This article is part of the Basically Guide to Better Baking, a 10-week, 10-recipe series designed to help you become a cooler, smarter, more confident baker.
I am not a baker. I don’t just flit home after work to make Earl Grey yogurt cake, like some of my colleagues. I don’t take on pastry projects over the weekends or post naturally-lit side angles of my laminated crumb structures on Instagram. There was a minute, last spring, when someone gave me a sourdough starter, sparking halcyon dreams of my brave new future as a bread bro; months later, I found it in the back of my fridge—dead.
Luckily, I live in a neighborhood full of old-school Italian bakeries, so I told myself I could purchase all my carbs pre-baked and still live a full life. But still, the feeling lingered. The ghost, perhaps, of that neglected yeasty goo-boy still slumbering with the fishes in his refrigerated prison cell. I wanted to bake; I just didn’t think I had it in me.
Then one day, in the no man’s land of the BA shared Google drive, I happened upon this recipe for no-knead focaccia.
“It’s easy!” said Sarah Jampel, the recipe’s creator, who very much is one of those casual weekend laminators. I didn’t fully believe her, but the ingredient list looked pleasingly simple: dry yeast, flour, butter, honey, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Literally, that was it. Seven things. And besides the yeast, I had everything in my ill-equipped kitchen already. So one rainy Saturday, I decided to put my baggage aside and give it a try.
Go slow. I told myself, recalling failed cookie attempts past where hasty prep work led to the unfortunate exclusion of key ingredients like sugar. But the steps here were so easy I found myself flying: whisk yeast, honey, and water and set it aside. Watch the yeast foam—it’s alive! (Not dead!) Add flour and salt and mix, mix, mix. Coat it with oil, stick it in the fridge, and…wait, what? You’re done for the day. It can sit and chill for 8–24 hours.
Come Sunday, I returned to the fridge to find my dough blob had expanded to twice its original size—exciting! Its bubbly surface assured me that I had not yet murdered it. So into a buttered, oiled baking pan it went. You can opt for a baking sheet as well, but the pan’s taller sides, Sarah told me, beget a thick focaccia that’s perfect for sandwiches, and I’m all about that. Just let it sit somewhere warmish while you watch 1.5 to 4 hours of Cheer on Netflix. (JERRY!)