You may or may not know I really love to cook. It’s one of those desires, however, that’s quite fickle. If I don’t have hours on end to devote to the preparation of some scrumptious gourmet feast, I usually don’t bother to even make a stir fry. At school, I become a slave to the convenient stores down Broadway, sometimes picking up a Chipotle burrito or a sandwich … most of the time eating cereal. So if you met me at Columbia, you probably haven’t seen me cook much. But deep down I like to think of myself as kind of like her, or these people, or her, or even him.
I’ve had my fair share of horror stories: using wine vinegar instead of white vinegar for a chicken cacciatore; serving lumpy, oily pancakes to a group of terrified friends; not to mention searing my arm with a bread pan and chopping my thumb while attempting to cut a rutabaga (Why are they so darn tough?). That brings me to my latest dilemma: killing the yeast.
Yeast is one of those ingredients that you have to get just right. First, you can’t use old yeast, because it’s probably dead. And if you don’t heat up the milk and butter enough, the liquid is not enough to activate the yeast, while if you heat it up too much, the mixture will kill it. I’ve screwed this up a number of times before and learned my lesson: Just use a thermometer to make sure the temp is perfect, watching the guage like a dingo watches a human baby. But this time, being a minimalist/college student, I had no thermometer, and so I, naively, just hoped for the best.
After gazing at the dough for a forlorn two hours, I decided it was time to give up. The dough was just sitting there, defiantly. But then I got to thinking and realized something. People eat bread without yeast all the time! So with the help of the world wide web, I came up with my own little version of yeastless focaccia bread. And I enjoyed doing it very much.
There are a few morals to this story. Don’t give up just because your plans didn’t pan out the way you thought they might. Make time for the things that really bring you joy and satisfaction—it can be so refreshing to create rather than to just consume. And—shucks. Friday suite dinners are the best tradition ever.
As promised, here’s the recipe! It ended up being pretty delicious, if I do say so myself:
Lifesaver focaccia bread:
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
2 tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 1/2 tsp dried basil or thyme
1/4 cup grated cheese
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tomato, cut into small pieces
Pepper, to taste
Mix together 1 1/4 cups of flour and the herbs, garlic, baking powder, salt, and pepper. In a saucepan heat milk, butter, and sugar until butter melts, stir together and add it with an egg into dry ingredients. Stir together until well blended, and then stir in the rest of the flour. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 and grease a 9×13″ baking pan. Shape the refrigerated dough into a ball and cover the sides with the olive oil. Spread the dough into the pan so that it is about 1/2″ thick everywhere. Top the dough with the tomato pieces and press into the dough. After baking the bread for 20 minutes, top with grated cheese. Put back in oven for another 5 minutes until golden, and enjoy with many people around the dinner table.