I dream of Standard Baking. I have serious pastry issues. I’ve traveled the world, specifically going out of my way to eat at the world’s finest bakeries, and my favorite…hands down…is Standard Baking in Portland Maine.
At first, I thought it was just nostalgia. When my attending handed me a warm Morning Bun after my first night of white-knuckled terror on call as an intern at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was a total out-of-body experience.
That’s pretty hard to beat. But I’ve been back many times over the past 14 years, without the fatigue or adrenaline to cloud my judgement, and it’s that good. Everything they make is perfect, and has become the standard by which I judge.
Now I haven’t mustered up the courage to make their Morning Buns (something like a croissant, wrapped up like a cinnamon roll, but covered in caramel goo and pecans and heaven). But I have managed to recreate the focaccia. My perennial herb garden survived the winter and is producing loads of thyme and sage, perfect for this recipe. Like the Standard focaccia, it’s chewy, slightly herby and most importantly…a little salty.
Don’t forget the salt.
- 4½ cups bread flour
- 2 t. instant yeast
- 1½ t. table salt
- 3 T. olive oil
- 2 cups water
- 2-3 T chopped mixed fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, winter savory.
- Olive oil and coarse kosher salt for finishing
- Knead the flour, yeast, table salt, 3T. olive oil and water together in a mixer until smooth and elastic. It should be a soft dough that sticks a bit at the bottom of the bowl.
- Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let raise until doubled, about 1½-2 hours.
- Carefully deflate the dough, and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Stretch the dough gently into a ovalish-rectangle, large enough so the dough is only about an inch thick.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to raise for another 30-40 minutes.
- While the dough raises for the second time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop up the herbs.
- At the end of the 2nd raise, pour 3-4 T olive oil over the dough, spreading it gently with your fingers and creating little dimples in the dough with your fingertips.
- Spread the herbs around and finish with a dusting of coarse salt.
- Allow it to raise again for another 10-15 minutes to restore the puffiness.
- Bake for 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
- Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and eating, if you can wait that long!