Ten years ago, I worked in a little bakery in Portland, Maine called Borealis Bread. I was coming out of a quasi-governmental job that had left me exceptionally bored and I was looking to get back to honest work. So, I became a baker. I was up at 3:30 AM to start work at 4:00 and the first thing I was struck by was how different the world is so early in the morning. It was a quiet beauty that I appreciated in summer and winter alike. I often wondered where the other handful of people who drove by were going at such an early hour, or if they were just wrapping up their nights.
Working for Borealis was where I really learned how to bake: why it was so important to get ratios right when mixing dough, how to measure ingredients by weight rather than volume (it irks me when a recipe I find online doesn’t have ingredients by weight,) and how to roll out a baguette. I got pretty good at it after a while, but there were some pretty sorry-looking baguettes that the head baker somehow managed to revive enough to sell and keep us open for another day.
We also made focaccia here, topped with spinach and feta, potatoes and caramelized onions, and of course pepperoni. These were big lunch sellers and it was always a pleasure to see customers line up day after day to purchase our wares.
This focaccia recipe was prepared a little differently than what I remembered at the bakery, but I can imagine a little Italian grandma making bread this way. It was about ten minutes’ worth of work and an overnight of rising, but the flavor was great and I think it could compare to something bought at a legitimate bakery. Give it a try – there is nothing like the smell of bread baking in your own oven; even the gluten-free faction in the household had to admit that!
Edit: here’s a great application for focaccia: breakfast with eggs, tomatoes, and slivered green onion. Comes together quickly, even on a weekday morning – give it a try!