When I am feeling under the weather, (which I am, can’t you hear me whining from here????) I want to make bread. There’s something about the softness of the flour, the warmth of the kitchen, the smell of baking…it’s so comforting. Even kneading helps! Of course, I’m spreading all my germs all over everything, but maybe the baking killed them. Who knows? Anyway, I also hooked up my Bose speakers (finally) to the stereo and I recommend kneading bread to “GusGus”.
I’m just sayin’….you should CHECK OUT THESE GUYS!
I haven’t made my Focaccia in a while – I used to make it every week when all the kids were home. The little savages would eat all of it in about an hour. It’s extremely easy and like all bread recipes, lets you attend to other important things while the dough is rising or resting. I mean, I did, like, 10 Sudoku puzzles!
Additions to the dough are up to you. I almost always add sautéed garlic and chopped chives. The toppings - you can go crazy….since there are 4 breads to a batch, you can do something a little different on each one. Today one had rosemary and sea salt, one had sliced tomatoes and finely grated Pecorino Romano, one had just the cheese, and one had thinly sliced shallots. Be sure to use a fruity olive oil for the brushing…makes a big difference. And I always sprinkle my breads with sea salt after baking. But I’m a salt freak. If I could have a salt lick in my living room, I would. Moo.
Makes 4 flat rounds
1 tablespoon dry yeast
4 cups warm water (we’re talking baby bottle warm)
3 tablespoons olive oil
About 6 cups bread flour OR 2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups bread flour
1 ½ tablespoons coarse kosher salt
GOOD extra virgin olive oil for brushing Focaccia
1. Fill a large mixing bowl with hot water. Let stand for a few minutes, then pour off water. Add the 4 cups warm water to bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the olive oil
3. Add half (3 cups ) of the flour and stir until it is all incorporated. Add salt and any additions you wish (see notes below).
4. Beat the batter (at this point, it’s like a thick pancake batter) until dough is elastic and grabs the spoon when you lift it. Stir in more flour to make a soft dough and mix until mixing becomes difficult.
5. Cover bowl with damp towel or plastic wrap and place in warm spot – let rise until doubled.
6. Sprinkle dough with handful of flour, enough to remove the stickiness on the surface.
Punch down dough, deflating it. Pour dough out of bowl onto a well floured surface. It will be pretty sticky, so cover your hands with flour and use a light tough. Cut (I use a dough scraper to do this) into 4 pieces. Knead each piece until dough is homogenous, adding more flour as necessary to keep surface dry and not so sticky. Maintain a soft dough and avoid the temptation to add more flour. Dust each piece lightly with flour, and set aside for about 15 minutes, to allow the dough to relax.
7. Preheat your oven now, to 400 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by generously oiling them with olive oil. When ready, place 2 pieces of dough onto each baking sheet, pat and gently stretch each piece of dough into a disk, about 1 inch thick. Brush generously with olive oil. Let rise until puffy, 15-30 minutes.
8. If you have chosen to do so, sprinkle dough with toppings. Then dimple the dough with your fingertips. Brush tops with olive oil again. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until browned (check the bottoms too!) If baking both sheets in same oven, switch positions halfway through baking.
9. After breads are removed from oven, brush once again with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired.
*If you are adding garlic or onion into the dough, sauté first in the olive oil, let cool, then add when oil is to be stirred in. Other additions could be finely minced fresh rosemary or sage, freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, or pieces of dried tomato in oil.
* For toppings, sprinkle dough before you bake with one or more of the following…very thinly sliced onions or shallots, crumbed sage or rosemary leaves, finely minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, thinly sliced, seeded tomatoes.
The picture below is one I took of a huge hawk sitting on my tree, outside my upstairs bedroom window yesterday. He was bedraggled and wet from the storm. I went outside to talk to him, but he didn't have much to say. He was pretty miserable, I think. So I got him a hot dog and put it below the tree. I think he liked it. Isn't he beautiful??