Each of us has a little person inside our heads that is just desperate to do something but the big person on the outside refuses to do it, usually out of fear of failure. Sooner or later, there will come a time when one must say, “Enough is enough! I’m not going to be afraid anymore.” For me, that something is learning to bake bread and that time came a few weeks ago.
The process always managed to intimidate me; there’s the mixing, the kneading, the proofing and the baking, all of which are relatively easy to screw up. And since I’m more of a cook than a baker, just imagining myself doing it made me nervous.
For my first attempt, I wanted to make a focaccia as it is one of my favorite breads. I used the easiest recipe that I could find, one which not surprisingly came from Mango & Tomato via cookbook author Pat Sinclair. The recipe didn’t call for kneading, a stand mixer or a long proofing time, so it seemed easy enough. But here’s what happened: the directions said to press the dough into a 15×10″ pan and I guess my dough didn’t rise enough because there wasn’t enough of it for the pan. I stretched the dough into a thin disk, assuming the bread would rise while baking – but it didn’t! The bread ended up sticking to the pan even though I oiled it quite well and whatever I managed to scrape off was more like a cracker than focaccia. Of course I was super disappointed but consoled myself with the fact that this was my first attempt and the second time would probably be better.
The second time (photographed here) was better but the dough still didn’t seem to rise enough. The bread was good but not as chewy or airy as I’d hoped.
Would the bread connoisseurs out there please help me figure out where I went wrong? I checked the yeast package and it wasn’t expired. Could it be that the dough didn’t rise because the water I used wasn’t from the tap but had been previously boiled in a kettle? Or perhaps this is just a faulty recipe?
Are there any foods that you’re afraid of making?
Is there a bread recipe you’d like to recommend for my third attempt?