Beautiful Breads

I wish I had taken some more pictures in class for some of the beauties we made today and last week. We made these hard rolls with a combination of fresh dough and dough that had been made a couple days ago and was allowed to ferment. The resulting flavor was deep and "breaddy". We also made focaccia today (recipe below), which was pretty straightforward, but the magic began when we added sweated onions with fresh rosemary and oregano to sprinkle on top. We also sprinkled some kosher salt on top for some extra seasoning and a beautiful exterior. 

I'm always surprised with the importance of steam when it comes to making bread. Steaming the bread while it is in the oven helps to create that signature crust so many breads are famous for. It gives you the kind of crunch you only dream of having, which you can usually only get (done properly) at specialty bread stores. The home cook has a dilemma here. There's not much you can do to introduce steam into your bread baking; not at best case without a serious annoyance and, at worst case, a serious third degree burn. If you are up to the challenge (and I'll tell you right now...I'm not!) you can put a 9"x13" baking pan filled with boiling water in your oven to help give it something close to that insatiable crust. If you are planning on doing this (and again, be careful!) heat up your oven first, slide out the bottom rack, pour boiling water into the pan and slide the rack back in. When your bread is ready, put it on the rack above the bottom rack and you'll kinda, sorta get that crust. When you're done baking the bread, turn off your oven and allow the water to cool before you try messing with it. Believe me, it's not easy. Hence the reason I tend to lean toward not messing with it.

Below is the recipe for Focaccia, which came from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft. This is the only book you will ever need if you are seriously considering a baking career. Even if you aren't looking to make this your life, it's got some great recipes to use at holidays (especially if you're looking to impress the in-laws!) like challah, brioche and more rolls than you can shake a baking pan at. Most of the recipes in this book are done by weight unless fluid ounces is specified. Use a scale to help you get the right amounts. Remember, when it comes to baking, ingredients should be as close to exact as possible. If you would like to adjust this recipe, remember that there are 16 ounces in one pound.

(Recipe makes 6 lb)

Bread flour
13 oz
Water (60 degrees F)
7 1/4 oz
Instant Dry Yeast

Bread Flour
2 lb 10 1/4 oz
Instant dry yeast
1/4 oz
29 1/2 fl oz
Biga (above)
10 oz
Olive Oil
3 1/2 oz
1 oz
Olive Oil
as needed

Biga: combine flour, water and yeast. Mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment for 3 minutes. Transfer to a container, cover, and ferment at 75 degrees for 8 hours until biga has risen and begun to recede. Should be bubbly and airy.

Final Dough: combine flour and yeast in mixing bowl. Add water, biga, olive oil, and salt to the mixer and add the flour and yeast on top. Mix on low with the hook attachment for 4 minutes. Dough will be very loose.

3  Ferment the dough until nearly doubled (should take a little less than 45 minutes). Fold gently to redistribute air bubbles. Ferment for another 45 minutes.

4  Divide dough into 16 oz loaves. Preshape dough lightly into rounds (do not over handle). Try to keep the thickness even.

5  Lightly brush dough with olive oil.
Place on parchment paper-lined sheet pans.

6  Cover with plastic wrap (loosely) and allow to ferment a final time for 30-40 minutes. When ready, the dough should spring back when touched.

7  Brush dough lightly with olive oil again.
Use your finger tips to add "divots" in the top of the dough. Now is the time to add toppings (like saute├ęd onions with fresh oregano and rosemary).

8  Presteam oven at 460 degrees and bake until golden-brown (about 25-30 mins). Brush with olive oil a final time and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.


  1. I forgot to mention that you should flour your dough pretty liberally when you ferment it so it comes off whatever it's sitting on easier. Except for the biga. That can be done without the addition of flour.


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