“Boy, I can’t wait to go cross-country skiing soon.”
Not telemark skiing. Not back-country skiing. Not ice climbing. Not winter camping. None of that.
No, the exact words were I can’t wait to go cross-country skiing soon.
I’m almost embarrassed. Granted, I can see myself back-country skiing in order to winter camp.
Back in the spring of 2003, when the milliner and I first started seeing each other, I suggested a day trip to Burlington, VT. The day we meant to go turned out to be the typical sunny spring day that makes you glad to be alive. The milliner, however, was sick as a dog, so we postponed the trip. A couple weeks later, we figured, hey, today seems like a good day. So off we drove. Relying on my keen sense of direction and memory, we completely overshot the exit, by about 100 km, and ended up crossing the border down by New Hampshire way, which of course elicited scorn from the border guard, who nevertheless handed us a map so we could find our way to Burlington.
So, driving along the back roads of Vermont, what could be better than to be hit by a late-season ice/wet snow storm, which slowed us down so much that by the time we got to Burlington the stores were closed, they had rolled up the sidewalks for the evening, we could hardly see the lake, and so forth. Yup, no one can show the ladies a good time like yours truly. Naturally, by now we’re kinda starving, but the restos along Church St. only offered the fine American dining specialty of deep-fried, well, everything, really.
However, as our frustration was hitting 11, we noticed Smokejacks. It looked cute, the menu looked great (woohoo, locally grown meats, veggies, wine and cheeses) and the cocktail list looked even better. In we go. As we looked over the menu, our stomachs borborygmic (hee), the waitress dropped a basket of bread on our table. I grab a square of what looked like corn bread, took a bite, and pretty much wet my pants. The milliner and I looked at each other, and pretty much said “oh fuck” at the same time. This was amazing. Soft bread, brimming with olive oil and rosemary and salty goodness. I was in heaven. I had never had foccacia this good before.
We’ve been back to Smokejacks several times since, sometimes when driving back from climbing, sometimes just driving down there just for another of their meals. I will sometimes call ahead and ask for foccacia to be set aside so that I can bring some home. After several attempts to replicate their recipe, I think I’ve come as close as possible to the ethereal thing. So here we go:
This is adapted from Dough, a book I highly, highly recommend, as would my personal tester, who occasionally leaves some crumbs for me.
- 18 oz bread flour
- 2 oz olive oil
- 15 grams (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
- 10 grams salt (I use gray)
- 11.5 oz lukewarm water
- more olive oil, some kosher salt, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary for the topping
(You may add some semolina to the dough for a more authentic method, but I didn’t have any, so there you go.)
In a bowl, work the salt and yeast into the flour, add the olive oil and water, and mix it all together. Turn onto a counter, and work the ingredients together. Lift the dough and slam it back onto the counter. Repeat. Repeat again. After about 5 minutes (seriously!), you’ll have a nice, uniform mass. Place back into the (lightly floured) bowl, cover and let it sit for an hour. Alternatively, I’ll let it rise for about 30 minutes and then place in the fridge while I run errands or whatever, which helps develop some lovely acids and stuff. Don’t ask me exactly how or what happens, because chemistry is hard.
Remove from the fridge, let it come to room temperature and, well, just ignore it. Grab a roasting pan or a deep-sided baking sheet (don’t ask me for measurements because, again, math is hard), oil it up, and turn the dough into it. Spread the dough out, but don’t worry about getting the dough spread to the sides. Leave it, covered, for about 45-60 minutes.
Come back, dimple the dough, drizzle the dough with olive oil, rosemary and salt, and leave, again, for another 45-60 minutes. The original recipe calls for only a 30-minute wait, but i found that leaving it for extra time made the final product much fluffier. And I’m nothing without my fluff. Just saying, is all. (Also, I was busy making supper so didn’t have the oven space for the bread.)
Bake in a preheated oven at 425F for about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and, if you can, let it rest.
Chris Sharma better look out. This (link shamelessly stolen from my bro) is my 4-year-old nephew, showing how to get your feet to a foothold above your head.
Notice the flag? Notice the amazing mantle? Notice the straight-arm technique? Hard core. Hard. Core. Then again, he was doing knee-bars at the age of one.