The water used to activate the yeast must be at the correct temperature
The recommended temperature should be between 110-120 degrees fahrenheit. If the water's too cool, the yeast will not become activated and your bread dough will not rise properly. Too hot and the water temperature will kill the yeast. If you're just starting out, the best advice is to use an quick-read thermometer to test the temp, and once you've done it a couple of times, you'll be able to tell with your finger if the water's at the right temp.
You'll know you're done kneading the dough when it's smooth, resilient and elastic, and looks something like this:
Allow your dough to rise in warm place, free from drafts
I like to turn my oven on the its lowest temperature setting for about 2-4 minutes, then turn off the oven. This creates the perfect warm environment for dough to rise, especially if you have a drafty kitchen, like I do. After it rises, it will look something like this:
These are just a few tips. For a complete list of basic bread-making techniques, click here. Onto the recipe at last!!
Herbed Focaccia Bread
1 tsp. sugar
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 cup warm water (see my tip above about temperature)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/3 cups + 2 T. all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 T. Italian herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. (If yeast activates properly, you'll know b/c the water will become all bubbly and foamy.) Stir in sea salt. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and spoons; level with knife. Add 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, stirring to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/3 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at at time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts, for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)
Place dough on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; pat into a 12x8-inch rectangle. (I used a 9x13 pan instead of a baking sheet and it worked just fine, too.) Brush olive oil over dough; sprinkle with Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make indentations in top of dough using the handle of a round, wooden spoon or your fingertips. (I used the end of a rubber spatula b/c my wooden spoons have square handles!) Here's how:Sprinkle dough evenly with sea salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack. And this is what it will (hopefully) look like: Then cut into squares and proceed to devour! Yield: 10 servings