The Bay Area is full of beautifully baked fresh bread. From small operations like Tartine and La Farine, to bakeries with larger distributions, freshly baked bread can be found in almost every neighborhood. Even Cotsco has an aisle selling fresh Acme bread. I cannot stress enough how lucky we are. When I was growing up in North County San Diego, crunchy fresh bread was an exotic treat, only obtainable when we traveled to New York or sometimes Los Angeles, but nowhere to be seen in the near vicinity of my house. Yet although a fresh loaf can be found within a five-minute walk from where I live now, I still like to occasionally bake my own bread.
Like most people, I love the smell of freshly-baked bread. I'm a smelly person. Not smelly, as in I smell bad (at least I hope not), but smelly, as in I am very olfactory-driven. This is both a blessing and a curse. While I am able to smell hints of lavender or citrus not always discernible to others, smells I hate – such as disinfectant or what it disinfects -- seem to shoot through my nasal passages and into my brain (right below my right eye). So making bread is an act to not only feed my family and myself, but to nourish my nose as well. Homemade bread fills the house with the most wonderful lingering aroma, and as a bonus I also get to eat it.
One bread I enjoy making at home is focaccia. In addition to thinking it's one of the easier breads to bake, I also love that it can accommodate a variety of toppings. Although it is most often baked with sea salt and rosemary, you can easily add thyme or sage instead, not to mention goat cheese, caramelized onions, olives, garlic, nuts, anchovies, and fresh tomatoes.
Focaccia is a traditional Italian bread; its recipe dates at least as far back as ancient Rome, when it was called panis focacius. Like pizza, it is made from a simple yeast dough that is often cooked with olive oil. The dough is pretty straightforward and easy to make. Best of all, making focaccia at home will fill your kitchen with warm and comforting smells, which is something you can't buy at Costco.
Following is my recipe for caramelized cipollini onion focaccia. The onions add a sweet flavor that plays off the salt nicely. Feel free to use chopped kalamata olives instead, add goat cheese, or just use herbs and salt. Whatever you do, your house will smell delicious.