Do you ever feel like you’re just waiting? Waiting for that ‘perfect’ something, or someone (in some cases)? I find myself saying, “I can’t wait until…” or “I’ll be happy when…” a lot. Often times, the larger of these statements are boggled by some kind of grandiose expectation that meeting a specific event, experience, or even person could be the cure-all to my problems, the pivotal moment in which life magically gets better.
For the longest time, judge me not, my statement of choice was, “I can’t wait until/I’ll be happy when I’m 30.” Actually, to be quite honest, it still is. 30, to me, has always seemed like the perfect number or age for life to fall into its rightful place. That is, the age at which I’ve presumed I’d have a stable and satisfying career, marriage (perhaps), savings account, and so on, and so forth. Essentially, the age at which I’d have it all together…or, so I’d like to think.
But the truth of the matter is this: no one can guarantee the future, yours or mine. All we really have is today, right now. No one can predict tomorrow for anyone. For all I know, I could have none of the things that I supposedly want for myself by the age of 30, or it could take exponentially longer than I expect. And, who’s to say that once I have those things, I’ll reach the state of sheer happiness anyway? My happiness does not need to depend on a specific ‘eureka’ moment or number or person, but rather, the decision to be content with what I have and make of today. Things could always be better, and things could always be worse. I’ve come to realize that instead of relying so whole-heartedly on contingent events and socially-contrived and acceptable timelines and lifestyles, we must have faith, exercise gratitute, and choose to be happy each and every single day.
Why wait until (insert line here) to be happy?
Unless, of course, it’s to wait for this magnificient focaccia to come together. Then, by all means, wait away, because you won’t be able to stop yourself once you pull this beauty out of the oven. It could, perhaps, be the best focaccia you’ve ever tasted. I know I couldn’t resist the smoky, sweet, and salty flavors deliciously mingled together in this ever-so-perfectly crisp and textured work of art. I’d say this could change your perspective on focaccia forever, especially if you’re like me and are used to the spongey, olive-laden ones you can easily purchase or overlook at your nearby grocery store or bakery. Meh…
The assurance of your happiness ultimately depends on you, and is an opportunity for you to seize the day. We can try our best to reframe our minds to get rid of the “I can’t wait until’s” and “I’ll be happy when’s,” but a little (or, a lot) of anticipation doesn’t hurt when it comes to making and eating this. I vow that it is just that good, and I can’t wait until/I’ll be happy when you see and try for yourself.
Hickory Smoked Grape Focaccia with Rosemary
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
3/4 cup (177 ml) warm water (105° to 110°F)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk, slightly warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons (5 grams) active dry yeast
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
6 tablespoons (90 ml) hickory smoke olive oil, flavored or regular olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved Concord, red or black grapes, seeded
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles
2 tablespoons (8 grams) raw or another coarse sugar
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the water, milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix well on low. Attach the dough hook, raise the speed to medium-low and knead the dough for 8 minutes longer.
[And yes, you can stir this together entirely by hand with a wooden spoon, then smash it around on a floured counter to “knead” it for a bit. It’ll be sticky, but doable, and of course you’ll get to say you made bread “old school” style. This is what I did]
Brush a large bowl with a generous amount of olive oil. Scrape dough into the bowl and brush the top with additional oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a cool place until it doubles in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Press the dough down with a floured hand. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two balls. Brush a large baking sheet (or two small ones) with olive oil, place the balls of dough on it and brush the top with more oil. Set it aside for 20 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel. After 20 minutes, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch each ball of dough into a 8 to 9-inch circle-ish shape. It will be dimpled from your fingers. Cover again with the towel and let it rise for another 1 1/4 hours in a cool place.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush tops of dough with remaining olive oil and top the sprinkle grapes, rosemary, coarse sugar and coarse sea salt evenly over the dough. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and puffed around edges. Let cool before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Try not to eat the whole thing like, uh, some people we might know.