Why Focaccia is Now the Only Bread I Make from Scratch
Baking bread has now reached peak levels of popularity in the pandemic; it may as well replace baseball as America’s pastime. Requiring patience, nurturing, and a long duration, it is an ideal stay at home activity. While I am an avid baker of desserts, pies, and all other manner of sweets, bread was never my favorite baking item of choice. Bread was just not one of those things I craved; of course, I loved a good sandwich on fresh baked bread, but it was always the sandwich as a whole I wanted, more than the bread itself. Even before the pandemic, I dabbled in baking brioche, flatbread, and sourdough. Even when the results came out well (which was only about half the time), I would think, “Eh, it’s good, but not worth it.” I would much rather invest the time in making a delicious homemade apple pie than baking bread. Bread, even the really high quality kind, could be tasty, but it never felt special. It was just a vehicle for other tasty treats. I had, of course, also internalized the “war against bread;” I believed that bread was not worth the “unnecessary” carbs. All of this changed when I made Samin Nosrat’s Focaccia recipe for the first time.
Like many people who read her book and watched her Netflix show Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat, I was memorized by Nosrat’s recipes. They seemed straightforward, authentic, and delicious, so I decided to give her Focaccia recipe a try. I had eaten the bread before in Italy and loved it. Unfortunately, in the States, unless it’s at a specialty bakery, most “Focaccia” sold in grocery stores is an imposter: dry instead of moist, hard instead of chewy, and extremely lacking in olive oil. And so, with my flour, yeast, salt, and olive oil in hand, I followed Nosrat’s lead.
Around eighteen hours later, after following her recipe exactly, I was blessed with some of the best bread that I have ever tasted. The Focaccia had a crispy exterior, with a lovely chewy, soft, and fluffy interior. Even though I stuck to the normal recipe and did not put in any special additions, like garlic or rosemary, the bread was a powerhouse of flavor- yeasty, olive oil packed, and deeply savory. The salt level was perfect- it brought a brininess, but I did not need to chug a glass of water afterwards. I could eat it by itself; the Focaccia was a star, rather than a supporting player. For lunch that week, I ate a piece of Focaccia, some prosciutto, grapes, and a bit of cheese- a very fancy, adult lunchables, if you will.
Two weeks after making and eating this Focaccia, I found myself craving it again. One afternoon, my stomach rumbled and I was thinking about how much I wanted some of that delicious bread. A few days later, once I found the time in my schedule, I made the recipe yet again. Months later, it’s become one of my go-to dishes. I cook it any time I go over to someone’s house for dinner (in non-COVID times) or for any major holiday. If a friend or family member is in need of a boost, I drop off a care package of Focaccia and some sweet goodies.
I know it seems odd to wax poetically about a bread recipe, but it truly changed how I think about bread. Bread is no longer this boring, bland accompaniment that I should try to avoid eating because it has too many carbs: bread is everything! Once I spent hours putting care into making something so special and unique, I finally felt free to throw out all that bread-phobic nonsense I had absorbed and enjoy the fruits of my labor instead. Every once in a while, a recipe comes around that revolutionizes your ideas about food. This Focaccia recipe was that game-changer for me, and I hope it is for you too.
Link to Samin Nosrat’s recipe: https://www.saltfatacidheat.com/fat/ligurian-focaccia