And so, as you see, I went with bread, and I am so glad I did. It has been ages since I worked with yeasted dough, and I had nearly forgotten how much I love everything about the process: the punky smell of the yeast as it hits the warm water, the way the flour goes from silky to sticky as it gets wet, kneading the dough until it becomes a stretchy, soft, compliant whole, the puffed-up feel of the transformed dough before it's punched down ... it's a tactile, engaging, and meditative activity.
That said, regular bread making - or more accurately, the resulting eating of it - tends be a bit more fattening than actual meditation, the reason I haven't made it for so long. It's just too tempting for me.
But I have decided I don't care anymore. This stuffed focaccia was so good that it is totally worth the subsequent Day of Penitential Salads. I mean, just look at that:
But it is different. See?
For the dough, I went with this foolproof recipe, with a few minor changes. If you are one of those people who gets nervous working with yeasted breads, this will be your gateway bread, I promise.
Here's what to do.
Weigh 1 pound of white AP or bread flour. Combine with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. In another bowl, add 7 grams of active dry yeast to 13.5 ounces warm water. Slowly add the water to the flour/salt and mix, along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. It will be shaggy at first. Once the dough comes together, dump onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. You will probably have to add a bit more flour to keep the dough from sticking to the surface. Now put your dough ball in an oiled bowl, cover it, and leave it alone in a warm place for 1 hour, by which time it should have doubled in size.
Next, punch down the dough and divide it into four equal balls. Cover and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. During this time, cube or grate some provolone, slice some green olives, and get the Genoa salami out of the fridge.
Take one of the dough balls and gently roll it out to a 1 inch thickness and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. I did it by hand. Lay 1/2 of the provolone, olives, and salami that you've prepared on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Take another dough ball, roll it out, and carefully place it on top, sealing the edges together. Repeat with the other two dough balls, cover and let rise for about 20 minutes, during which time you should preheat the oven to 425 F. If you have a baking stone, let it get nice and hot in the oven.
When you're ready to bake the stuffed focaccia, gently make a few depressions on the tops with your thumbs. Lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh oregano. Slide both focaccias onto the baking stone (a pizza peel is your best friend for this task) and bake until brown and puffy, about 25 minutes. They should look like this: