"Fresh out of the oven. It smells and tastes great"
Today I had to make something for a potluck party that I was invited to. The Adaptive Ski Program, here in Santa Fe, has their annual preseason get together and potluck dinner every year around this time, and home made cooking is the byword of the day. So, no store-bought cheating allowed! (More about The Adaptive Ski Program in a future article.)
I was told that a “side dish” would be much appreciated since the hosts were supplying the main fare: barbecued pork, chicken and beef and a variety of BBQ sauces to go with the feast.
I spent a considerable amount of time as a young person, first of all, learning to cook, and secondly, learning how to make bread. Every loaf or roll that I made in those early days was fit for the birds, and sometimes even they turned up their beaks at my generous offerings. Believe me, I can understand. If I were a bird, I would have done the same and then flown as far away as possible. Yes, it was that bad. And learning how to bake a great loaf of bread, or in any other form or style, is not easy.
The reason that it is not easy is because you cannot simply follow a recipe. Things will NOT turn out right. Flour behaves differently depending on its moisture content. Yeast will also behave differently from batch to batch and also by manufacturer. What the aspiring bread maker must learn is how to feel out the dough and intuit the process as he/she goes along. One thing is for certain, it will be different from day to day. However, the protocols, or the steps involved, do not change.
The other thing I like about bread-making is that it is physical. You must interact with the dough in an assertive and even forceful way. The Sicilian method which I learned in Buffalo, N.Y. entails slapping the dough onto the kneading board to develop a fine texture. The people of Italian origin in Buffalo make some of the best bread anywhere---and I was lucky enough to have been taught by one of them whose family also owned a bakery.
A favorite bread of mine to make is focaccia. I saw it being made in Buffalo as I was growing up and I was always impressed, not only with how great it looks---with its impressive eye appeal--but with the herbal seasonings which are always fragrant and delicious, real soul-satisfying fare. I also like the way I can customize this bread, using different herbs as my garden's bounty changes throughout the season.
So here's what I made and how I did it. I would not be bragging to say it was a great hit! Everyone loved it and could hardly wait to get at it. Well, I did bring it straight out of the oven. It was still slightly warm when I put it down on their table for the vultures, sorry, I mean guests, to have at it. My Sicilian mentors back in Buffalo would have approved! If you want the real thing, you'll have to either: a) stop by my house when I'm making it, or, b) invite me to a pot luck party and ask me to bring a side dish.
Mange bene, Gutes Essen, Mange Bien, Bon Appétit, Bueno Apetito.
(I have no idea what I just wrote.)
Enjoy the day, eat well, and see you around.
Happy Trails to You
From Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment
For more photos please visit me at:Trips and Quips
You have to start with this.
Then, proof the yeast.
Followed by lots of kneading.
Here I have just lightly punched holes into the dough with my fingers and added generous amounts of olive oil and herbs.
Fresh out of the oven. It smells and tastes great.