Focaccia…

Focaccia is extremely easy to make.  It might be one of the easiest breads to make next to no knead bread. Best of all, it’s delicious. Focaccia has been abused in this country.  It became the “it” bread in the past decade.  But here in the US, it’s often made to be very fluffy and about 3 inches high.  This is not real foccaccia! It’s a thin 1 – 1 1/2 inch high bread with a crispy crust and an even crumb.

I always get questions about bread-making, especially with kneading. “How do you know when it’s done?” “What if I over-do it?”  There are tests you can do like the windowpane test you perform to examine gluten development. However, to keep it simple for the home baker, see the pic above.  If using a mixer, you will use the dough hook and run it in low to medium speed until the dough forms a ball around the hook and separates from the sides of the bowl. The very bottom will stick to the bowl.

If you don’t have a mixer, get one. Honestly it’s a time saver.  I still make some breads by hand if I’m feeling retro. This dough will be smooth and sticky, unlike a traditional lean dough like french bread or sourdough.

The dough will be flaccid as it has a relatively high moisture content. Focaccia has a unique shaping process.  Instead of shaping into a loaf, you’ll be gently stretching it by holding the ends and pulling it apart from the middle. If your blob of dough is a foot long, you’ll grab the ends and stretch it a foot or so in each direction then fold it back over itself in thirds.  Get my drift?

Just like that. I like to rotate my dough between stretchings 90 degrees. It must rest between episodes of stretching. Treat focaccia like an old man exercising.  Don’t just make him walk 10 miles.  Let him go around the block then rest a few minutes.

Following the third shaping episode, you’ll put it in a pan and let the fun begin. Get your hands in there and stretch it out to fill the pan.  Don’t worry about breaking it apart, this stuff is flexible.

Focaccia’s main identifier are the many dimples on the surface.  I’ve never seen a reason why we do this.  Perhaps it’s for flavor penetration, oil retention, etc. Whatever it is, it’s always done and it adds a beautiful look to the bread. I chose to top this one with sun dried tomatoes and oregano infused olive oil.

The surface should be slathered in the oil.  This prevents it from developing scaly skin while it sits.  After shaping, you can either bake it right away or let it sit overnight covered in the refrigerator.  I’ve done both for this recipe and letting it sit is better. However, that’s not to say baking it right away results in a poor quality bread.  Not by a long shot.  Think of it as an A- vs a an A+ rating. Both are great, but if you have the time, go for the refrigerator retardation.

That’s a great finished loaf, crispy and not too puffy. The traditional way of serving it is slicing it in half height-wise to show the middle and brush with olive oil.  However, it’s tasty no matter how to slice it.

Here they are next to the buns I made for the 4th of July dinner.

This focaccia recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, THE go-to bread reference out there. I’ve included it on my book list.

Focaccia

22.5 oz bread flour
2 t salt, kosher or sea
2 t instant yeast
6 T olive oil
16 oz water, room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup herb oil (soak herbs in warm {95-100F} oil for at least 30 minutes)

Mix flour, yeast, and salt together. If doing in a mixer, use paddle attachment. Add oil and water slowly to incorporate and make a moist dough; this should take a minute or two. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low to medium speed (2 for me out of 5) for 5-8 minutes, until the bottom sticks to the bowl but the rest makes a tight ball on the hook. It should be smooth and sticky.

Cover counter with flour. Transfer dough onto counter with wet spatula to prevent sticking. Dust with flour and shape into a rectangle. Let it sit for 5 minutes to relax.

Coat your hands with flour and grab the ends, pulling out to the sides to stretch it to twice its size. Fold it back in letter style over itself back into a rectangle. Mist top with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

Do another stretching.  Let it sit for 30 minutes.

Do the last stretching and let it sit for one hour.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and drizzle about 1/8-1/4 cup olive oil on the parchment and spread it around with your hands.

Place the dough on the sheet, cover with herb oil (or regular oil if you don’t like herbs) and use your hands to make dimples and spread it out to take the entire pan’s size. Cover it with plastic again and stick it in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 3 days if you can wait that long). *Alternate, bake at this point*

Remove pan from refrigerator at least 3 hours before baking to warm up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 500 F with rack in the middle. If you’re adding toppings like cheese or onions, sausage, etc top it now.

Once preheated, lower heat to 450 F and place sheet in. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate it around, then bake for another 7-10 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crispy. The internal temperature should register 200 F. Remove and place in wire cooling rack.

Allow bread to rest 20 minutes before slicing.

 

*next up…Raspberry Macaroons…*

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: