Bread is Life

I love bread.  Pizza is made with bread.  Bread pudding?  The best of its kind.  Quick, what food do you immediately think of when I say "Jesus Christ?"  That's what I thought. Indeed, bread IS life.  Without it, what would we honestly do?  Even the little things, like using it to mop up the remainders of an oily and/or saucy entree, would become infinitely less common and satisfying.  Like freedom and daylight savings time, bread is an aspect of my life that I am always thankful for.

And in continuation of our meals on reels tradition, I'd like to feature one of my favorite movie scenes featuring bread from one of the greatest "RomComs" of all time: Moonstruck.  In this particular scene, Loretta (played by Cher) seeks out her fiancée's brother, Ronnie (Nic Cage), to inform him of their upcoming wedding plans.  But what was thought to be a simple, break-the-news type conversation actually turns into a unanticipated yet typical Italian detour through passion, anger and guilt.  It's well acted, and pretty hilarious.

Check it out here.

Looking to channel your inner Ronnie Cammareri and do some bread making of your own?  We have a suggestion.

Herbed Focaccia

What You Need:

For the herbed oil:

3/4 cup olive oil

3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 cloves of garlic, minced

For the yeast mixture:

1 cup warm water

1 cup flour

1 package active dry yeast

For the bread:

1 cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons of mixed herbs (rosemary and thyme work nicely)

3 Tablespoons of the herbed oil mixture

4-5 cups of bread flour (all purpose flour works too)

Extra water (just in case...)

kosher salt

What To Do:

For the herbed oil:

Comine all ingredient in a small saucepan.

Stir over medium-low heat for about 7 minutes - don't let the garlice burn! The mixture should become nice and aromatic.

Remove from the heat and let it stand to cool.

For the yeast mixture:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1 cup of warm water (about 115 degrees F).

Let the mixture stand 5 minutes - it should start to foam and bubble a bit.

Add flour and mix well.

Cover and let it stand for about 1 hour.

For the bread:

Add the remaining water, oil and salt to the yeast mixture and mix it all together well. You can use a standing mixer like a Kitchen aid for this. You could try it with a large, hearty food processor as well.

Add 2-3 cups of flour, and herbs and mix. Mix it! Until it is smooooooth. Yeah.

Now, turn it out onto a floured surface and slowly knead. Knead it! All the while adding the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. If you have that fancy standing mixer equipped with a dough hook, you can keep it in there and let that gizmo do the work for you. If not, you're gonna have to do it yourself. Fortitude! It's worth it.

Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. It shouldn't be too sticky, but only slightly tacky. Like 70's wallpaper. If it's too sticky, add in a touch more flour - try 2 tablespoons at a time and go from there.

Transfer this dough to an oiled bowl. Cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Punch it! And turn it onto a lightly oiled 9x13 pan. Press the dough out to fit the pan and let it rise for 30 more minutes.

After the 30 minutes, press the surface of the dough with your fingertips to make little dimples on the top. Dimples are cute. Your bread should have them.

Brush the top with the herbed oil mixture and sprinkle with some kosher salt.

Bake the bread in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 and make for 20 minutes longer.

Save the rest of the herbed oil for dipping! Dip it!