MEYER LEMON FOCACCIA

This week is exam week, a.k.a. that time of year when survival is contingent upon an elaborate system of Post-It Note Lists, both tangible and virtual. To-Grade, To-Finish, To-Make, To-Buy, To-Write, To-Email, To-Plan, To-Watch, To-Return, To-Visit, To-Listen-To, To-Pay, To-Donate, To-Schedule, To-Bring, To-Do, To-Do, To-Do.

Meyer lemon focaccia | Blue Jean Gourmet

My flurry of notes and lists often serves to buffer me from the world outside of my little circle of concern—like, if I am busy being stressed out about how busy and stressed out I am, then I convince myself that I am excused from paying attention to other people’s despair and anger and sadness and pain, because “I just have so much going on this week.”

It’s not that I don’t legitimately have a lot going on—I do—but let’s be clear—the majority of it I brought upon myself. And also, I am going to survive it just fine. What’s really at stake here is my ability to hold onto myself and who I say I want to be, which is easy enough to do when the lists are short and the days are long. But when I get caught up in the shape of my own circumstances, I become a version of myself that I really do not enjoy being around (nor, I suspect, do other people). I become small and petty and stingy and grumpy and boring.

Another calendar year is about to come to an end, and if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I am a much better version of myself when I devote a considerable amount of brain space, time, and energy to people other than me. Being patient with my son. Practicing kindness with strangers. Trying to find ways to make someone’s life just a little bit easier, to let them know that they are seen, to acknowledge their suffering. Looking people in the eye. Calling them by name. Sending poems in the mail—for no reason, for every reason. Not acting rushed or checking my phone when a student wants to share with me or ask me for advice. Being fully present. Giving of myself. It may sound cheesy or small, and I certainly don’t meet the bar every day, but these are things I can do. And they make my lived experience so much more satisfying.

There’s science behind it, because of course there is. I listened to this On Being episode last month—an interview with Adam Grant, professor of psychology at Wharton who studies the effects of generosity in the workplace. Hearing him explain his research helped explain some of my own practices and habits, putting them in a context that served to make me more conscious about practicing generosity as a deliberate way of moving through the world.

As someone who works with teenagers, I am given regular reminders to practice what I preach: to work to not fall into that category of “hypocritical adult.” I believe in teaching literature as a way to cultivate empathy, and empathy—that soul-expanding practice of trying to imagine what someone else might be feeling—inevitably leads to generosity. It also builds perspective, like when Shiv had to have blood drawn for an allergy test last week and I had to hold him still while he squirmed and cried big hot tears and wailed “No, no, no!,” the fear bright in his cheeks and tense in his body, and I thought, How on earth do parents with chronically sick kids do this?  And so much worse, and every day?  Or to be unable to feed my child, to witness the pain of his hunger, and have to somehow explain to him why it is so.  To travel as a refugee, through treacherous conditions, unable to protect my baby, uncertain of every future moment, met with derision and hate.  These are hells that scale my to-do lists right back down to their appropriate size.

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***

I hope to squeeze one more post in before 2016—I’ve been meaning to share Jill’s mama’s amazing cornbread recipe with you for ages now—but in the meantime, here’s (but of course) a list:

-You should make the Meyer Lemon Focaccia you see pictured here. (Isn’t it funny how, like, 8 years ago, none of us had even heard of Meyer lemons? Oh food blog internet explosion, how you’ve changed us.) Please note, if you plan to make this, that the dough needs to refrigerate at least overnight but up to 2 days, so it’s a great option for those of you who like to plan ahead. The actual baking/assembly comes together quickly, the recipe yields two smaller focaccias, presentation is lovely, flavors are bright; it’s a fine candidate for a holiday spread. I am planning to make this again on Sunday for our annual tree-trimming gathering, along with other appetizers, cookies, & champagne!

-The Bitter Southerner (which is so spot-on with its branding, consistency, & quality that it’s no wonder they have such a following) has put out its Best Southern Albums of 2015 List—I know, I know more lists.  But I can’t wait to dive into this one. The 2014 version of this list yielded many hours of listening pleasure into the new year.

-For those of us with little people in their lives, or big people who love thoughtfully crafted and beautifully illustrated stories, this list of The Best Children’s Books of 2015 from Brain Pickings is a delightful read in itself, and it offers wonderful gift ideas to use now or tuck away for future use.

-Cookies I’ve got my eye on this year: cardamom pistachio cookies, chocolate puddle cookies, lebkuchen, nutmeg logsSwedish rye cookies, whole wheat shortbread cookie.  Food52 put together this very fun Cookies of the World Map, with 46 recipes, should you need further inspiration.

Tidings of comfort & joy, my friends!  xo

with Santa 2015

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GREEN & WHITE PIZZA

This woman of mine, she is rock. freaking. solid.

anniversary twelve!

People overuse that phrase “He’s a rock” or “She’s my rock” but I promise you I am employing it perfectly in this case.  That Jill Carroll, she is steady as they come.  Dependable.  Honest.  True.  Damn near unflappable.

Sometimes I think she’s an alien.  Like, how can it be possible for a human being to operate this way, with such integrity?  In everything she does—really, I have been watching her for a dozen years now and she astounds me more and more.

Right now, Jill is knee-deep with the work of moving her parents to a house less than two miles from ours.  (If you’ve been playing along for a while, you’ve probably realized that this means that Jill’s parents will be living just down the road from my mother…pray for us & send wine, pleaseandthankyou.)

This has been no ordinary move.  My in-laws are 91 and 81, respectively, and have lived in Shreveport for their entire adults lives, and had been in the house they just left for almost 30 years.  And they probably would have stayed there had my mother-in-law not developed Alzheimer’s, which has robbed her of herself in the worst possible ways.  My father-in-law is tired and unable to meet the demands of caring for a confused and addled spouse, and keeping up with a household besides.

So here we are.  After months of resistance, Jill’s father finally relented to the idea of moving, and from there everything happened fast—house selling, house buying, house packing.  Jill has handled every detail, from contracting movers to fixing refrigerator tubing to wrapping every dang figurine and piece of china in bubble wrap.  And she still manages, somehow, to be this incredibly joyful parent and loving spouse and working woman and well-informed intellectual and patient, patient daughter.

I’m proud of this woman, proud of being partnered with her, proud to witness the way she lives our her values even (especially) when it’s inconvenient and exhausting.  She teaches me so much by living, as all the best people do.


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ROBERTA’S GREEN & WHITE PIZZA

This is Jill’s new favorite thing that I make; she’s requested it half-a-dozen times since spotting the recipe on the New York Times website.  I’ve started making the accompanying pizza dough recipe as my standard; measuring the ingredients by weight really does yield a more consistently good dough.  For the topping, we use the spicy arugula we’ve got growing in the backyard (Another thing Jill manages to do—keep our garden growing.  Sheesh.  JILL, STOP BEING GOOD AT EVERYTHING.).  The heat of the arugula mellows a bit when it meets the hot pizza, but it still retains a lovely bite, tempered just enough by the cheesy pizza & crust.

The original recipe calls for you to top the dough with cheese before you put it in the oven, which I think would work fine if your oven gets really hot, but mine tops out at 500° F, so I find it works better to pre-cook the dough first, in order to get the bottom nice and crisp.  Also, while I love fresh mozzarella for eating raw, I find that it gets kind of watery when I cook it on pizza, so I prefer the shredded kind.

ingredients:

pizza dough of your choice, stretched/rolled into a 10-12 inch round

~ 1 cup shredded mozzarella

~¼ cup shredded/grated Parmesan

extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 cups baby arugula

1 lemon

salt

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If you have a pizza stone, put it on the middle rack of your oven and turn the heat to the highest setting.  Let it heat for at least an hour.

Prick the dough all over with a fork before sliding it onto the pizza stone.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until you see browning around the edges.  Slide the dough back out, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and top with cheese.  Gently slide the pie back into the oven and cook for another 4-6 minutes until the cheese has fully melted. (At this point, I usually turn on the broiler to brown the top of the pizza, and get good color on the crust—you may not need to do so, depending on how your oven heats.)

While the pizza cooks, dress the arugula lightly using the zest & juice of half the lemon, a good drizzle of the olive oil, and some salt.

Once it’s cooked to your liking, pull the pizza out of the oven and immediately top with the arugula.  Serve and enjoy!

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BACON & BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIZZA

I have a very distinct memory of one of my godsons, three years old at the time, shoving me back as I sought to assist him with the fastening of a shoe or the connection of a toy part.  “No!” he said determinedly, “MY do it.”


Last week, I promised you a pizza and a pizza you have here.  It is a delicious one—wonderful wintry combination of ingredients, beautifully colored and the perfect choice for those who eschew tomato sauce-y things.   The funny thing is, I feel almost disingenuous posting something I made so many weeks ago; I’ve barely been in my kitchen since the month of February began.

I, like my godson, like most toddlers, like a lot of really stubborn people, tend to think I can do all things on my own.  I have perfected the art of politely turning down offers of help: in my kitchen, at work, even when I really need it.

Forget that.  There’s no way Jill and I could have made it through her first round of chemo without all of the help we have received in the last few weeks.  For the first time in my adult life, the refrigerator in my house is full of food that I didn’t make.  And that’s okay.  Because I’m too freaking tired to push anyone away right now.

At some point you realize that the amazing people in your life (turns out there are many of them) really, honestly, genuinely want to help you, and that shoving them aside would not only be stupid but selfish.  You also realize that there is a part of you that you will always have to fight, a perfectionist self who thinks asking for or accepting help is betraying weakness, an insecure self who feels she has something to prove, a three year old inside who wants to impress everyone by showing just how much help she doesn’t need.  I’m trying to get her to shut up for a while.

BACON & BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIZZA

A word about pizza crust: it is so, so gratifying to make at home.  I honestly believe it’s one of the best bread items to start with for people who are intimidated by yeast.  Pizza crust is very forgiving and people are going to eat it anyway.

At this point, I no longer measure when I make my crust, but I began with the good-old-fashioned Joy of Cooking recipe and learned to tweak and adapt it from there. Often, I’ll make a big batch and freeze half for another day—very convenient!

ingredients:

butternut squash (peel, seed, cube, & roast)
bacon (thickly slice & skillet cook)
onions (peel, slice, & caramelize)
goat cheese (crumble)
sage (rinse & chop)
pizza dough (homemade or purchased)

oven: 525° or as hot as yours gets

Roll out your pizza dough to desired thinness.  Dimple with your fingers and rub with a little olive oil.  Pre-cook the crust only on a baking stone or baking sheet, for 3-4 minutes or until bubbles and a bit of color appear.  Remove the crust carefully from the oven with tongs and spread with the caramelized onions.  Top with squash, bacon, & goat cheese.

Return the pizza to the oven for another 7-10 minutes or until the edges of the crust have browned.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sage and a little salt.  Slice and serve hot.

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CARAMELIZED ONION TART

Patience is not one of my particular virtues.

As evidence, I will cite my rather aggressive driving style, the way I get bossy and dictatorial with indecisive friends, the fact that I never make it to someone’s actual birthday before giving them their birthday present, my intolerance of chronic whiners, and the extreme distractedness I feel in the days leading up to a party or concert or other much-anticipated event.

There are two zones of exception for my impatience, my classroom and my kitchen.  With my students, it’s easy for me to be patient in a way that I just can’t muster with adults.  And when I cook, the patience comes without effort, whether it’s whipping meringue, tempering lemon curd, or caramelizing onions.  Something about the process of coaxing a chaotic jumble of raw ingredients into an elegant, composed, good-tasting dish calms me down and makes me feel much more patient than I actually am.

CARAMELIZED ONION TART

adapted from Food & Wine

for the dough:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

8 T unsalted butter, cold & cut into pieces

6 T ice cold water

¼ tsp. salt

Combine flour and salt, then use your fingers to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Drizzle the water over the flour mixture and stir until it just comes together.  Press the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

for the filling:

2 lb. sweet yellow onions, peeled & thinly sliced

4 T unsalted butter

2 T crème fraîche, sour cream, or plain yogurt

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried

salt & pepper

In a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet (I like to use my coated cast-iron), melt the butter.  Add the onions and thyme and cook over medium-high heat until nice and soft, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions become golden brown, another 20-25 minutes.  I find that covering the skillet for the first half of the 20 minutes, then leaving uncovered and stirring more frequently during the second half works well.

Once the onions are caramelized, remove from the heat and stir in the crème fraîche, sour cream, or plain yogurt, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375˚.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out into a large circle (about 12” in diameter).  Spread the onion filling all around the dough, leaving a generous border (about 2”).  Fold the edges of the dough up and over the filling.  Brush the edges with egg wash (optional):

for the egg wash:

1 egg beaten with 1 T milk

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is nice and browned. Cool for a bit on a rack before slicing the tart into wedges and serving warm.  Goes very well with a green salad for a simple dinner.

TOMATO-CORN PIE

I’m from the South.  I’m a Southern girl.

I love this song like I love a biscuit crust.  It’s the soundtrack for today’s post.

Check my Southern-fried style
And my Southern flow

(Southern girl)

I share my life with another Southern girl—and if you missed her beautiful okra post from last week, I dare you not to fall in love with her fried & pickled versions.  Jill and I both have a sense of what it means to be a badass Southern woman, banging around in kitchen, with a cast-iron skillet and a will to match.  We model our vision on our mothers, her father’s sisters, women I knew in my Memphis childhood.

They are brash and busy and hilarious.  They do not coddle, or mince words.  Their praise does not come easily, making it even more valuable. They look as good in hunting cammo as they do in cocktail dresses.  They can be as frightening as they can be gracious.  Their respect, once lost, is difficult to earn back.  They are loyal and they don’t take any shit.  They cook everything well.

Southern Girl, and I’ll rock your world
Fly as a bumble bee
Can’t nobody f*** with me

Man, I sure hope I’m worthy of a lyric like that someday.

TOMATO – CORN PIE
adapted from Gourmet

This recipe made the internet rounds last summer, but you might have missed it.  AND THAT WOULD BE A SHAME.  Because this pie is crazy-delicious.  A wee bit time consuming but not all that difficult to put together.  And totally worth it.

While you’re going through the trouble, I highly recommend making two pies, so you can eat one and gift the other to some lucky soul.  Know any new parents?  Grieving friends?  Vegetarians?  Coworkers who can’t cook to save their life?  They’ll love you forever if you give them one of these.

for the filling:

1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup mayonnaise, with the juice of 1 lemon stirred in

4 large summer tomatoes, diced & squeezed gently to release seeds and juices

2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob

handful of basil, chopped

palm-full of chives, chopped

salt & pepper

Combine the tomatoes, corn, herbs, salt, & pepper in a bowl.  Toss gently and set aside.

for the crust:

2 cups flour

¾ cup buttermilk (regular milk will work, too)

6 T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 T baking powder

¾ tsp. salt

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter with your fingers, pressing and crumbling until the mixture looks like a cross between gravel & sand.  Pour in the milk or buttermilk and knead the dough lightly with your hands until it just comes together into a ball.

pan: 9 or 10-inch pie plate

oven: 400˚

Divide the biscuit dough in half.  On a floured surface, gently roll or press out one of the halves until it will cover the bottom & sides of your pie plate.  Drape it in the pie pan, snugging it in and adjusting where need be.  If there’s overhang, leave it there for now.

Time to fill your pie!—and be warned, this baby’s gonna be FULL when all is said & done, but fret not—all will end well.

Cover the crust with half of the tomato/corn mixture.  Sprinkle half the cheese on top.  Layer the rest of the tomato/corn mixture atop the cheese, then pour the lemon mayonnaise on top of everything.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Now, roll out the other half of the biscuit dough until it’s big enough to cover the behemoth of a pie you just constructed.  Gently drape it over everything, pinching it together with the bottom layer around the rim of the pie plate.  Don’t worry if you have to patch & cobble the top crust—I’ve done this before and the pie still tastes delicious.

Use a sharp knife to cut four vents in the top of the pie, as if you were drawing a cross or a compass-N, S, E, W.  Melt a little butter on the stove or in the microwave, then brush it all over that biscuit crust.  Awww yeah.

Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden.  Cool for at least 10-15 minutes on a rack before serving.  Serve hot or warm.

You can also cool the pie completely, refrigerate it, and then reheat it the next day, in a 350˚ oven for 20-25 minutes.

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LAHMAJUN

Jill is the world traveler in our family.  Given the nature of her work, she finds herself among the air-mile elite, logging thousands of miles a year for book tours, speaking engagements, and a few times at the behest of Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan.  She has been four times to Turkey, to Israel, Jordan, & Egypt, and all over Europe—at the moment, as the scholar-in-residence on a group trip to Macedonia & Croatia.

There are things I don’t love about the frequency of her travel.  Our dog, Dolly, who is convinced that Jill is God & I am God’s secondary consort who will do if God is not around, pouts from the moment she sees Jill pack a suitcase to the moment Jill walks back through the front door.  Selfishly speaking, it’s inconvenient to go from a two-person household to a one-person.  I enjoy my alone time, but I hate doing all of the dishes, all of the cooking, all of the chores, all of the dog-attending.  And I miss Jill.  She is my favorite person to spend time with, my beloved, my sounding-board.  I feel a bit thrown when she’s away; I worry.

At the same time, I wouldn’t put a stop to her travel even if I could.  When I signed up to live my life with Jill, I did so with the understanding that it’s my job to broaden her, to cheerlead the pursuits to which she is so clearly suited, to celebrate the work about which she is so passionate.  To push her to be her biggest and most expansive self.  And that she would, as she so gracefully does, do the same for me.

Of course, there are tremendous benefits to Jill’s travel.  Frequent flier miles, a thousand stories and hundreds of photographs, and the sense of having contributed to the growth and expansion of all those whom she meets and inspires on her travels.  Not to mention—exposure to all kinds of food.  Jill has been lucky to eat at some incredibly drool-worthy places, from river cruises on the Nile to the humble kitchens of local hosts and hostesses, who generously treat her to sumptuous home-cooked meals.

Now Jill loves food, but she’s not obsessed with it the way I am.  She has, though, in one of those non-ostentatious but incredibly meaningful displays of affection, altered her travel habits to include regular pictures of and notes on the food she eats.  And she’s learned that the presents that thrill me most—like this Scandinavian honey—are food related.  (I’m still hording the homemade, mystery fruit preserves from her last trip to Jordan and a tiny bottle of mystery liquor from Latvia.)

We’ve also, as a family, adopted many of the tastes and preferences she brings back with her from various countries.  It pushes us to seek out restaurants, grocery stores, & home cooks here in Houston with whose help we can attempt to replicate the good stuff she has eaten, allowing me to taste along with her.  Lahmajun, a classic Turkish dish, is one of our favorites and I am proud to say that Jill declared my version “just as good” as the best ones she had eaten abroad.

LAHMAJUN

These make for a perfect weekend lunch or light dinner, especially when served with a green salad and cold, pale beer or white wine.  A bit labor intensive but well worth it—these flew off the serving platter on blog-recipe-test day!

Many recipes for lahmajun topping will call for the addition of pomegranate molasses or syrup, which you can pick up at most Middle Eastern grocery stores.  I didn’t have any on hand that day, so I substituted preserved lemon to add a similar tart edge to the dish.

dough:

1 cup bread flour (substitute all-purpose if need be, but bread flour truly does yield better results)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup warm water
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. yeast
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt

Sprinkle the yeast & sugar over the warm water and leave five minutes.  If the yeast hasn’t bloomed, throw it out and start over.  If not, add the flours & oil and knead by hand or with the dough hook on a mixer.  Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough to rise in an oiled bowl, covered with a cloth or plastic warp, for about an hour.  Place the dough in a warm place to help it double in size.

topping:

1 lb. ground lamb (substitute: ground beef or turkey)
½ onion, chopped
3 gloves garlic, minced
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 preserved lemon, minced (substitute: juice + zest of 1 regular lemon)
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. harissa paste (optional)
1 tsp. salt

Sauté the onion & garlic in a little olive oil.  When they become translucent, add the lamb and cook until it browns.  Remove from heat, stir in the remaining ingredients.

to assemble:

extra parsley, chopped
3 T melted butter

oven: 425˚

Once the dough has risen, punch it back down and divide into eight pieces.  A bench scraper is very handy for this step; just keep halving the dough until you get to eight.  You can also use a kitchen scale if you are a fanatic for equal-sized pieces of dough.  I’m not.

There are two ways to bake the lahmajun—all at once, on baking sheets or one at a time, on a pizza stone.  I used the latter method because it seems more authentic and because I like the crisp edges it achieves.  However, if you need all of your lahmajun to be ready at once, just assemble them all, move them carefully to greased baking sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.

If you plan to make them in succession, though, I suggest waiting to roll each piece of dough until you’re ready to top it & put it in the oven—it is likely to dry out otherwise.  Keeping the dough pieces covered with a damp cloth will help as well.

Roll each piece of dough into a rough circle.  Top with about a quarter-cup of the lamb mixture, spreading out evenly but leaving a half-inch border of plain dough.  Brush the border with melted butter.

Use a large spatula to transfer directly to a well-preheated pizza stone and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the edges become nice and brown.  Remove from oven and garnish with extra parsley.  Enjoy when warm.

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FOCACCIA

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.

What’s yours?

FOCCACIA
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.

Basic dough:

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

Possible add-ins/toppings:

Caramelized or raw onions
Black or green olives
Parmesan or feta cheese
Fresh or sun-dried tomatoes
Fresh or dried herbs: rosemary, parsley, oregano

oven: 475˚
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.

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