for 8 hours before the actual bread making process could continue. It's similar to a thick sourdough starter. There is even a step adding the milk, oil, and salt to the dough after one of the periods the dough has rested. A foreign concept to me, but I did it. And it worked. Although mine looked more runny than the one in the book, and being the brave little bread maker that I am, I continued on. I tried to follow their kneeding process as well as I could, and not add in more flour when the wee voice within me was begging me to do so.
This fococcia bread recipe was 3 pages long, not counting the dough kneeding pictures and Biga Starter instructions (which is why I needed help turning the pages). It required a few restings and 2 risings before the final long-awaited-for rise in the baking sheet. Mid way through my day, I discovered that all the rising times added up to a completion time of about 2 hours after Our Dear One and Her Love arrived from the big city-so-far-away for an already late-ish dinner, so I cut out an hour off each of the 2 final risings. A no no, I think. I truely contemplated dumping the whole thing and starting over with my good old familiar focaccia recipe, or even running to the store for a loaf of bread. But, I held strong! I had heard rumors of good bread recipes abounding in this book.
Oh my goodness! It was waaayyy worth it. This bread was amazing. It was completely different than anything I have ever made. Surprisingly, there were a few squares left over. The next day after church, we sliced them open and layered a piece of smoked gouda, a slice of ham and a glob of whole seed dijon mustard in them. Now we are seriously craving more. My family keeps asking when I am making it again. Soon. Definitely soon.
Now I am a believer. Even though I have only tried one recipe, I highly recommend Amy's Bread for "Artisan-style breads...from New York City's favorite bakery". If a loaf of bread could turn out that well with all the mistakes this amateur baker made, I can only imagine how wonderful a recipe followed well would be.
Amy's Bread has a recipe for Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls that I want to master before the holidays. It has cooked wheat berries, sesame seeds and wheat germ. Here is a recipe for Organic Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread that my friend Erin said is a family favorite. But first, another loaf of Foccacia with Fresh Rosemary. This time I will take a picture of the finished loaf of yummy goodness. I promise.
*** I have to say that I made the foccacia again for another Sunday family gathering, before getting this post out. Highlighting all the rising times in the cookbook beforehand was helpful. It turned out great...but still no pictures. It was gone before I knew it! So, my conclusion is...that you really must check out this book and get to some yummy winter baking!