Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Focaccia


I will always remember two great things about the city of Victoria, Vancouver Island: the eccentric and slightly creepy wax museum, and my introduction to the heavenly Italian bread, Focaccia.  

One summer when we were visiting the beautiful city, my family went to an Italian restaurant that was packed for the lunch hour.  We waited in the foyer for what seemed like hours.  The host, who I vividly remember wearing a pirate-like outfit, served us this freshly baked bread as we waited.  It was salty and dripping with extra virgin olive oil. It was absolutely delicious.

If you're hesitant to make a yeast bread, than I urge you to try this recipe.  It's easy, forgiving (I think all that oil helps), and very satisfying. If you want, you can make it in a KitchenAid with the dough hook attachment, which makes it even easier. Also, the dough doesn't need to rise as long as most other yeast breads, just over an hour total.

This bread is ideal for any sandwich, but my favorites are toasted with black bean burgers or with grilled zucchini sammies.  In the future I'd like to experiment with using whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour.

Focaccia
adapted from The Food Network

I recommend using a 11"x7" pan for this recipe.  The bread will end up nice and thick, making it great for sandwiches.

bread
2 tsp rapid-rising dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
1 Tbsp sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour (preferably bread flour)
1 Tbsp coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Cornmeal
Extra olive oil

toppings 
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp coarse salt
1-2 Tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (rosemary will also work)


Gently stir in yeast into the warm water. Add sugar and let bloom (10 minutes). Meanwhile, dissolve the 1 tablespoon coarse salt into 2 tablespoons warm water, set aside. Sift about 3 1/4 cups of the flour into a large bowl.  Make a well and add the yeast, salt water, and oil.  Mix until it forms a soft dough.  


Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Knead, adding flour as needed, until a soft, silky dough develops, about 5 minutes (I only added about a 1/4 cup of extra flour.  Make sure not to add too much flour; add just enough so that the dough doesn't stick to the table).  Place in a bowl and coat with oil.  Lay a towel over the bowl and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously oil a 11"x7" cookie sheet or pan and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Punch down the dough.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to fit the pan.  Gently place it on the pan. Cover with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Play a game while you wait.

Dimple the dough with your fingertips.  Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, thyme and black pepper. 


  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Enjoy!

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