Saturday, May 10, 2014

Easy Peasy Focaccia

*Bad blogger, forgot to take pics, will update the next time I make it.

Recently, I've been thinking about skills and learning. I've spent the majority of my life learning academic knowledge and honing my thinking skills. However, there is always more to learn and in many cases, having a certain range of skills is just as important as knowledge. At this transitional point in my life, I think it's a good time to work on developing those skills that I would like to put to use later on and so I've been looking at the options out there as I try to move to the next part of my life.

Speaking about skills, bread making is a skill that is definitely worth acquiring because there's just nothing like a fresh loaf of bread from the oven. It takes some practice to master, but even beginners can make an excellent loaf of bread with the right recipe and resources. The most important things for me in bread making are making sure that my yeast is alive and to give dough enough time to rise and yet not over rise. The time required and even the amount of flour to water varies depending on the conditions. So, as much as baking is a science, bread making still requires the baker to be flexible and make adjustments as needed.

I still have a long way to go in terms of my bread making skills, but this recipe for focaccia from Anne Burrell is a good place for anyone to start or continue on their bread making journey. The instructions are simple enough for a bread making novice and produce an impressive praiseworthy slab of flavorful focaccia. The recipe is widely available, but I thought I would document my experience anyway.

The focaccia can be made in just a few hours and is perfect for eating as is or for sandwiches. For sandwiches, I would dial back on the olive oil so it's not too oily for sandwich making. I wanted to serve the focaccia for a party so I made it the day before, underbaked it slightly and then reheated it for about 15 minutes the next day. You can add herbs, caramelized onions, cheese, etc. to the focaccia to make it your own or keep it plain.

Recipe from Anne Burrell
Makes about a Jelly Roll Sized Sheet of Focaccia

1 3/4 cup of warm water (110-115 deg F)
2 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
5 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 tbsp. kosher salt, half the amount of fine table salt
1/2 -1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and mix in the yeast, let sit for 15 minutes, it should be bubbling. If not, start again with new yeast.

In a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, 1/2 cup of olive oil, and the yeast mixture on low. When the dough starts to come together, increase speed to medium and mix for 5-6 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. Take the dough out of the mixer onto a lightly floured surface kneading it a few times to bring it together into a ball.

Lightly coat the inside of the mixer bowl or another large bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl lightly coating it with the oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup of oil or just a few tablespoons depending on how you plan to serve the focaccia. Place the dough in the pan and press it out with your hands to fill the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the oil. As you press and stretch out the dough, use your fingers to make holes throughout the dough so that you end up with the traditional bumpy looking focaccia. If you want a smooth focaccia, then you don't need to do this.

Place the dough in a warm place covered with a damp kitchen towel or a loose piece of plastic wrap. Let rise until it has doubled in size again, about 1 hour.

As the dough is nearing the end of its second rise, preheat the oven to 425 deg F. Sprinkle the top of the focaccia with sea salt, herbs, cheese as you would like and drizzle a bit of oil on the top. Bake the focaccia until the top is golden brown, about 25-30 min. Let the focaccia cool before cutting. Store in an airtight container for up to several days.

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