Reading, Writing, and Cooking (just a bit)

One of my vacation reads.

Okay, okay—I know I am not in Tuscany and I am at one of our state’s lakes,  BUT it is so quiet and peaceful here that I sometimes pretend I am enjoying the Tuscan countryside,  too.  Especially as I am just about to finish A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi.    I love this book and its prequel,  A Thousand Days in Venice.  Both are filled with De Blasi’s musings on life (and life changes) and full of fantastic recipes.

So in honor of lake life and living one’s life to the fullest like De Blasi,  I am spending the morning cooking one of her recipes included in the book.   It is at the end of the chapter, “The Valley is Safe, and We will Bake Bread.”

Now remember, yesterday I mentioned that I was getting along just fine without the Kitchen Aid.

Tuscan Flatbread from A Thousand Days in Tuscany
(Schiacciata Toscana)

1 T.  dry yeast
1 scant t. dark brown sugar
2 1/4 c. luke warm water
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 t. fine sea salt
6 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (I used a combination of whole wheat and bread flour.)
1 c. finely ground yellow cornmeal (I used a medium ground for more texture.)
2 T. fresh rosemary leaves, minced fine
coarse sea salt  and fresh ground pepper (optional)
additional olive oil for baking pans, drizzling and final glossing

In a large bowl, mix the yeast and the sugar into the water and stir.  Let set for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, stir the oil and salt together.  Pour into the yeast mixture.  Begin to add the flour, one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Add the cornmeal all at once and mix  to form a soft, dry dough.  IF the dough feels too sticky,  add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. 

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes.  Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel.  Let rise for one hour or until doubled.

Punch down and divide dough in two.  Spread onto two round prepared pizza pans. You might have to stretch the dough and then let it rest, coming back to it in a few minutes.    (De Blasi states, “The dough will fight a bit, but don’t be tempted to use a rolling pin.”)

Cover the bread with clean towels and let rise for half an hour.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Press fingertips and/or knuckles into the bread creating indentations.  Drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with rosemary, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Chop the rosemary VERY fine.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.  When done, transfer to wire racks to cool.  May brush with more olive oil.

De Blasi also writes that this bread is traditionally  “torn and passed around the table,  hand to hand”  instead of being cut.

I could not wait to tear into it.

I took a few liberties and used a bit of whole wheat flour which I brought to make pancakes and some medium milled cornmeal in the off chance we catch fish.     I packed some of our own rosemary along for the trip so I have fresh on hand.

I can’t tell you the last time I actually kneaded bread.  Well, actually, yes I can.  It had to be about thirty years ago when Mom was “forcing”  me to knead bread for a 4-H contest.  Now, I always use my dough hook.  I also can’t tell you the enjoyment I experienced with this simple task.  Life is slowing down.

A romantic table for two.

Tonight, we will have this bread lakeside,  some nice goat cheese and maybe some sliced peaches and nectarines.  I will pair this with a Primativo, my new favorite Italian wine.   (Primativo is basically an Italian zinfandel.)

One more allusion to Tuscany—I got stung by a scorpion last night.  My friends were freaked out when I emailed them this morning.  They were frantic that I go to the hospital!   My sister was worried enough to google it.  She sent me a link from our state’s teaching hospital stating that scorpions in our area weren’t deadly.

Painful, yes;  deadly, no.

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