January 8, 2010
Yeast doughs don’t have to be scary, I promise. They can actually be rather friendly, spongy and springy and smelling of earth. You mix some humble and frankly unimpressive ingredients together (flour, water, sugar, salt, & oil), contribute a little sweat in the form of kneading, then leave it all in a bowl and walk away, only to come back in a few hours to find this:
Well, okay, the focaccia won’t actually make itself, but that would take the fun out of it anyway. Then you’d miss out on the authentic, even sexy experience of standing at a floured counter, working through the contents of your mind via a big hunk of dough. Not to mention the satisfaction of your teeth meeting the firm crust and pillowy crumb of bread you made BY YOURSELF.
You can top your foccacia with any combination of flavors you like; I will only recommend that you use good quality stuff. Pair the fresh bread with a big, green salad and bottle of wine. Finish with a cheese course if you’re feeling decadent.
This week, I asked my students to write Six-Word Memoirs and their examples were so fascinating, so varied, so revealing of who-they-are that I posed the question to my Facebook friends, too. Some of my favorite results:
cheer for many, fan of few.
outgoing is fine, I try outrageous.
drop-out, divorced, drug-addict, better now, thanks.
I shouldn’t have told you that.
As for mine, I wrote half-a-dozen, felt like I couldn’t settle on one, but in writing this post, I am sure of it now: In the kitchen, I am free.
original recipe from Saveur.com
I can’t rightly call this recipe “adapted,” since all I’ve really done is alter the method & play with the toppings. Though the original recipe calls for you to top the dough with olives and tomatoes before baking, I found that this resulted in charred and chewy toppings—unappetizing, to say the least.
My strategy to combat this is two-fold: mix heartier toppings (such as caramelized onions, olives, or chopped rosemary) into the dough, save more delicate toppings (flat-leaf parsley, sundried tomatoes, or Parmesan) for topping, either towards the end of baking time or once the foccacia’s already been removed from the oven.
1 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
3 ½ cups flour, more for kneading*
1 T + 1 tsp. kosher salt
extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Caramelized or raw onions
Black or green olives
Parmesan or feta cheese
Fresh or sun-dried tomatoes
Fresh or dried herbs: rosemary, parsley, oregano
pan: cast-iron skillet, deep-dish pizza pan, or a shallow, enamel-glazed pot
Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, & ¼ cup warm-but-not-hot water. The official temperature requirements are between 110-115 degrees, and I recommend you use an instant-read thermometer if you haven’t made a lot of bread before. After a few batches, though, you’ll get a feel for the right heat on your fingertips.
Let the yeast mixture sit about 10 minutes—it should be foamy. If it’s not, toss it out and start again. Whisk together the flour, remaining 1 tsp. sugar, & salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, 1 T olive oil, & 1 cup warm water. Mix with your hands until it holds together.
On a floured counter or work surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Curve the dough into a ball & place it in the bottom of a well-olive-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel & let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, ~90 minutes to 2 hours.
After the first rise, preheat the oven to 475˚. If mixing in ingredients, now is the time to do it, working any additions into the dough. Liberally rub the pan you’re using with (still more!) olive oil, then transfer the dough to the pan, flipping it over once so both sides are coated in oil. Gently stretch the dough to fit to it to the bottom of the pan. Cover the whole thing with a kitchen towel and let it rise another hour.
Use your fingertips to dimple the surface of the dough, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, approximately 30 minutes. If the surface of the foccacia becomes too dark, cover with aluminum foil for the remainder of baking time. Top as you wish, either during the last few minutes of baking or once the foccacia’s come out of the oven. Cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.
*You can make your foccacia whole-wheat by swapping out one cup of the all-purpose flour for the whole-wheat variety. It’s pretty good!…though I prefer the more sinful regular all-white-flour version.