Focaccia Fun

I think a part of what I’m enjoying so much about bread making is the very tactile aspect of it. You really get to get your hands into it, get a little bit of flour in your apron (if you’re an apron wearer). And, as your bread baking skills improve, or continue to improve, your tactile experience of it becomes a lot more instinctive, you get to know the feel for when you need more flour or have already incorporated too much. Focaccia is a lot of fun because you treat the dough a little like play-dough; you knead, punch down, stretch and poke and come out with a bread that seems to disappear faster than it should.

It’s funny to think that such a short time ago I was apprehensive about bread making, but now it is exciting every time the yeast starts to bubble up during proofing, a promise of good things to come. And here’s my promise: Next time I make foccacia, I’m keeping it at home, because it is all gone way too quickly when you take half of it away right after baking it.

Focaccia

Ingredients

2 tsp yeast

1 Cup warm water

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3 1/2 Cups flour

1 Tbsp salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion

1 Tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic

10 kalamata olives

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

sprig of fresh rosemary

Parmesan cheese, grated

freshly ground black pepper

kosher salt

Directions
  • Proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water, sugar, and 1/4 tsp of salt. Stir gently to dissolve and allow to sit until bubbly.
  • Add the proofed yeast, flour, salt and olive oil to your mixer, and using the dough hook attachment, knead for 10 minutes until the ingredients are combined into a smooth elastic dough. If by hand: mix together the flour and salt, mound into a pile and then make a well in it to contain the proofed yeast and olive oil. Carefully combine, and then knead until a smooth elastic dough is formed.
  • Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl to rise. Cover it with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in size (~45 minutes).
  • While the dough rises, prepare the foccacia toppings: cut the onion into thin crescent moons and caramelize with the tablespoon of butter, mince the garlic, pit and chop up the olives, remove the rosemary leaves from the stem.
  •  When the dough has risen, tip it from the bowl and stretch it into an oblong shape about 1/2 an inch thick. Place on a sheet pan or baking stone and let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 400° F.
  • Dimple the dough with your fingertips and then sprinkle the surface with the prepared toppings as well as the remaining ingredients.
  • Bake until golden and gorgeous ~15-20 minutes.
We couldn’t let the opportunity pass, in this kitchen, to dip or to use balsamic vinegar, so cut your focaccia into small pieces (I like triangles), and serve with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, for dipping.
I skipped the resting period of the dough before dimpling it, and it did not come out as airy as I had hoped, so if you are going to give this recipe a try, make sure to allow it to rest.
And now, Mister gets to say his piece: “Focaccia is possibly my favorite kind of bread: I love herbs on things, and the pokey wells give the bread better balsamic vinegar absorption.” The man loves balsamic more than most, I think. He was trying to give me advice on what to write, because I’ve been a bit blocked, so I would also like to add that he claims focaccia was invented by Batman in the 1930’s, ha ha, apparently asking him questions when he is half asleep is a bad idea.

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