Thursday, June 24, 2010
I made focaccia bread for the first time ever this afternoon! Sure, I've made an easy version of mini focaccias found HERE...and when I worked in the deli in college we baked focaccia bread...after we took the dough out of the freezer the night before proofing, baking, and bagging it. But I've never rolled up my sleeves and kneaded, shaped, and topped foccacia from scratch. I'm so glad that I did! Focaccia is pretty fun to make and versatile in what you can top it with. I went with caramelized onions, olives, roasted garlic and parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and red onion and rosemary. My house smells gloriously of fresh baked bread, garlic and rosemary as I sit here typing. Mmmmm.
So, who is going to eat all of this focaccia? A group of our family and friends at an Italian dinner tomorrow night! I'll definitely take pictures and post about it next week. The fact that we will be attending this dinner is just plain lucky. On Tuesday, I was talking to one of my Indiana friends and informed her that we'd be in town this weekend for a wedding. "When are you coming in?" she asked. I answered, "Friday...why?" She told me that a gourmet club formed by a group of our college friends was holding their first ever dinner on Friday night. The theme: Italian. I'm so excited to see all of our friends, catch up, and see what everyone brings to share. What luck! What timing! The hostess emailed and suggested that we bring the bread. Good call, since I'm not sure that my tiramisu or tortellini alla panna would have weathered the 5 hour drive very well. Right away I pulled out my copy of The Best Ever Italian Cookbook and flipped to focaccia.
The recipe called for 1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and coarse sea salt. I had to flip back a few pages to find the pizza dough recipe. Once I'd gathered the ingredients for that, I realized that I had a blank canvas to top as I pleased. Yay!
Here's how I made the focaccias:
I know that this picture looks like I made myself a nice cup of Chai while I was mentally preparing to make the bread, but really it's my yeast proofing in a cup of warm water, stirred with a pinch of sugar.
Actually, it's 4 cups of yeast proofing because I quadrupled the recipe. I believe that 16 people are attending the dinner. If we have extra bread at the end of the night, we can eat it throughout the weekend while enjoying the lake at my in-law's house.
Once the yeast has dissolved and started to foam, add it to 1/3 of the flour and a teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl. You can stir this with a spoon, but I opted for my mixer.
Once combined, add in another third of the flour and mix or stir until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If you're not using a mixer, at this point you can turn it onto a floured surface and add the remaining flour as you knead. I put the dough hook on my mixer and added the remaining flour as it mixed. Does the following picture look a little ominous, or is it just me? Like Captain Hook is about to make some focaccia...
After a little time with the dough hook, I still turned the dough onto my pastry mat and kneaded it for a couple of minutes until it had that "just right" smooth and elastic feel.
Then I plopped the dough ball into a lightly greased bowl, covered it, and kept it someplace warm until doubled...about 50 minutes.
To determine whether the dough has risen enough, poke two fingers into the center. If the indentation remains, it's ready. Punch it down...
And transfer it to a pastry mat or lightly floured surface and knead it for another 3-4 minutes.
Brush a large, shallow baking dish with a tablespoon of oil and use your fingers to press the dough into an even layer, 1 inch thick. I failed to read this instruction and just looked at the picture provided which showed the dough covering the whole baking sheet. Consequently, my focaccias turned out MORE crispy and LESS soft and chewy than I would have liked. Cover the pans and let rise again for 30 minutes.
While the dough raised, I prepared my toppings. I started the onions caramelizing in a couple of tablespoons of oil.
I took out the roasted garlic that I purchased from my grocery store antipasta bar. I've roasted my own garlic in the past, you can check it out HERE...but I was trying to make this a project that I could fit into my daughter's naptime...so purchased garlic was a great shortcut.
I sliced up the cloves.
Then I grabbed for the olives. This is an Italian blend of olives, also purchased from the antipasta bar. I had lots of samples while choosing this blend...
I cut them in half.
Oh, and there was the King of Parmesan... the Parmigiano-Regianno cheese. If you’ve never used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before, you’re in for a treat. Parmigiano-Reggiano has a sweet-nutty flavor and crumbly texture that is a favorite of both cheese lovers and connoisseurs. This cheese has significantly more flavor than regular parmesean, so you can use less of it and conserve calories. Good thing, because this retails for 18.99/lb. Pictured below is $6.46 worth of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Whenever it's time to re-stock my supply of this cheese, I take a chunk out of the deli cooler and have the nice girl at the cheese counter cut it down to an affordable size for me. Try it sometime!
I cut a small chunk off of my already small chunk of cheese and popped it into my Pampered Chef Cheese Rotary Grater. I feel like I'm on The Olive Garden staff everytime I use it. All of the fun and none of the fuss of pre-bussing tables, doing side work, and being extra friendly to people for a couple of bucks + tips.
By the time I rounded up my toppings, the focaccia had puffed up and it was time to give it "dimples". Use your fingers to press rows of light indentations into the surface of the dough.
Then brush with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, apply toppings if desired, and sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Here's the olive focaccia.
The caramelized onion....(Note: I stirred a teaspoon or so of crushed rosemary into the onions before spreading them onto the dough)
The red onion and rosemary.
I grated cheese over this one...
And the roasted garlic. Again, I added rosemary and cheese. Can you tell that I really like rosemary on my focaccia?
They all baked (two at a time, of course) in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until golden brown. Here are all of my focaccia cooling on racks in our dining room. I could just dig in!
Here's a closer look at the baked version of each of these Italian flat breads:
The caramelized onion.
The red onion.
Abd the roasted garlic.
I stacked them all up in my Wilton Ultimate 3-In-1 Cupcake Caddy and Carrier. Who knew it would work so well for focaccia!?
Sealed up nice and tight and ready for the 5 hour road trip!
Here's the recipe:
Focaccia from The Best Ever Italian Cookbook
1 recipe Basic Pizza dough, risen once
3 tablespoons olive oil
coarse sea salt
Basic Pizza Dough
1 package dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1. Warm a mixing bowl by swirling some hot water in it. Drain. Place the yeast in the bowl and pour on the warm water. Stir in the sugar, mix with a fork, and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes until the yeast dissolves and begins to foam.
2. Use a wooden spoon or mixer to mix in the salt and 1/3 of the flour. Mix in another third of the flour, stirring until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
3. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on a smooth work surface. Turn dough onto surface and knead it working in the remaining flour a little at a time. Knead for 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. OR switch to the dough hook attachment on your mixer and mix until the flour is incorporated and the dough forms and smooth ball. Knead for a couple of minutes on a smooth surface.
4. Lightly oil a mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl. Stretch a moistened, wrung-out dish towel across the top and leave it stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 40-50 minutes.
1. After punching dough down, knead it for 3-4 minutes. Brush a large shallow baking pan with 1 tablespoon of oil.
2. Place the dough in a pan, and use your fingers to press into an even layer 1 inch thick. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare toppings, if using them.
3. Just before baking, use your fingers to press rows of light indentations into the surface of the focaccia dough.
4. Brush with remaining oil, add toppings if desired, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until just golden. Cut into squares or wedges and serve as an accompaniment to a meal, or alone, at room temperature.