One day long ago, in our tiny little newlywed apartment, I got this insane desire to make homemade bread.
Okay, no biggie, right? Except YES biggie, because I had never made bread before in my life.
But suddenly, I NEEDED to make bread. Like now.
In a crazed carb-craving state I began thumbing my way through cookbooks and searching the Internet for recipes.
Most of the recipes seemed easy enough. In fact, I was surprised to find that most of them only required about 5 ingredients.
But then I read the directions. Almost all of them included this line: Place dough ball in a bowl and allow to rise for 1-2 hours. And a few steps down the page there was nearly always this: now, place the shaped loaves in the baking pans and allow to rise for another bagillion hours.
At that point in my life, 2 hours of rise time might as well have been a week.
Also, bread flour. What the heck was that? My poor little 22 year old brain had no concept of multiple kinds of flours. I mean, flour is flour, right? And how do these bread bakers expect me to drive 5 minutes to the store just to get special flour?!
It felt like I would never get fresh baked bread. The holy grail of homemade bread might as well have been across a pool filled with lava, teeming with alligators, and infested with e-coli. I almost gave up and just made some pizza rolls.
But then I found it. Homemade focaccia bread. In my Betty Crocker Cookbook .
It only required 1 hour of rise time- TOTAL. And the best part? It could be made with all purpose flour.
I set to work mixing the ingredients together, kneading, and resting. I felt a little skeptical when I threw the dough into the bowl, but I walked away and impatiently waited 30 minutes before returning. To my surprise and awe, when I returned the dough had puffed and swelled to twice its size.
I punched the dough down (how fun is that?) then shaped them into rounds, placed little round dots on the top with my fingers, then sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese. 30 minutes later I slid them into the oven. The most wonderful smell began to fill our apartment. It was the smell of yeast and Parmesan and fresh rosemary. It was the smell of fresh baked bread.
Ever since, I’ve been hooked on this bread. It really is a cinch to make and it’s the perfect bread for dipping into olive oil or serving alongside spaghetti. It has a wonderful golden cheesy crust and is light and fluffy on the inside. The bread can be sliced in half lengthwise and used as a pizza crust, or used as sandwich bread and stuffed with all manner of tasty meats and cheeses. But if you really want to enjoy the pure goodness of this bread, I suggest you simply slice it in long strips, put them under the broiler for just a few minutes to crisp them up, then dip them into a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian herbs. It’s. the. best.
If bread making sounds scary to you, this is a great recipe to start. No special ingredients. No impossible wait time. Plus, I promise the smell alone will be worth your efforts.
- 2½ to 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package rapid rise or regular dry yeast (2¼ teaspoon)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Good quality olive oil and dried Italian herbs for dipping (optional)
- Place 1 cup of the flour, rosemary, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and stir together. Add 3 Tablespoons olive oil and the warm water. Using electric hand beaters of your stand mixer, beat mixture on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Slowly add an additional 1½ cups of flour to the mix, stirring to combine. Add the last ½ cup of flour if necessary--the dough should be soft and just a tad tacky. It shouldn't stick a lot to the sides of the bowl. I usually have to add the entire 3 cups of flour.
- Lightly flour a work surface and turn dough out onto the surface. Flour your hands then knead dough for 5-8 minutes or until it is smooth and springy. You may need to add a little more flour as you go to keep it from sticking. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Grease 2 cookie sheets with oil or cooking spray.
- Gently punch down the dough until it deflates. Divide the dough in half, place each half on a cookie sheet, then use your fingers to flatten and shape each dough ball into a 10 inch round circle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another 30 minutes or until dough is puffed, and about doubled in height.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Use the pads of our fingers to make deep depressions about 2 inches apart in rings around the outside of the dough. Gently brush surface of the dough with oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
- This bread can be sliced and served immediately or cooled, wrapped in saran wrap, and used within 3 days. For reheating or for dipping, I recommend slicing the dough into thin strips and broiling for 2-3 minutes or until crisped and lightly browned. For dipping, mix good quality olive oil with a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs and minced garlic or garlic salt in a shallow bowl or plate.
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal Edition)