baking bread

If you follow Growing Grace Farm on Instagram or Facebook, you know that I have been reading Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. My sweetheart and I came across the docuseries on Netflix, and immediately, I was taken.

A woman who loves travel, food, and the unexpected. A chef who weaves together chemistry, culture, and cooking into one basic premise: get these four basics right (salt, fat, acid, heat), and you’ve created a little bit of culinary heaven.

What’s not to love?!

Years ago, I was diagnosed to have have a gluten intolerance and by significantly limiting my access to this protein, my health dramatically improved. As a result, however, I cut out one of my favorite prayer practices, baking bread.

I suppose it was because I was resentful of being limited in my food choices, or maybe I didn’t want the temptation. For whatever reason, I stopped.

Nosrat’s docuseries and book, however, have reminded me of several very important roles of food–sustenance, tradition, and fellowship. To watch a person, no, wait, a woman, who is not afraid to try any number of delicacies from street markets around the world can be a bit therapeutic for someone who has had body image and food issues since childhood.

And so yesterday, I said no to negative self-talk and yes to baking bread.

I had forgotten how much I loved to knead dough. It is truly a full-bodied sensory experience–from the sweet earthy smell of yeast to the soft sticky texture of the dough to the rhythmic whispering sound of the kneading.

I easily lost myself in the activity. Each step required time and attention–almost a centering of sorts. I removed screens and music and just settled into the silence of my soul in communion with the Spirit.

And there it was. I had found it–my former prayer practice.

By the end of the afternoon, I was admiring my first attempt at rosemary focaccia. As I cut a piece and lifted the warm bread to my mouth, I paused to lift up gratitude–for inspiring chefs, new beginnings, and resurrected prayer practices.

And then I slowly savored a small bit of heaven created with salt, fat, acid, and heat, and I might have gone back for a seconds!

Rosemary Focaccia

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting kneading area and hands)

2 cups warm water (110º-120º)

1 pkt of active dry yeast

2 tsp sugar or honey

3-4 tsp fresh rosemary

2+ tsp sea salt

Olive oil

In mixing bowl, add packet of yeast to two cups of warm water. Gently whisk to mix. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add sugar or honey.

Begin mixing in 1/2 cup flour while whisking into yeast mixture. Add 1/2 cup at a time to incorporate the 4 1/2 cups. Add 2 tsp sea salt. Additional flour may be used if needed, but make sure dough is still sticky.

Knead with bread attachment on stand mixer or by hand for 10 minutes to ensure the gluten is activated in the bread. Add rosemary towards the end.

Coat a clean bowl with olive oil. Shape dough into a ball, place in the bowl and turn over to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a hand towel or plastic wrap and put in warm area without a draft (I put mine in my instapot with lid set on top; putting in an oven will be fine too).

Let rise for 1.5 hours then remove and return to kneading space. Punch down the dough then knead the ball and return to bowl. Cover again and let rise for 1 hour or more.

Preheat over to 450º. While preheating, punch down dough. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the dough into a rectangle on parchment paper about 1/2-2/3 the size. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Coat the focaccia dough with olive oil and sprinkle salt on top. You can also add additional rosemary. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush again with light coat of olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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