The Child was on a school trip this week, leaving me on my own. Although it feels like I should have taken the opportunity to go on a trip somewhere myself, the truth of the matter is, there isn’t anywhere in particular I want to go. Or at least, there isn’t anywhere in particular I want to go that I can get to and from in between the times I need to deliver her at and retrieve her from the airport.
But having one’s house to oneself is a sort of vacation, especially when one suddenly has more time, fewer schedules. For example, there’s no one to drive to school in the morning, so I can wake up a little later – or I could have, had The Child not forgotten there was a time difference and called at 5am, urgently needing a document emailed to her.
I should have minded, but it was nice to be needed, just for a moment: A moment isn’t the same as all the time.
The rest of the time was my own; I came and went on my own schedule, and ate and cooked as I pleased.
Left to my own devices, with no one to please but myself, I cooked a couple of meals, a stir-fried dinner of sausage and vegetables, and a lunch salad of leftover chicken, grilled bread, and fresh spinach that was pretty tasty. But mostly, I didn’t feel like cooking, and preferred a big hunk of crusty bread with lots of butter, and a side of fresh berries. Simple, satisfying.
One of the leftovers I had was this lovely focaccia bread that I made before The Child left. It’s from Samantha Seneviratne’s upcoming cookbook, The New Sugar and Spice, which is available in the UK, while the US edition will be available this fall and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. I was lucky to receive an advance copy for review purposes, and it’s one of the nicer baking books I’ve seen recently: Recipes are organized by type of spice used in the recipes (Cinnamon, Cardamom), with each section introduced with an essay that is a little bit of personal reminiscence, and a lot more history of the spice, how it is used, its origins.
The recipe is in the cinnamon section, but since I love the combination on blueberries with lemon, I swapped out the cinnamon for some grated lemon zest. It’s a very simple, forgiving recipe – you can use any kind of berry, or use the cinnamon, or maybe some vanilla sugar – whatever you want to top it with would probably work. I got a little impatient during the last rise, so I probably didn’t let it rise enough, but it was still light and tasty – and definitely bread, not cake, which is just as well, because it doesn’t need any more sweetness with all the juicy berries and sweet, crunchy sugar crust on top.
It’s a lovely way to start the day, especially a warm, lazy day, when you have no particular place you need to be except right where you are.
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided
- 2 cups bread flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar, divided
- 2½ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ cups warm (not hot) water
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- ¾ tsp grated lemon zest
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, ¼ cup of the sugar, the yeast, and the salt.
- In a small bowl, combine the warm water, ¼ cup of the melted butter, and the egg.
- Turn mixer on low speed, add the water mixture, and mix until a dough starts to form. Switch to the dough hook, and use it to knead the dough about five minutes, until smooth and elastic. The dough should still be somewhat sticky; this is fine.
- Butter a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it into the bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm place until it doubles in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl onto a buttered work surface, and knead it several times, then put it back in the bowl until it has doubled again.
- Spread two tablespoons of the remaining melted butter in the bottom of a jelly-roll pan. Tip the dough into the pan, then use your fingers to stretch it out to fill the pan. Set the dough aside to rise (yes, again), until it is higher than the pan sides.
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the lemon zest.
- When the dough has finished rising, heat over to 450 degrees. While you wait for the oven to heat, use your fingers to poke small dimples all over the dough surface. Then, spread the remaining melted butter all over the top. Sprinkle half the lemon-sugar mixture on top of the butter, then scatter the berries over the sugar. Sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture on top of the berries.
- Bake until it's a delightful shade of brown and completely set, even under the berries, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly in the pan, then move to a cutting board, cut into pieces, and enjoy while still warm.