Monday, June 14, 2010

From the Kendall Files: Focaccia Bread

If you've ever thought about baking your own bread, this is a great recipe to get you started!  It was one of the first breads I made while in school and it helped me get over that silly aversion to yeasted doughs.  Why?  Focaccia is made with simple ingredients, boasts straightforward and fairly quick directions, and can be adapted in countless different ways.  It's like the little black dress of the bread world!

The original version is simple and so good- flavored with just a sprinkling of chopped rosemary and salt.  I had some roma tomatoes laying around, as well as some parmesan cheese, so they were used to jazz up this batch just a little.  Feel free to put your own twist on this recipe with the fresh ingredients you have on hand.  My recommendation, though, is to go easy on the toppings.  This bread is meant to be light and airy, and too much on top will weigh the bread down.  Focaccia is so good straight out of the oven, or leftover slices can be toasted lightly and served for up to three days afterwards.

Focaccia (Roman Flatbread) 
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
12 fl. oz. water, lukewarm
18 oz. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
Olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
Additional toppings:
2-3 blanched whole roma tomatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Line a half-sheet pan (12x18 inches) with parchment paper.  Use olive oil to grease the pan, paying special attention to the pan's sides.
2.  Combine the sugar, yeast and water in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Stir to dissolve the yeast.
3.  Stir in the flour, 4 ounces at a time.
4. Stir in the salt and the onion.  Mix well, with the dough hook on low speed, until dough is smooth. Alternately, you can knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and set aside until doubled.  This will not take too long!
6.  While dough is rising, thinly slice the roma tomatoes and lay slices on paper towels to drain.
7. Punch down the dough, then flatten it onto the prepared sheet pan  It should be no more than 1 inch thick.  (I flattened my dough the length and width of the pan, but for a thicker focaccia, you may not want to flatten it this much).  Use your fingertips to make indentations across the surface of the bread dough.
8.  Brush the top of the dough with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Arrange tomato slices across the top and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary, parmesan cheese, and salt, to taste.
9.  Let the dough proof until doubled, approximately 20 minutes.
10.  Once the dough has doubled, bake in a preheated 400°F oven until lightly browned, approximately 20 minutes.

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