Our daily bread
A million times has been confirmed – the house where bread is kneaded is the home of happy people. The smell of freshly baked bread goes through the walls, goes out into the streets, tickles the noses of passers-by. The smell is just as sweet to everyone – it preserves the heritage of the hearth, and the family gathered around it.
Bread dough requires engaging with it. Seemingly made up of ordinary, not at all sublime things – yeast, flour, water, a grain of salt, a few drops of olive oil – which are the basis of survival in the worst circumstances.
When mixed, the result is a pale and not at all attractive mixture. And then the housewife’s hands come. They will knead, squeeze, shape, caress, punch, threaten, tickle, crush, drive it to grow, and develop. And only then, with that boost, the chemistry will work, and the dough will start to flourish.
From that moment on, only the sky is a limit: you can make it a pastry roll, large bread, cake, pizza, stuffed, with seeds, with nuts, with herbs, with meat, fruit, chocolate. You can also store a small piece in yeast for the future dough.
I know some loves whose stories are like the one about bread. At first, these were ordinary, inconspicuous things – a superficial greeting, perhaps a small collaboration, some shared coffee. Nothing that would suggest the strength that is hiding in the combination of two people.
And then all of a sudden, after quite some time, as if triggered by the hand of a heavenly baker, something started, worked, opened. And the two of them began to look at each other with completely different eyes as if they were seeing each other for the first time. And there it was: and joint touches and chemical explosions. That pale dough suddenly woke up and began to flourish, overpowering and filling the world with the joy of being in two. It is interesting to note that in today’s world, characterized by the quickness of every kind, such love is long-lasting. Never-ending. Without exception. I’m not sure why this is so. Is the reason hidden in the sheer simplicity of starting without high expectations or in a relationship that has had time to mature? Or is it all in a secret that, just like bread dough, a relationship requires some strain and effort, some renunciation, and care? I do not know.
What I do know (because I screwed up a few times) is that if you add too much water, the dough will be soggy and inedible. And it won’t grow as it should if you put it in the oven too soon. And it will be tasteless if you do not season it with the right amount of salt and sugar. And it will be hard and unattractive if you rush it. And it will not smell as divine, homemade, bready unless it is RIGHT.
Therefore, make an effort. Patiently. Slowly and carefully. Step by step, giving the dough time. And before you think, it will show whether the recipe you choose is the best for you. Don’t worry if it is not. Just change the flour and perfect the process. Sooner or later, your bread will smell far and wide. As we said, the smell of freshly baked bread is the smell of a happy home. In the meantime, we can practice together, with delicious bread snacks, such as these which I collected the recipe somewhere in Liguria, the focaccia’s homeland.
TEXT – Karmela Vukov Colic
PHOTO – Robert Blaskovich
Put a deciliter of warm milk, a teaspoon of sugar and yeast in a bowl. Cover and let it rise. Pour 500 grams of flour into a large bowl, add in 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of salt, then add the raised yeast. Mix with lukewarm water to get soft and supple dough, and knead with your hands for at least 5 minutes. Place back in a bowl coated with olive oil, cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.
Roll out the raised dough to 2 cm in height and place it in a greased and slightly salted baking sheet. Poke the surface with your fingertips and coat with olive oil. Top with olives, slices of salted anchovies, chopped dried tomatoes and rosemary, and a pinch of salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 180-200 degrees for twenty minutes until lightly golden. Serve sliced with a glass of good wine or beer.