Margaret Button: Kneading is good for anxiety, aggression

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This week's column is brought to you from my dining room table — my workspace for the foreseeable future. I always thought working from home would be fun, but I miss all my coworkers at The Eagle — and the market; my son insisted I distance myself from all the people I deal with as a cashier. So, here I am, hanging out with my Lab, Sassy, and watching the neighbors as they circle the block on their now-seemingly-endless walks.

There are perks to being home. I have an extra 90-minutes (or more) a day due to not commuting. I'm also saving money by not having to buy gas. And there is, of course, the time to make French-press coffee every morning — a literal perk, tee-hee!

I had wondered why everyone on social media was turning to baking their own bread. I now know — it takes time and if kneading is called for, it helps relieve anxiety and aggression. One problem — yeast and flour seem to be going the way of toilet paper. I was able to score some this weekend (yeast and flour, no TP) and decided to get back into the bread game. When I was growing up homemade bread, bagels and English muffins were a staple, thanks to my stay-at-home mom (from boredom on her part?!). I hadn't worked with yeast in ages and decided to tackle something easy ... Next time, instead of Italian seasoning and coarse salt, I want to try everything bagel seasoning.

RIDICULOUSLY EASY FOCACCIA BREAD

(From thecafesucrefarine.com)

Prep Time 15 mins

Cook Time 25 mins

Rising Time 10 hrs

Total Time 40 mins

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast 

2 cups warm tap water

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1 teaspoon soft butter for greasing pan

4 tablespoons olive oil divided

Italian seasoning or finely chopped fresh herbs

Flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the dough:

In a medium-large bowl, combine flour, salt, and instant yeast. Stir well. Add the warm water. Using a whisk, mix until all of the flour is well incorporated (there should be no small pockets of flour). Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Lightly butter two 9-inch cake pans. Line pans with parchment paper. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into the center of each pan. Divide dough in half with a large spoon or rubber spatula and place one piece of dough in each pan, turning to coat with oil. Tuck edges of dough underneath to form a rough ball.

Cover each pan tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough balls to rest for 2 hours (it may take as long as 3 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen). The dough should cover most of the pan.

Bake:

Preheat oven to 450  F with a rack positioned in the center of the oven.

Drizzle another tablespoon of oil over each round of dough. With oiled fingers, using both hands, press straight down and create deep dimples that go all the way through the dough (you'll actually be making deep holes.) If necessary, gently stretch the dough as you dimple to allow the dough to fill the pan.

Sprinkle tops with Italian seasoning (or fresh herbs) and flaky sea salt.

Transfer the pans to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 425  F. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, until the tops are golden and the undersides are crisp. Remove pans from the oven. Remove bread rounds from the pans and transfer to a cooling rack.

Serve warm or allow to cool completely then store in a zippered bag.


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