Pass the bread basket!

This is going to start a whole bread-making thing again.

Ready for baking

I follow this guy’s column on Salon.com. He is just so entertaining. I don’t usually make the recipes, but today, I just couldn’t resist the siren’s call to the kitchen.


Oh goodness, am I ever glad I listened. So is Mr. Smith.




We are officially in focaccia heaven around here.


Lord have mercy on my bread-loving soul, but this stuff is nothing short of divine.






Yes, this recipe is a tiny bit fussy. Yes, the dough is sticky, but you can learn to go with it.


The results are so completely worth it.


If you are that person that falls on the bread basket in restaurants, you need to make this. If the thought of warm bread, olive oil and some balsamic vinegar make you feel light-headed, this will be like a drug.


The part that gets me every time is the simplicity of the ingredients and the endless variations on the results. You could end up with soft pretzels, a loaf of crusty bread, french bread, rolls. 


Poolish (which is basically the starter, but doesn’t that sound much more interesting than starter?)


3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon active instant yeast


Combine the flour, water and yeast in a medium mixing bowl and mix until well incorporated. Now cover it loosely with plastic wrap and leave it at least 8 hours, or over night. Truth be told, I left it for about 6 hours the first time I made this, and it worked perfectly. The second time, I left it over night and there was no huge difference. You do what works for you. Not everyone has 12-14 hours to produce focaccia.


Dough


1 cup water
1 1/4 cups poolish (see recipe above)
1/2 teaspoon active instant yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Fresh rosemary, to taste
Course sea salt, to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste


In a large bowl, add the water, poolish, olive oil and yeast and combine thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Add half the flour and stir. The mixture will resemble thick, lumpy pancake batter.

Add the salt and remaining flour, mixing until it looks like a stringy mess (don’t worry, it won’t stay that way!). Turn the dough onto a clean, dry work surface, scraping all the flour and dough bits out. Or use your mixer to do the kneading, unless you are looking for a little workout. I use my mixer and got phenomenal results. Isn’t that the real reason to have a stand mixer?

Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and somewhat taut. If it is starting to hold together in a uniform, stretchy ball, you are in good shape.

Scrape all the leftover flour and dry bits out of the mixing bowl and spray or brush/spray the bowl with nonstick oil. Put your dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with plastic.

Preheat the oven to 450° degrees with a baking stone on the bottom shelf, and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes.


Note: I waited until the bread was shaped and resting the second time before turning on the oven. It was 97° in the shade. For real. I don’t need an oven on ALL DAY, I can just open the damn window!

Uncover the dough and turn out onto the work surface. Divide into 2 equal pieces.

Gently form the dough into a disc: Pull up on a corner of the dough and hold it in the center of the mass. Then pull up on the edge of the dough a few inches away from your first corner, bringing it to the center, and pinch it to the bit you’re already holding. Continue all the way around the dough until you have a little purse-shaped cutie. Smack it down lightly to flatten the dough into a disc shape. (Don’t smash it — just pat it into shape.) Flip the focaccia, pinched-seam side down onto a piece of cornmeal-dusted parchment and cover with plastic. Let rest for 45 to 50 minutes.


Note: This is when I cranked the oven and prayed for some rain. Okay, just kidding about the rain part.

If you have a peel, sprinkle it lightly with cornmeal and place the disc onto it. (If not, leave it on the parchment, but maybe on the back of a sheet pan or cookie tray to help you push it onto the baking stone.), With your fingertips, press the disc almost all the way through to make dimples all over the surface, then brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt and Parmesan.

Slide the focaccia onto the preheated baking stone and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. I used the parchment because I don’t have a peel. Where the hell would you keep such a thing? Who has a cupboard that will accommodate a giant pizza peel?http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=vert01-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0028LKE6E&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack, brush again with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh rosemary. Cool completely before eating. It will be tempting to break into it, but really: wait. The rosemary infuses into the olive oil and then sinks into dimples, and the bread needs time to finish cooking and setting up so that it’s not gummy. If you like it warm, feel free to reheat it after it’s cooled down.



The recipe is from Zingerman’s Bakehouse via Francis Lam of Salon.com.


We had this focaccia with this lovely pasta salad that is my new favorite.


Other than heating the oven up to 450° for the bread, it was the perfect dinner for a steamy California evening.

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