A year ago, getting out of a rough spot, I wrote about some things comfort is. Last week, I was back in a rough spot and in need of some good, old-fashioned comfort. I was was the most stressed I’ve been since arriving in A2, with end-of-semester assignments and tests, gnarly weather, and even petty stuff like my snow boots coming in too small, etc. It was just not my week and I really let the stress get to me more than I usually do.
Beyond comfort, I needed some good, old-fashioned self-compassion. I’d been struggling with feeling like I was not producing quality enough work, and dealing with the time crunch of doing ALLTHETHINGS I just got to a self-doubtful rut. And I had to take some deliberate steps back, and a couple of walks in the snowy cold to check myself.
In yoga this week, our instructor asked us to think about this universal truth: what you feed will grow. What are you feeding in your life? Are those things you want to grow? I realized that I’d been feeding my own insecurity, my own stress, my own doubt in my place here, and not feeding the good stuff more. I needed to refocus and re-feed my confidence, my grounding in myself, my self-compassion. I am a hard worker, I can and will get it all done and everything will shake out just fine in the end.
Anywhow, comfort right now looks like Friendsgiving, mom-just-knows care packages, and figassa. Despite my poor time management skills and it not being on the official “to do” list, it was worthwhile to make this bread. It tastes like home, and I need to feed that homey feeling to get me to December.
Figassa is a family treasure—there is no party without it. The recipe has been simplified over the years from my dad’s nonna‘s recipe. We call it figassa not focaccia because that’s the Ligurian dialect, where our family is from. Figassa/Focaccia/Fuh-whatever you want to call it, make this—it is so tasty, fluffy, amazingly olive-oily, and actually easy to make even for someone who is not a confident bread-baker (read: me). My mom sent me the recipe and I’m sharing it as is because it is hilarious and brought a huge smile to my face amid the stress…and I think you’ll enjoy it, too 🙂
Nonna’s FigassaAs told by my mom
- 5 cups bread flour, sifted (all-purpose flour works just fine)
- 1 cup milk (pretty much any fat %, just not non-fat)
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 package rapid rise yeast
- Olive oil olive oil and olive oil
- Sea salt
- Thinly sliced yellow onion (optional)
- Equipment :
- two large bowls (glass, metal, or ceramic—I used two big pots)
- Jelly roll pan, 10x 15 inches. Don’t use cookie sheet, they are too big
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Place one bowl in oven to warm for few minutes.
- Combine milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in small saucepan. Stir. Warm over low heat, remove from heat as soon as butter is melted and mixture is warm. Stir again. You do not want it to boil, you should be able to stick finger in. If too hot will kill the yeast later in process.
- To warmed bowl add half of flour. Add yeast, stir thoroughly, then stir in milk mixture with fork. Beat energetically and enthusiastically, until lumps are gone and your arm hurts.
- Stir in rest of flour, a quarter cup at a time. Incorporate all flour before adding next batch. Reserve about 1/3 cup for flouring kneading surface. It gets hard to do at the end, but don’t give up, Columbus didn’t!
- Flour surface with reserved flour. Place dough on floured surface, you will have to scrape bowl to get all sticky dough out.
- Rub olive oil on hands and knead, adding more flour to surface if necessary. Knead at least 3 minutes, until dough is smooth and comes together in ball. Then slam dough ball down onto surface 4 or 5 times. Great stress reliever. (Sidebar: this used to terrify me when my mom did this when I was little…but now I get to do it and it’s aweeeesomeeee)
- Drizzle some olive oil into second bowl, enough to lightly coat inside surface. Place dough ball into bowl. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, turn over and drizzle some more, so there is a ring of oil around dough. Olive oil, it’s a good thing.
- Cover with clean kitchen towel. Place either in oven (make sure it’s off) or sunny spot in kitchen to rise, at least 90 minutes. It will double. If it’s cold, like in Michigan where Emily is, you can turn oven on briefly, then place dough in oven to rise. Be sure to turn oven off or you will end up with a ginormous biscuit. I hope Emily comes home soon 😦
- Prepare baking pan by greasing with olive oil.
- Oil hands again. Cancel spa appointment, your hands are silky smooth again!
- Punch risen dough down middle, deflating the whole dough. Ouch. Pour into middle of pan, stretching to get it to all edges. Using fingertips, make finger holes all across surface. A very cute dimpled surface will be the result. On butts, not so much.
- Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, add thinly sliced onions if using.
- Return to oven that is not on, and let rise for 30 minutes. Remove.
- Heat oven to 425. Put jelly roll in oven, bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven. Brush lightly with MORE olive oil. Immediately slide long bamboo skewers or long knives under bread to let it cool without bottom getting soggy. No comment about other soggy bottoms.
- Cut into charming squares.
This. Stuff. Is. GOOD. Eat it plain, eat it with pesto, use it for some bomb breakfast sandwiches or a strata…just make it and eat it. You won’t regret it. And you get to say you made BREAD!
All right, it’s back to work for me…but until next time, buon appetito! 🙂