I am toast.
In the past four days, I have criss-crossed the country for work, racking up something like 8,500 flight miles and spending about thirty hours in either the air or airports.
Ironically, it was the shortest piece of the travels, a mere 500 miles to Fairbanks and back yesterday, that really did me in.
Business travel isn't fun, but it doesn't particularly bother me either. I missed the Oscars and my friends' Oscar party for the first time in years, although I did manage to win the Oscar pool in absentia.
Before I left, though, David and I had dinner with my friends Sondra and Stephan, who have a new baby. This involved our making dinner at our house, packing up a small catering operation and hauling it down the road to their house. We wanted to leave them with enough food for another meal, since their lives are so hectic right now.
One of the dishes I made was a classic focaccia alla genovese--focaccia from Genoa. I can't help but note that when we went to Italy last year, David was dead set against going to Genoa, which is a large port town. It isn't as flashy or famous as a lot of Italian cities, but the museums are fantastic and we had some very good food.
To speed up the process of making this bread, I turned the oven on to its lowest temperature (170 degrees) just prior to each of the bread rising periods. I then turned the oven off when I put the bread in to proof and rise. It sped up the process by a good hour, and the texture of the bread was fantastic.
I was sad to have left the rest of the bread behind, because I would have loved to pack a focaccia sandwich for my travels.
Focaccia Alla Genovese with Thyme
Adapted from the CIA's Italian Cooking at Home
1 cup 2 percent milk
1 tsp. sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping bread
3/4 cup warm water
5 tbsp. good-quality olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. thyme, chopped
1 tsp. coarse flaked sea salt
Warm the milk on the stove or in the microwave to 100 degrees--I used a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Cool the warmed milk for a minute, then add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Set aside for about fifteen minutes; it should begin to foam.
In a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, two tablespoons of olive oil, the yeast mixture, the water and the kosher salt. Mix on medium until the dough is smooth and elastic, about five minutes.
Flour a work surface and tip the dough onto it. Using your hands, shape the dough into a rough square, then bring each of the corners to the center. Turn the dough over and tuck the ends in so the dough is circular. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter to relax, about half an hour.
While it is relaxing, preheat the oven again. Prepare your baking pan--I used a small paella pan, which worked perfectly. Brush the pan with two tablespoons of olive oil, include the sides. Then pat the dough into the pan using your hands. Turn off the oven, cover the plan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise one more time. This should take 30-40 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Press fingers lightly into dough to create dimples in it. Combine the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and thyme and allow to steep while the oven is heating. Then brush the bread with the oil and sprinkle the flake sea salt on top.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bread is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and cut into wedges.
Makes 10 to 12 good-size focaccia wedges.