February 2, 2013

Focaccia

 P1250114(Photo—a slice of focaccia is shown on the bottom right.  I’ll post the lasagna recipe soon!  We took this photo in haste, right before devouring the meal with family and out of town guests.  Sorry it isn’t a better shot for y’all.)

One of the easiest breads to make is focaccia.  It pairs perfectly with almost any Italian dish, and it always seems to impress guests.  Start to finish, it takes a little less than an hour, and it is well worth the little effort you will need to put into it.  I also find it to be cost effective—compared to store bought Italian bread at about $2 a loaf, you’ll cut your bill more than in half if you opt to make this bread instead, especially if you use coupons. 

Ingredients

1 pack dried active yeast
1 t. white sugar
1/3 c. warm water (110-115 degrees)—you’ll need more as you start to mix the flour into the yeast mixture
2 c. all purpose flour

Topping—good quality olive oil, fresh rosemary, and freshly milled or flaked salt or Italian seasoning

Directions

1.  Mix the yeast, sugar, and 1/3 c. water together and let sit about 10 minutes.  The mixture will foam a bit. 

2.  Mix the yeast mixture into the flour and then slowly start to add warm water until the flour is no longer raggy-looking, thoroughly wet but without being super sticky. 

Note—mixing the right amount of water and flour together when making bread takes a little practice.  If in doubt, err on the side of making it a little wet.  When you knead the mixture (next step), you can add more flour back in to get it right.  It is difficult to say how much water to add because so much depends on how humid your home is when you are making the dough. 

3.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for 1-3 minutes.  This step helps to start the gluten working. 

4.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, flip over so that both sides are covered in a bit of oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm part of your kitchen.  Let sit for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled.

5.  Punch out dough and knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Roll to about 1 1/2 inches-2 inches thick and place on a greased jelly roll pan.  You can make it into an oval, rectangle or simply loosely form it on the pan.  Take your fingertips and press them into the surface of the dough to dimple it.

6.  Brush or drizzle olive oil on the surface and don’t be super stingy.  You want there to be nice little pools of oil in the dimples without it being so runny that you have a mess all over your pan.  Use a salt mill to sprinkle the surface with salt.  If you do not have a salt mill, try using flaked sea salt or an Italian seasoning.  While you can use regular salt, the effect isn’t the same.  If you like, add little sprigs of rosemary to the top by gently pushing the tips of the leaves into the dough.

7.  Bake at 475 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until your desired crunchiness.  You’ll want the bread to be a golden color and no longer spongy.  Some people like their focaccia to be almost like a cracker and others like it to keep the bread texture.  You be the judge.

8.  Serve plain or with olive oil and freshly cracked pepper as a dipping sauce.  This is also really nice with Caprese salad or an antipasto platter.

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