Apparently, a TON of people have a fear of baking with yeast.
Take Sarah, for instance. Yes, THAT Sarah, my partner in crime in all things cooking and kiwi-and-carrot-ish. Sarah is an incredible cook. She has a natural talent for it, and comes up with amazing, creative dishes all the time. When I was her age, I was still overcooking chicken and burning rice. Yep, she’s a pro. But Sarah is convinced that she can’t bake with yeast…
I hear this all the time from SO many people! But here’s the deal. It’s so stinkin’ simple. Just takes a little practice, and anyone can bake yummy bread and rolls and delicious yeasty things. Like this Rosemary Olive Focaccia Bread. So simple. So delicious.
I think there are three keys to baking delicious yeast bread.
First, make sure the liquids aren’t too hot or cold. You usually want to “proof” yeast (which just means making sure it’s alive, or active) by letting it sit in warm water for a few minutes. I never worry too much about water temps. Just make sure it feels warm, not suer hot or cold to the touch, and you’ll be fine. After just a few minutes, you’ll know if the yeast is active, as it “grows” and emits CO2 bubbles. It you don’t see it growing with foamy stuff on top, throw away that batch and try again.
Second, don’t use too much flour. The dough just needs to be slightly sticky, but not so sticky that it plasters your hands with dough. Start with the lowest amount of flour given in a recipe, and add gradually. With practice, you’ll get it just right.
Third, let the dough RISE RISE RISE according to the recipe. Most doughs rise twice. Just follow what the recipe says (like “rise until doubled in size”) for perfect bread every time. Don’t worry if it takes some time. If your house is a little cold, it might take longer than you think it should, but that slow rise makes INCREDIBLE bread! Pretty soon, you’ll all be drooling, waiting for that amazing bread to come out of the oven!
Rosemary Olive Focaccia Bread is one of my faves. The potato gives it an amazing, light texture, and liberal amounts of olive oil on the bottom and top will take you straight to Italy with its distinct flavor. Don’t be stingy with salt, rosemary or olives, either. Mamma Mia, is that GOOD!!
Take the challenge to dive in! (Sarah, you can do this!!!!) Face your fears. Bake a batch of yeasty bread. You’ll wonder why you ever waited so long to try!
- 2 russet potatoes
- 2 tsp. yeast
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups flour
- 4-5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1-2 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
- 1/3 cup fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup pitted Greek olives
- Peel and grate potatoes. Add to a small saucepan with water to cover. Heat on high to boiling, turn down and simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
- Mix yeast, sugar and 1 cup warm water in mixing bowl, and let yeast proof for 5 minutes.
- Add cooled potatoes, 3 cups flour, 2 Tbsp. evoo and 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Mix to combine.
- Using dough hook, knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add another 1/4-1/2 cup flour.
- Punch dough down, form into a ball and cover. Place in a warm area and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
- Liberally grease a cookie sheet. Punch dough down and place on cookie sheet. Spread out with fingers to cover pan. It's okay it it's not an even surface. Cover loosely with parchment or plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Poke dough all over with fingertips to make small indentations. Brush liberally with evoo, sprinkle with rosemary and olives. Sprinkle very liberally with kosher salt.
- Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
*This is a simple recipe. Don't let the instructions scare you! Active prep time is minimal; most of that time dough is just rising.
*Kosher salt is a must! Regular table salt won't work here.
*Be very generous while brushing on evoo and sprinkling with the salt. This is what makes it taste so good!
*Be creative with toppings. This is also very good with grated cheese, caramelized onions, fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes or any of your favorite ideas.