I don’t bake bread. Or pizza dough, or croissants or cinnamon rolls. I don’t DO yeast. Until now.
I always stood on the stage of ‘cooking.’ But I knew at some point I would have to tackle my fear/avoidance/aversion to baking-with-yeast. To part the curtains, and brave the unknown. If you are a bread baker, you probably think that is silly. And why not just use a bread machine? I hear bread machines are consistent and easy and loved by many—but to me that would feel like using a calculator before learning math. No, I couldn’t cheat. I couldn’t go around the mountain—I would have to go through it.
I would have to learn how to face my fear of yeast.
Since I am in Tuscany for a year—and focaccia while delicious can be expensive—I decided to use focaccia as my means to an end. It would be the vehicle that drives me right into the mountain of dough and out the other side… with lovely bread-baking aromas wafting about my kitchen (and hopefully not too much dough up my nose).
Its worth it, you know, making bread. Watching the yeast rise and pretending you had something to do with it. Kneading the dough (hey, someone show my how to do this!??), and punching it down (this is where the kids always show up: can I punch it mom?). And when it comes out of the oven risen to full glory and begging for a pat of butter—you will thank yourself: you not only willed yourself to face a fear—you have the best kind of results: warm from the oven.
I don’t have a food thermometer in the house, and truth be told I really wanted to get the feel for yeast: to know by touch when the water was just right for the yeast to do its thing. And so I bought some. In fact, I bought 10 small packs of yeast, and invited the kids into the kitchen to help me with my ‘science experiment.’
Elaine from The Italian Dish has a great post explaining various types of yeast (fresh, powder, quick rise, etc.). Between her information and my experimentation, I was well on my way through my yeasty mountain. Is it ironic that as I was busily delving into the ins and outs of working with yeast, I ran across this no-knead bread recipe…
Knead-less-bread, why have I waited so long to make thee? All it takes is a bit of yeast dissolving in water and a quick stir of flour… so I guess it isn’t entirely cheating? I did go through the mountain after all. Yeast: you make my heart sing.