31 July 2011 a post by Mountain Ash

Bread of Life

I think bread is the ultimate soul food; it seems symbolic of so much of life, even of death. The bread Jesus shared with his friends at his famous ‘Last Supper’, the day before his death, became a symbol of hope. Jesus asked his followers to remember him as they ate it. Being a Passover meal, the bread was already symbolic of God saving his people from death.

The Passover bread would have been made without yeast. That was to symbolise the hurry Moses’ followers were in when they left Egypt. But not being in a hurry myself I made focaccia with yeast. I find breadmaking full of hope, transforming so few ingredients into something wonderful with a gorgeous smell. Since working with a French master baker, I’ve changed to his method for the dough. As soon as the ingredients are combined, I tip the mix onto the table and begin lifting, slapping down and folding it over repeatedly, standing with feet-apart, moving in such a way that the action becomes meditative. The hope I knew would be rewarded is; the sticky mess becomes silky smooth, strong and full of energy.

The olive oil, rosemary and thyme I used are reminiscent of the oil and bitter herbs associated with our passing from this life and for me that comes with hope.

Rapeseed Focaccia

For dough:
750g White bread flour
15g Sea Salt
30g Fine cornmeal (replace with semolina or flour if not available)
20g Fresh yeast or 10g Dried yeast
70g Rapeseed oil - good quality locally produced if possible
480g Luke warm water

For topping:
Extra Oil
Sea Salt
Slivers of fresh garlic
Fresh herbs - robust ones such as Rosemary, Thyme and Savoury are best

Mix the dry dough ingredients together by hand. Add the oil and water and mix, using a scraper or a dough hook if you’re using a mixer in which case continue mixing until smooth and elastic, silky even! To work by hand, empty the mix onto your work surface, sticky though it is, and pick it up with both hands as best you can before slapping it on the bench and repeating again. As you do this, try to stretch the dough and trap air into it as you work it and it will gradually become more smooth and elastic. This will take 10-15 minutes. Put a slug of oil in the bowl and swirl it around with your hands before putting the dough back in it to cover and leave until doubled in size (an hour in a warm place, longer if colder but that doesn’t matter).

Oil a large, sturdy baking tray and ease the dough straight onto it. Then gradually push it with your fingers to fill most of the tray - an uneven shape is fine! Stab your fingers right into the dough to make indents all over it. Leave it to rise again for half an hour or so. Preheat your oven to 220C (for fan) or 240 (conventional). Just before putting the tray in the oven, stab with your fingers again, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with the garlic, herbs and salt. Bake for 20 minutes then check, (turn the tray around if your oven bakes unevenly). The focaccia is baked when the top crust is a lovely dark golden colour.

bread making

bread making

bread making

bread making

bread making

bread making

bread making

Sara is a baker and teacher blogging at foodolution.com

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