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Breaking Bread

This month it’s bread, and not just your favorite sourdough loaves. How about trying breads you may have thought were too difficult, such as focaccia, pita, or Indian fry bread. Homemade breads come in all shapes and sizes and smell wonderful baking in the oven. Find some time today to bake some warm, homemade bread.

3/4 cup warm water (110° F)
1/4-oz. pkg. fast-acting yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Stir together water, yeast, and sugar in a cup. Allow to sit until foam develops, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together flour and salt. Gradually stir in yeast mixture until mixture forms a soft dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Invert bowl over dough and let rest for 10 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 13 x 9 rectangle and place in baking pan. Press into corners. Let dough rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, in a warm place, 20 to 25 minutes or until doubled in size. Sprinkle dough with cheese and rosemary. Using fingertips, press indentations about an inch apart and bake on middle rack of oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before serving.

Focaccia is great sliced and topped with chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, or parsley. Choose your own toppings, top with your favorite cheese, and pop under the oven until cheese melts. Serves 6.

1 teaspoon dry yeast
2-1/2 cups warm water (110° F)
2 cups whole-wheat flour
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bread bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add whole-wheat flour, one cup at a time, and then add 1 cup of the bread flour. Stir for one minute in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this mixture rest for 30 minutes. Sprinkle salt and olive oil over the dough and mix well. Add remaining bread flour one cup at a time. When dough becomes too stiff to stir, begin kneading on a lightly floured board. You may not need all the flour. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Return dough to a lightly oiled bread bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until double in size, about 90 minutes. Punch down lightly.

Dough may be made ahead to this point and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If storing any of the dough, store in a large plastic bag secured at the opening to make room for expansion. Any smell of fermentation after a few days only improves the flavor of the bread. Dough should always be brought to room temperature before baking.

If baking all at once, divide dough into 16 portions and roll out dough into 8-inch circles. Preheat oven to 450°. Place cast-iron skillet, griddle, or quarry tiles on a rack in the bottom third of oven. Flatten each circle with lightly floured hands and place on baking surface. Bake 4 to 6 minutes until bread has “ballooned,” or until it turns slightly golden. If bread fails to balloon on the first try, don’t worry. This takes practice but tastes great and is worth the effort. Remove from oven, allow to cool about 5 minutes, and wrap in kitchen towels. Repeat process with remaining dough. Makes 16.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups warm water
Oil for frying

Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Add water and stir until dough begins to form a ball. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough lightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overwork. Place in a bowl and refrigerate 45 minutes. Heat oil to 350° in a large kettle or Dutch oven. Lightly flour surface and roll or pat out 2-1/2-inch rounds of dough about 1/4-inch thick. Cut a hole or slit in the center of each round so dough will fry flat. Place in hot oil and fry until golden brown. Flip over and cook until golden. Bread will be done in about 3 minutes depending upon thickness of dough and temperature of oil. Makes about 2 dozen.

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