In the College town of Tempe, Arizona, there is a wonderful Bakery/Wine store plus a lot more, called Tracy Dempsey Originals. One of the terrific aspects of this local business are the Cooking classes Tracy teaches in her professional kitchen. My granddaughter Michael and I took a bread baking class from her and made many wonderful varieties of breads: Olive bread, Focaccia, Naan, muffins and other goodies. I will not reprint Tracy’s recipes here, (there might be some kind of a copyright thing, and I don’t want to get in trouble with Tracy. She carries a BIG rolling pin!)
So why am I writing this at all if I’m not going to print Tracy’s recipes? Because the class we took inspired me to go back to my many recipes from classes I have taught, my years as a caterer, and just my general interest in bread recipes. The basic recipe below is one I have had for 40 years or more. There was a very popular restaurant called Monti’s la Casa Vieja in downtown Tempe by the Town Lake. It has a long historical story here. And when it closed a couple of years ago we almost cried. I have a menu from the 70’s which said “Monday night Filet Mignon special, $5.95”. The first thing they served you was a basket of Rosemary Bread with whipped butter. Today we would perhaps use olive oil for the topping. But oh, the memories of that onion/rosemary warm bread!
For years I have made Sheet pan breads. I’m probably just too lazy to roll it, knead it, let it rise twice as you would do with normal loaves…..so I really enjoy this method. The difference in the bread I make and the one Michael and I made at Tracy’s class was that the very nature of a Focaccia bread is the ‘Holey’ texture. (the best ones have lots of holes). Tracy’s bread for the class was topped with Chopped marinated artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes. So delish. But this bread is a little different. It has a more even texture, but is perfect for cutting into small cuts for crostini, etc. There are so many things that can be done with Flat breads….AHHH! there it is: Make a FLAT bread just like you’d make a pizza. Roll out the dough on a cookie sheet, spread with red or white sauce, and pick your pleasure. We like pepperoni, or Ham and Pineapple, mushroom, peppers, onions…..We also like to roll out small individual crusts and serve a bunch of toppings on the side for people to make their own. Top with cheese or not. Anything YOU like!
You can also make these breads sweet. Try spreading the rolled out dough generously with butter and sprinkling with cinnamon sugar. Some of the goodies you can add could be dates, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips….let the kids help!
ROSEMARY/ONION BREAD (a version of the Monti’s Roman Bread served for over 50 years)
About 6 cups bread flour or all purpose flour* *Never add flour all at once. A little at a time will be the way to get the correct texture. I used to say in my bread classes that the dough is ready to rise when it feels like a baby’s bottom (a chubby baby!)
1 Tbs. dry yeast (1 pkg)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 cups warm water
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs Olive oil
Dried rosemary leaves
1 small onion, sliced thinly on a mandolin if possible.
In a warm glass or metal bowl combine water, yeast, salt, sugar, and whisk until yeast is dissolved. Stir in sliced onion. Add flour a cup at a time, whisking first, then stirring with a large spoon and then with your hands when it’s too thick to stir. Begin kneading when your hands can gather it all together. Then knead on a board, adding bits of flour, till it’s a nice soft dough. Wash out bowl with hot water. Dry it and spread oil around the bottom and sides. Drop the dough into the bowl. Turn it over and lay a soft light towel over. Let rise till double. Knead for a minute and roll it out into a large flat rectangle and put on a sheet pan. Brush liberally with olive oil and sprinkle rosemary over. NOTE: Some people like to save some of the onion to sprinkle on with the rosemary. This makes a nice crispy onion top. Its up to you!
Bake at 425 degrees about 20 minutes.
And one more time, Thanks Tracy. This is the beautiful wedding cake she made for my daughter. When you work with Tracy, you feel like you’ve made a new friend. (reach her at 602-376-9021)