Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Basic Focaccia, and a Lot of It

Yesterday I pulled out an older cookbook on the shelf (Five Brothers, A Year of Tuscan Cooking by Piero Selvaggio) and came across this basic focaccia recipe and decided to give it a try. It's not an all-day affair; it can be made in a few hours. It came out really well -- nice and golden, tasting of olive oil and coarse salt. It paired well with the pork chops I made as an entree. I've made focaccia lots of times before, but I think this one is my favorite. It made A LOT of bread; I think I'll have to freeze some or let it stale and make a panzanella with it this weekend. Not in the directions, but I preheated the oven with a pizza stone on the lowest rack setting for a good 30 minutes before putting the pan in to bake. I think this gave a nice bottom crust; golden and not too crisp. I think this recipe is very versatile and can be modified in lots of ways. Freshly chopped rosemary and garlic? A bit of saffron added to the warm water? Some warm curry spices added to taste like naan bread? How about adding a tablespoon or so of pesto to the dough? Anywhooo... here's the recipe, with my comments and changes noted.)

Basic Focaccia

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more if needed)

2 teaspoons table salt

2 cups warm water (105° – 115° F)

1 package active dry yeast (I used instant, 2 ¼ teaspoons)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

additional oil for drizzling

coarse salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; set aside. In another bowl, combine warm water with yeast; stir. Let stand until yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil. Add yeast mixture to flour. Using an electric mixer, mix on low speed about 2 minutes or until well combined. Remove dough from bowl; place on lightly floured surface and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms. (I completed the mixing with the machine and had to add about an extra cup of flour; it must be the weather here. Note: a wetter dough is better than a dryer one.) Place dough in oiled bowl; cover and let rise 1 to 1 ½ hours or until doubled. Generously oil a 17 x 13 inch baking sheet. Place dough in pan; press and stretch dough evenly with oiled fingers to fill pan. (It was a bit tight, so I covered it 10 minutes and gave it a rest; when I came back it spread out perfectly to fill the pan.) Pierce dough with a fork at 1 inch intervals; drizzle lightly with olive oil. Cover dough with a kitchen towel and let rise about 45 minutes or until doubled. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a rack to cool. Serve as is or top with herbs and other flavorings.

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