Monday, June 28, 2010

Foxy Focaccia....Seriously!

This quick focaccia bread takes only about one hour from start to finish, making it an easy accompaniment for any dinner, and an easy homemade bread for sandwiches.

We love to eat at Buca di Beppo, for the salads, pasta, and seafood, the fun and quirky atmosphere, and probably most of all for the focaccia bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. After much experimenting, I finally came up with a recipe that we can all make often and enjoy. It is really delicious, tender, yeasty, and  quick to put together.

The dimpled surface of focaccia is one of its signature traits. After you've put the dough in the oiled pan, drizzle it with a bit of olive oil and dust it with herbs and coarse salt, then use your fingers to press the oil and herbs into the bread. There should be lots of lumps and bumps. If you have children in the house, this is a perfect job for them to do!

Foxy Focaccia

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 envelope quick-rising yeast (such as Fleischmann's Rapid Rise Yeast)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for dusting
1 cup very warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Desired dried herbs (I like the Victoria Taylor Tuscan or Sicillian blends.)

(This is a cinch to make using a stand mixer (like Kitchenaid's Artisan) but you can certainly do this by hand; it will just take a bit longer and use more muscle power.)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, dry yeast, and salt. Attach the dough hook, and stir together the flour, yeast, and salt while slowly adding the water and oil. Scrape the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the remaining flour while running the dough hook on low, and increase the speed as the dough gets thicker. Run it for a few minutes till the dough is smooth and not sticky. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the pan.

Lightly oil a nonstick baking pan. Use an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch for square loaves, or a 9-inch round for round loaves. Place the dough in the pan and spread it out with your fingers. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the top and sprinkle with herbs of your choice. Using your fingertips, push the herbs and oil into the surface of the dough. Cover lightly with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm spot until it's about doubled in size. That should take 20-25 minutes.

Bake in upper third of preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top. Immediately remove from the pan and set on a wire rack or your cutting board. Give it about 10 minutes before you cut into it or, to serve later, cool to room temp, wrap in foil, and heat in 375 degree oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Other toppings for focaccia can be anything you would put on a pizza: cheese, diced cured meats, diced vegetables, caramelized onions, etc. You are limited only by your imagination!

Slice and serve with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. A great way to make sandwiches is to bake this bread in a round pan, slice horizontally, layer meats, cheese, veggies, and condiments of choice, then put the top of the loaf back on. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Unwrap, cut loaf into wedges, and serve.

Note: Use water that feels warm to the touch. If your water is too hot, it will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise. If the water is too cool, it will rise, but will just take longer to do so. Be kind to your yeast!

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