Some say, “Patience is a virtue.”
I say, “Patience is bread.”
After all, you cannot hurry bread-making. It forces you to slow down, to take your time, to wait until it is good and ready, and not a moment sooner.
In this hustle-bustle world, where we can’t sit still to sip a cup of coffee, where people talk on phones and text-message when they should be simply driving, and where we constantly complain that time is passing us by, making bread from scratch should be a requisite for all of us at least once a month.
It would make us take a breather. And that’s always a good thing.
Take a deserved time out by making “Raisin, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Focaccia” from the new “The Art & Soul of Baking” (Andrews McMeel) by Sur La Table, and pastry chef and baking teacher, Cindy Mushet.
Mushet, who used to live in the Bay Area, but now makes her home in the Pasadena area, was a fellow judge with me in December for the Gene Burns Holiday Cookie Exchange contest. With a fun sense of humor that puts you at ease immediately and a discerning eye for detail, Mushet’s personality is much like this divine focaccia. It’s a mix of strong characteristics that come together seamlessly.
This ever so slightly sweet focaccia is perfect for breakfast, smeared with a little mascarpone, fromage blanc, or jam. Think raisin bread, but not so sugary tasting and squishy soft. Instead, this is a more rustic, chewy version turned grown-up with the addition of heady rosemary.
A couple of my husband’s male colleagues found the 1/3 cup of fresh rosemary too strong for their tastes. But if you like rosemary, it’s not overwhelming. Indeed, both my hubster’s female co-worker and I both thought the pine-y flavor a nice counterpart to the sweetness of both the raisins and turbinado sugar sprinkled on top.
I even used the new Chinese cassia cinnamon I had just bought at Penzeys in Menlo Park in the dough. When I opened the jar, I could really smell the strong spicy, earthy fragrance — a real contrast to the wimpy aroma of most supermarket jars that have been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long.
The dough came together easily in the mixer. Then, I let it rise for 90 minutes. After patting it into the sheet pan and brushing it with a slick of good olive oil, I had to wait for it to rise yet again for almost another two hours. See what I mean about patience when it comes to bread-making?
After 30 minutes, the focaccia came out of the oven a deep golden brown. I had to allow it to cool for a mere 10 minutes before digging in.
I ate one piece. Then, another. I had to be restrained before I reached for a third.
Patience does indeed come to those who wait. And with it, some mighty fine focaccia, too.
Raisin, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Focaccia
(makes 1 baking sheet, or 20 3-by-3-inch squares)
2 cups plump, sweet raisins
2 1/4 cups warm whole milk (110-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
5 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for brushing
2 bunches fresh rosemary, leaves removed and very finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons sanding sugar or turbinado sugar
To plump raisins if they seem dry (If not, continue to next step): Place raisins in medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring water to a boil, then turn off heat, cover pan, and let raisins sit for 5 minutes. Drain raisins in a colander set in the sink and shake off any excess water. Spread raisins on a 17-by-12-inch baking sheet with 1/2-inch sides, and let cool.
Mix and knead dough: Combine warmed milk and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast over the top. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the flour by hand. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes, or until yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Whisk in another 2 cups of flour, or enough that the dough resembles a thick pancake batter. Attach paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 4 minutes
Add raisins, olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt to the dough, attach dough hook, and knead on low until well blended. Add remaining 2 3/4 cups flour and knead for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl and turn dough over in the bowl so everything is mixed evenly. Continue to knead for 2 minutes longer. Don’t worry if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl — the extra moisture gives the crumb an open and chewy texture that is the signature of a good focaccia.
Rise the dough (first rise): Lightly oil a plastic tub or mixing bowl, scrape dough into the tub, and lightly coat surface of dough with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free towel and let dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it’s easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
Punch down and shape the dough: Scrape the risen dough onto a lightly oiled 17-by-12-inch baking sheet with 1/2-inch sides. Lighlty oil your hands and press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again. Begin to push and gently stretch the dough into an even layer in the pan. To stretch the dough into the corners of the pan, slip your hand under the dough and pull gently from the center of the dough toward the corner. As you reach the corner, grip the dough and gently shake it up and down as you pull outward — this will help stretch the dough while preventing it from tearing. Repeat until dough is an even layer filling the pan all the way into the corners. You may not be able to stretch it into the corners on the first try. If the dough begins to pull back and resist stretching, brush top with a little olive oil, set pan aside for 10 minutes, and then try again.
Proof dough (second time): Brush top of dough with a little olive oil and cover pan with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until it is almost doubled in size (it will look quite puffy and bubbly). This will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Prepare the oven: Place a baking or pizza stone in the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Be sure to allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the stone to fully heat.
Bake focaccia: Remove plastic wrap. Dimple the dough by gently pressing your fingertips into the dough, about 1/2-inch deep, taking care that you don’t deflate the dough by pressing too vigorously or making too many indentations.
Sprinkle dough with sanding sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until bread is a deep golden brown and cooked through. The internal temperature should register 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a cooling rack and immediately brush the top of the bread with olive oil. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Cut focaccia with a serrated knife.
Storing:The focaccia will keep at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 days. Reheat in a 375-degree oven for 10 minutes. To freeze focaccia, cut it in pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, place in resealable plastic freezer bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw for 1 hour and reheat as directed.
Getting ahead: The dough can be prepared 1 day ahead and patted into the baking pan with the following adjustment: Brush olive oil and let dough rise for 20 minutes, then refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap. The dough will continue to rise slowly overnight and will be nearly doubled in size by morning. The next day, let the bread sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Brush top with additional oil, dimple the dough, and sprinkle with sugar. It may take a few extra minutes to bake — take the internal temperature to be sure it is cooked through.
From “The Art & Soul of Baking”