Easy Bread: How to Make Focaccia

You’ve probably heard of everyone you know trying to make and feed a new sourdough starter during the quarantine. While that’s a very noble task, and there are certainly worse things to do than the feeding and care of something living right now, it’s also…a lot for some of us. Especially people who have never made bread. So if you’re looking for a beginner’s bread recipe that’s quick and easy and delicious, look no further! We’ve got you. And soon you’ll have fresh, warm focaccia!

You’re going to want to start with 1 1/3 cups of water that’s just about at 100 – 110 degrees fahrenheit. But I don’t have a thermometer! you may say. No worries, friend! The best way to tell if a water is at this temp is that if feels the same as a warm bath, something slightly above the temperature of your own skin. This is because if it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast. You want that yeast happy, which is why you’re going to add 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey to the water when you have it at temp, before you add 1 packet of dry yeast (1/4 oz). This will give the yeast something to eat. You’ll let the water, yeast, and honey sit for 5 to 10 minutes. When the yeast is activated, it will be bubbly and happy like in the picture below.

Once the yeast is activated, add 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/3 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 2 Tablespoons of salt. (Be sure to add the salt last as it, like hot water, can kill your yeast!) Mix it together with your hands, kneading lightly into a ball. It should look like this:

Cover the bowl with saran wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes to one hour, until it is doubled in size. After it is doubled, take it out and put it in a sheet tray. Let rise again for about 15 – 20 minutes. Now for the most satisfying part! Poke holes deep in the risen dough with your fingers, like so!

Next, cover the dough with more olive oil. Add whatever toppings, in whatever pattern you see fit. You can have a lot of fun with this, and add great flavor. I went fairly simple for mine, and used garlic, parmesan cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes. But this part is up to you! Be creative!

Lastly, bake at 350 degrees in a pre-heated oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until it is golden brown.

You can use this bread for anything savory! I like to dip mine in hummus, or cut it down the middle and make hummus, cucumber, tomato and sprout sandwiches with it. And, if you have left-over bread, stay tuned for our savory focaccia bread pudding recipe!

Making Your Own Broth

Why pay top dollar for bone broth when you can make your own AND scare your friends with your terrifying freezer full of bones and carcasses! Truly a two-for-one special!

Bone broth, broth, stock, etc is easy and basically free if you’re saving the bones and trimmings from your vegetables. All you’ll need are freezer bags, a stock pot/Instantpot/slow cooker, a mesh strainer, and a gallon-sized pitcher.

First, start saving your bones, skin, scraps from cooking in freezer bags. There are several routes to go here:

1.) If you want bone broth or just regular broth, keep all of the bones and meat scraps in their own bag. If you want, you can label your bags by the types of bones/shells (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, crawfish, etc.) or you can do what a friend calls their “Noah’s Ark” stock and just throw everything willy-nilly into one bag. (I do recommend separating land food from seafood however.)

2.) If you want to make stock, you can start keeping your meat trimmings and bones with your vegetable trimmings. Alternatively, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can keep the veggie trimmings to make a veggie stock. These trimmings can be from any vegetable you’d put in a soup, so onion and garlic skins and roots, celery leaf, carrot ends/peelings/tops, cuttings from leafy greens, tomato skins/cuttings, the woody ends of asparagus, mushroom stems, etc. The only things I wouldn’t put in would be potato scraps (those go out for composting), avocado (any parts of it), okra (it gets slimy), or tomato leaves (they’re slightly poisonous). Basically, if you could eat it raw, throw it in the bag.

3.) Mix and match. This is what I usually do. I buy a lot of leeks, which make broth particularly fragrant. So I may include lamb bones, leek tops, and mushroom stems to a bone broth to add more richness to flavor. You can also be a purist and stick with bones only.

When your bag is full (or half full if you’re using an Instantpot), you’re ready to make some broth!

Here are some good ratios to note:

1.) Instant Pot: Half of a gallon freezer bag

2.) Stove top: Full gallon freezer bag

3.) Crockpot: Half to full depending on the size of your crockpot

Cover with water. At this point you can also add aromatics if you desire–garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaf, etc.

For bone broth:

1.) Instant Pot: 2 hours on soup setting

2.) Stove top: 8 hours on low simmer, covered

3.) Crockpot: 24 hours on low

For broth/stock:

1.) Instant Pot: 30 minutes on soup setting

2.) Stove top: 4 hours on low simmer; be sure to skim any partulates that come to the surface when your broth hits a boil

3.) Crockpot: 8 hours on low

NOTE: If you’re making veggie stock or seafood stock, you can cut the cooking time above in half.

When it’s done, it will a rich yellow to brown color (depending on the bones), and your house will smell amazing.

Carefully strain your stock through a wire mesh strainer into a gallon-size plastic pitcher. Add salt 1 tsp at a time and stir to dissolve. Keep tasting until the broth starts to taste like the components of the broth. It will probably be at least two tablespoons of salt before that happens, so keep adding, stirring, and tasting until you’re happy with the content.

Your stock will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks and in the freezer for up to three months.

These recipes are meant to be played around with, so have fun with it! Find the flavor profile you like the most. Add dried ingredients to change it up–peppers and mushrooms are both excellent additions!

Once you know how to do this, making your own pho broth or tom yum base will be extra easy and you’ll never half to pay $9 for a quart of bone broth ever again.

Fun Facts: The difference between broth and stock is that broth uses bones with meat on them while stock uses just the bones. This gets confused by the term bone broth, however, which simply uses bones; the longer cooking times bring out the marrow and other healthy parts of the bone itself.

Stretch a Dime: If you want to make a traditional chicken broth, buy chicken on the bone (we recommend chicken quarters or half of a whole chicken) and add your aromatics. Remove the chicken meat when cooked through (approximately one hour on the stovetop or 25 minutes in the Instant Pot). Save these bones to use again for bone broth. This will give you double the use out of the same set of bones.