The Lean Green Bean

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Focaccia: Fantastico or Fiasco?

Hi Friends-
Turns out that this was actually the perfect time for me to start this blog because summer quarter is winding down...Read: Lindsay has way more free time than usual! So, today I decided to bake some bread. I've been wanting to try making some homemade focaccia ever since I tasted some FABULOUS focaccia that a friend made and she told me how easy it was (Shoutout to Rachel for sending me this recipe!) Turns out, it was quite an experience- let me tell you about my afternoon adventure in case you want to give it a try!

1 1/2 c. warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 - 4 1/2 c. flour, sifted

*Let me just point out here that it's important to make sure you actually have enough of each ingredient before you start! As you can see, I was scrapping the bottom of the flour container when I was done!!

-In large bowl, combine 3/4 c. warm water, yeast and sugar. (Make sure your water is at the right temperature or the yeast won't work right.)

-Let sit for 10 minutes until very frothy (It should look something like the mixture below...)

-Add remaining water, olive oil, salt and 1 c. flour.
-Stir to combine very well, about 2 minutes. (There will probably be some lumps but that's ok.)
-Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to combine.
-Scrape off spoon and with hands, knead remaining flour and pieces into dough. 

-Once dough is fully combine, turn onto prepared surface and knead until soft, still a bit sticky and smooth, about 5-7 minutes. (If it sticks to your fingers or the counter, just toss in some more flour!)
-Clean out bowl, dry and lightly cover with olive oil.
-Place ball of dough into bowl, brush top with a bit of olive oil.

-Cover with plastic wrap, a kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free area for 1 hour. (It will puff up like crazy!)

-After an hour, line 2 thick baking sheets with parchment and brush each with a tsp of olive oil. (I didn't have parchment paper so I used wax paper.)
-Turn dough out onto counter and cut in 4 equal pieces with a bench scraper.
-Turn edges of dough pieces underneath themselves to form a nice round ball and stretch a bit to form 8-inch disks. (This proved to be easier said than done. As you can see, mine did not form into nice, even, round disks...but that's ok. It was hard to get them to stay spread out to 8 inches, so mine are smaller.)

-Place 2 disks onto each baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel.
-Let rise for 1 hour.
-Meanwhile, prep toppings you would like to use. (I had to do a little research to decide what toppings I wanted to do. All I knew was that I didn't want to make all 4 loaves the same, because then if one is bad, so are all the other. My most adventurous topping decision was balsamic caramelized onion! Thinly slice an onion and toss in a small saute pan:

 Saute over low heat for 10 minutes or so, then add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar, give them a stir, and then leave them alone for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool them down before topping the bread:

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-Meanwhile, using fingertips, make small indentations in top of dough rounds.

-Brush with olive oil, top with toppings of choice, sprinkle with kosher salt and let rise undisturbed while oven preheats.

-Place baking sheets into preheated oven and bake until loaves are baked through, about 20 minutes, rotating loaves half way through cooking time. (Here's where we encounter the slight fiasco! Turns out wax paper didn't work out  too well in the oven. When I opened the oven door after 10 minutes, I was greeted with a cloud of smoke! Luckily the bread wasn't burned, but i had to peel off the wax paper and put them back in the oven. Some stuck, but for the most part the loaves were undamaged:

-Remove from oven, let cool, and serve warm or cooled. (Ta da! Parmesan Oregano with Tomatoes, Caramelized Onion, Rosemary and Black Pepper & Rosemary and Oregano)

A word to the wise...choose your pan carefully! One pan gave me a crispy brown bottom, and the other gave me two loaves that were much fluffier! *Side note- don't leave the loaves on your counter if you have a cat like may lose part of your loaf!*


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