I often depict myself as a barely-functional buffoon in the kitchen on this blog. I imagine it's more fun to read about some fool who is scarcely able to read baking instructions than a Julia Child protege that has his act entirely together.
Like most jokes, the idea that I'm not great in the kitchen is certainly rooted in truth—the worst grade I ever received as a student was in Home Ec, and I may be a little too comfortable improvising when no improvisation is called for. Although at this point, I'm probably average-ish at baking and cooking among American men in my age group...but for the sake of entertainment, I'll continue to write as if I'm the moron who can't measure quantities correctly or handle red hot baking sheets while cartoonishly clanging pots and pans around and spilling ingredients on the floor, upsetting my wife and pets with my gross incompetence.
I was left unsupervised for the mixing and baking of this bread, as the beautiful wifey got stuck on a late work call last evening. All too familiar with those unprompted improvisations mentioned above, she reminded me before I began baking that "the dough has to rise before you put it in the oven," knowing that my impatience might impel me to skip that step altogether.
The directions specify letting it rise "in a warm area." Not knowing whether the ambient winter temperature of our kitchen qualified as "warm," I helped the mixture along by placing it in front of a space heater. But that was my only improvisation. Well, okay, I subbed avocado oil for extra virgin olive oil since it was the only cooking oil we had on hand.
Honestly, the bread came out pretty good. I might have left it in the oven a few minutes too long, as the crust around the edges got just a tad too dark and firm. The herbs were nice and flavorful, but not overbearing. The bread itself was wonderfully soft, dense, and slightly doughy on the inside, while just a shade firmer than that on the outside. I thought they might have overdone it with the sea salt in the mixture. That I can blame on Trader Joe's, since I added absolutely no extra salt or seasonings other than what came in the pack.
$2.99 for 12 servings of focaccia bread. Considering the only additional ingredients called for are oil and water, that's a pretty good value, and it's easy enough for this dummy to make without adult supervision. Would buy again.
Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.
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