I host a monthly fiction book club. Successfully running for about 2 ½ years, our lineup ranges from historical fiction to surrealism to sci-fi and everything in between. I started the club with visions of it becoming a modern version of the traditional salon… a gathering of like-minded individuals discussing a shared interest, in this case – reading and books.
The other day, a potential new member asked me if we tackle uncomfortable issues – poverty, homelessness, women’s issues, and BLM. This was my response (in part):
“This is a fiction book club and while the books we read have, at certain times, focused on various issues such as slavery, poverty, the rise of Nazism in Germany, family issues, etc., these topics are always couched within a fictionalized story. Our primary focus is reading for pleasure and a good discussion.”
After responding, I felt guilty – guilty for reading for mere pleasure and a good discussion. In the face of MAGA, global warming, COVID-19, school shootings, and BLM, why am I gathering a group together to discuss fanciful escapism stories? Shouldn’t we be tackling these bigger issues? And what about my blogging? Why am I spending hours testing, writing, photographing and posting a recipe for some complicated artisanal version of bread when children in my own city went to bed last night without a morsel in their belly? Shouldn’t I focus on moving the needle rather than my own pleasure? Could I be doing more? Should I be doing more?
I’m confident I’m not alone in this feeling and, I decided, we need to cut ourselves some slack. We can donate, march, vote, and volunteer to support the causes important to us, but we aren’t doing anyone good if we don’t also support ourselves through self-care: recharging by doing the things we love like reading and cooking and gathering socially. It’s a balance – no guilt required.
I seem to be a collector of flours. I currently have eight (eight!) in my refrigerator, which doesn’t include the All-Purpose in my pantry. I chose this recipe to help use up leftover semolina flour. This recipe was inspired by artisan semolina bread from breadworld.com.
Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread
This is a hearty, savory bread that’s great for toast and rustic sandwiches. The Poolish needs to be started the night before.
- 1 cup bread flour
- ½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
- ¾ cup warm water (105⁰ – 110⁰ F.) Dough
- ½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
- ¾ cup warm water (105⁰ – 110⁰ F.)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 cups semolina flour
- ½ – ¾ cup bread flour
- 8 slices bacon, fully cooked and crumbled
- 8 scallions, finely sliced
- 1 cup strong-flavor grated cheese (such as aged white cheddar)
- 2 Tablespoons dried sage
- Make Poolish: Stir together flour and yeast in a medium bowl. Add water and stir until blended. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight or up to 24 hours at room temperature. The poolish will become frothy.
- Make Dough: Dissolve yeast in water and let rest for 5 minutes. In the bowl of a mixer, combine water, poolish, olive oil and salt and mix on low speed with a dough hook until blended. Add semolina and ½ cup bread flour and continue mixing on low until fully combined. If dough is too sticky, add additional bread flour, if needed. On medium speed, knead dough with a dough hook for 5about minutes until dough becomes a silky, smooth ball.
- Add bacon, scallions, cheese and sage and knead about another minute until ingredients have combined. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and proof in a warm location for about an hour or until doubled in size.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Working with each half, pull the edges of the dough towards the center, working your way around and shaping it into a round ball. Turn the ball over, cupping the sides of the ball, and roll the bottom around in a circle until the top is smooth and tight. Place both boules on a parchment-lined rimless baking sheet. Cover with cling film, ensuring the cling film does not touch the dough and proof for another hour.
- Preheat oven to 475⁰, arrange an 8×8 pan filled with 1” of hot water on the bottom rack (steam ensures a crisp crust), and a rack above for the baking sheet (the sheet should be as close to the bottom of the oven as possible). Score each boule. Place the baking sheet on the rack and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200⁰. Cool on wire rack.