Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Virgin Voyage with Focaccia


There has to be a first time for everything and I just made my first focaccia. Buoyed by my conquest of pizza dough, I was even more determined to overcome my fear of yeast and move on to bread. If there was a Scoville scale for bread, I'm thinking focaccia would be on the next rung up.

When I pulled my first focaccia out of the oven, it looked like the surface of Mars. Oh, but the aroma! The piney fragrance of the rosemary, the richness of the olive oil. The smell of bread baking -- any kind of bread -- is just heart-warming. No wonder it's so highly recommended for home sellers.


I was so proud. I had to boast to Mr. Rosemary.

"Smells good," says he. "What's so special about it?"

Nothing, really. Except for the fact that I made it.

His innocent question made me want to research it a little more. And I found a lot of information, although I found it curious that many of the sources I read wove their way back to Wikipedia. (What did we do before Wikipedia? It took hours to do what we can now do in mere minutes, that's what.)

Here's what I learned:

  • Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread that may be topped with other ingredients.
  • It is similar is style and texture to pizza dough, consisting of flour, water, salt, oil and yeast.
  • It is typically rolled or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven . . . or on a pizza stone.
  • The first focaccia is thought to have been made prior to the Roman Empire by the Etruscans in North Central Italy, or by the ancient Greeks.
  • It takes its names from the Roman phrase "panis foacacius" meaning a flat loaf of bread cooked under the ashes of a fire or upon a hearth.

And there are just as many recipes for focaccia as there are for, well  . . . .  bread. The recipe I chose was probably the most complicated, but only because it called for three rises. It was worth it, although I think I'll go for a simpler one next time. I don't think that's the way the Etruscans made it. 

But this recipe from Simply Recipes was perfect, although lengthy! The bread was great for sandwiches or snacking. I confess it was my breakfast for several mornings. And it does freeze well.  

So, now  I have pizza dough and focaccia under my belt.  Can challah be far behind?

This recipe makes enough for 2 good-sized loaves. You can make it all in free-form loaves that look like puffy pizzas, or shape them into casseroles or cake pans – there are no absolutes on the shape of this bread. The bread takes on the flavor of the olive oil so be sure to use a good quality one. 


Focaccia Bread with Rosemary
1 package dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water, about 100 degrees
2 1/4 cups tepid water
2 Tbsp good quality olive oil, plus more for the pan and to paint on top of the bread
3 cups bread flour
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt, plus coarse salt (fleur de sel if you have it, otherwise Kosher salt) for sprinkling over the top
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary 

Stir the yeast into the 1/3 cup of slightly warm-to-the-touch water and let it rest for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, pour in 2 1/4 cups of tepid water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. After the yeast has rested for 10 minutes and has begun to froth, pour it into the water-oil mixture.

Whisk in 2 cups of flour (either the bread flour or the all purpose; at this stage it doesn't matter which) and the tablespoon of salt. Add the rosemary. Then, cup by cup, whisk in the rest of the flour (both the bread flour and all purpose). As the mixture goes from a batter to a thick dough, you'll want to switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon. By the time you get to the last cup of flour, you will be able to work the dough with your hands. Begin to knead it in the bowl – try to incorporate all the flour stuck to the sides and bottom of the bowl as you begin kneading.

Once the bowl is pretty clean, turn the dough out onto a board and knead it well for 8 minutes. You might need some extra flour if the dough is sticky.

I used my stand mixer for the mixing and kneading of the bread dough. After adding all the flour, cup by cup, I switched to the dough hook and let the machine knead the bread for 8 minutes.

In a large clean bowl, pour in about a tablespoon of oil and put the dough on top of it. Spread the oil all over the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for an hour and a half. It should just about double in size.

Spread a little olive oil in your baking pan or baking sheet (will make it easier to remove the bread). Place the dough in your baking pans or form it into free-form rounds on a baking sheet. This recipe will do two nice-sized loaves or one big one and a little one. Cover the breads and set aside for another 30 minutes.

Dimple the breads with your thumb. Push in to about the end of your thumbnail, roughly 1/2-inch. Cover again and leave it to rise for its final rise, about 2 hours.

With 30 minutes to go before the rise finishes, preheat your oven to 400°F. If you have a pizza stone put it in.

Once the dough has done its final rise, gently paint the top with olive oil – as much as you want. Then sprinkle the coarse salt on top from about a foot over the bread; this lets the salt spread out better on its way down and helps reduce clumps of salt.

Put the bread in the oven. If you are doing free-form breads, put it right on the pizza stone. Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes. If you have a water spritzer bottle, spritz a little water in the oven right before you put the bread in to create steam, and then a couple of times while the bread is baking.

When the bread comes out of the oven, turn it out onto a rack within 3-5 minutes; this way you'll keep the bottom of the bread crispy. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before eating.

Makes a large loaf and a small loaf of 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick.




30 comments:

  1. I would be very proud too since I'm not a baker. Fabulous job. Love that you've used fresh rosemary on top - my favorite herb.

    Hope you have a happy Easter.
    Sam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I really am making challah today. There. Now I've said it. Now Ill have to report on my success/failure!

      Delete
  2. I share your fear of baking, but you have given me hope, Rosemary. This looks lovely and I do love rosemary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You meant the herb, right, Mary? I know a couple of successes does not make me a bread baker, but, in this low-carb world, good bread once in a while has to be a treat!

      Delete
  3. I have a foccaccia recipe I used to make all of the time from an old Frugal Gourmet cookbook. It was baked in a pan rather than on a stone and the top was covered with a smear of tomato paste and sprinkled with onions and scallions. For years I used it as an appetizer at parties. Now I miss it. I never have time to work with yeast anymore. I remember how when I first tasted it I was so surprised by how olive oil affects the flavor of bread. I had always hoped to experiment with toppings more, or try stuffing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds simply wonderful. You must unearth that recipe and share it. Glad to know there's another Frugal Gourmet fan out there. And one ingredient sure can make a difference. Sometimes I think I could drink olive oil.

      Delete
  4. I can only imagine how wonderful that smelled!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm anxious to smell that challah baking . . we shall see, Krista. It's rising now. Planning to take it to church Easter morning to be blessed.

      Delete
  5. This looks absolutely heavenly! ADORE focaccia! I need this with a glass of wine this evening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know why I waited so long, Carol. I will find a recipe that takes less time but I did want to do it right "the first time." Yes . . . and with wine.

      Delete
  6. I had no idea that focaccia had been around for so long! And your loaf looks just beautiful. I only wish I could have sampled it. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One o these days, I'll be creating bread recipes like you, Monet. (What a dreamer am I.)

      Delete
  7. Congratulations on your focaccia :) it had to smell amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Marta . . . it was indeed fragrant.

      Delete
  8. Clever you! it's simply beautiful and I can only imagine how delicious this is!
    Mary x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you might expect, Mr. Rosemary didn't care for it much, so I ate most of it, and still gave some away. I loved it.

      Delete
  9. One of my all time favorites...your focaccia looks terrific.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've always liked other people's focaccia, Karen; now I can say I like my own.

      Delete
  10. Perfect looking focaccia :)

    Happy Easter!
    Choc Chip Uru

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Uru, think I'll even make it again!

      Delete
  11. Oh, yeah...I'd eat this for breakfast, too! Beautifully done. I love the husband commentary...sounds so familiar :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was the best for breakfast toast, Liz.

      Delete
  12. Congratulations! I think your focaccia looks wonderful - I'm impressed as I'm terrified of making any type of bread (always a disaster!) I can almost smell yours cooking :))
    Mary x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mary. I'm much more relaxed cooking than baking, period, but bread is one thing I'd really like to be more comfortable with.

      Delete
  13. I love focaccia bread - this looks so good! Rosemary is one of my favorite spices because of the smell :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the smell of rosemary, too . . . I better!

      Delete
  14. Your focaccia bread looks delightful. I shy away from using yeast too. Looks like you have nothing to be afraid of-

    Happy Spring.

    Velva

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Velva. It's just a confidence thing.

      Delete
  15. I'd say you did your name proud, with that rosemary focaccia. I can only imagine the smell in your kitchen while it was baking.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have never made focaccia yet . . . isn't that shameful? But I know that when I do, I'll refer to your recipe and most definitely include rosemary! What an incredible herb!

    Hope you're having a lovely spring day Rosemary! Thanks for stopping by!

    xoxo
    Roz

    ReplyDelete

I realize you don't have to take the time to comment . . . but it makes my day! So glad you decided to stay.