Focaccia Bread

I am far from being an expert bread baker, but I do love getting my hands a bit messy and working with yeast dough.  I like watching the bubbles form after combining yeast with warm water and a little sugar.  I like dumping the gooey ball of dough in a bowl and watching it transform into a soft pillow after rising.  Focaccia is a great starting place for working with bread dough.  You get the rewards of fresh-baked bread while skipping a lot of the intimidation factors that sometimes come with it.

One batch of this flat bread can be enjoyed several different ways.  You can tear off pieces for dipping in oil and vinegar.  As bread stick-sized slices, it’s perfect alongside a bowl of soup.  Sliced through the middle, it makes a great sandwich.

Many focaccia recipes involve resting the dough overnight to develop the flavors, and they are worth the wait.  But sometimes, you just don’t want to wait that long.  With this recipe from The Paupered Chef, you can be dunking your bread into your soup a couple hours after starting the dough.

Focaccia Bread

Slightly adapted from The Paupered Chef, who adapted it from Nigel Slater’s recipe.

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 ½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour (or or leave out the pastry flour and use 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine (fast-rising) yeast
  • 13.5 ounces warm water
  • cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasonings
  • sea salt flakes

Spray the inside of a large bowl with cooking spray and set aside.

In the large bowl of a standing mixer, combine pastry flour, 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, salt, and yeast.  Mix well.

Now add the water to the flour mixture.  It should feel pleasantly warm on your wrist, not too hot.  Use a sturdy spoon to mix everything together until you have shaggy, messy dough.  Add the dough hook and mix at a medium-low speed for about five minutes.  Switch the mixer to slow speed and add the remaining flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl, but still sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Don’t be tempted to add too much flour.  If you add so much that it’s completely easy to work with, you’ll end up with heavy bread.

Scrape the dough into the prepared bowl, and turn it over a few times so it’s all coated in oil.  Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.  In the meantime, get the pan ready for baking.  Drizzle the bottom with olive oil, spread it around with a paper towel, and sprinkle some cornmeal over the top.  When the dough is ready, ease it into the prepared pan and gently stretch it to reach the sides.  It’s okay if it doesn’t quite  reach all corners, but try to make it an even thickness.  Cover with the dish towel and let rise 30 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare the topping.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and garlic.  Microwave a minute or so until it smells very fragrant.  Discard the garlic and add the Italian seasonings to the oil.  Using your fingers or the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes on the surface of the dough.  Spread the topping all over, and sprinkle sea salt over the top.

Bake 20-25 minutes until the top is just golden brown.  Brush on a little more oil if you’d like.  Remove bread from the pan and let cool a few minutes.

Notes:

  • For bread thick enough to easily slice for sandwiches, use a quarter sheet pan (9x13x1).  I love this pan for everything.  Thanks, Mom!  If you like it not quite so thick, use a jelly roll pan (10×15).
  • If you don’t gobble this all up within a couple days, cut the leftovers into a few large slabs, and freeze in a well-sealed bag.  You will be glad you have it ready to serve alongside future dinners.
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