Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Last Sunday we decided to make a sort of feast. Bob grilled kabobs and I made focaccia.
I was first introduced to focaccia when I lived in Italy almost 30 years ago. Italians think of it as a sort of pizza; you buy it by weight at the panificio or bread store (which is a specific kind of bakery, distinguished from a pasticeria or pastery bakery). In the Puglia region where I was living it was usually topped with olives and sometimes thinly sliced tomatoes. We usually ate it for breakfast on the run.
In the US, focaccia is usually understood to be a flat bread that can be eaten plain or used for a lovely sandwich. We found our recipe on the back of a 50-pound flour sack; of course we have improvised somewhat to make it our own.
Note: Most Americans pronounce the word focaccia with an -sh sound in the third syllable--focashia. The proper Italian pronunciation is a harder sound, as in focachia.
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant active dried yeast (if it isn't instant, be sure to activate it by whisking it in the warm water and the tablespoon of sugar)
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
3 Tablespoons thinly sliced white or yellow onions
Mix flour, salt, sugar, yeast and 3 tablespoons of oil. Mix dough until pliable; I use a stand mixer (Bosch) and knead it for 5-7 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Roll the dough into a flat circle, about 1/2 inch to one-inch thick. You can raise it on a baking sheet, or I prefer to raise it on a pizza peel. Where you raise it depends on how you plan to bake it. I prefer to bake the bread on a pizza stone because it leaves it with a crispy crust. If you don't have a stone, you can bake it on the same oiled baking sheet that you raise it on. I find that covering the pizza peel with corn meal helps keep it from sticking to the pizza peel, and also gives the crust a nice grainy finish.
Make dimples by gently pushing your finger into the dough. Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle on the onions, rosemary, and cheese (the order of these ingredients is important if you want to avoid burning the onions). We sometimes put thinly sliced Roma tomatoes on top as well, especially in the summer when they are in season. Here is what the pre-baked product looks like:
Let the dough rise until doubled, about 35-40 minutes. If you're baking the bread on a pizza stone, heat the oven with the stone inside it to 500 degrees. As soon as you put the bread in the oven, turn it down to 375 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes. If you are using a baking sheet, heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for about 25 minutes. Here's what it looks like when it comes out of the oven.