Saturday, December 05, 2009
I must say, I do love bread. Especially multi-textured bits that can be used for sandwiches as well as eaten with dinner. Foccacia is one of my favorite bread children. Plain, it has so few ingredients you can assemble it quickly and bake it up immediately. Flavored, it turns into an entirely different bread without much extra effort. I start the flavored recipe at night, whipping everything together and kneading, then shoving the bowl in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors blend. Come morning, I flip it out into an oiled baking sheet and let it rise for a few hours, then 25 minutes of baking and it's done. The problem is that though the recipe is pretty hands-off, I can't stay away from it. Something about the way it burbles up in the pan, spreads itself out, it all begs to be touched. I'm already proud of it, the brainlike, wrinkled dough. I have this idea that it will one day be president.
Makes one baking sheet-sized bread
5 tsp active dry yeast
1 + 3/4 cups warm water
1 tsp sugar or honey
1/2 cup EVOO
5 cups flour
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup kalamata olives, drained thoroughly
zest of one lemon
2 tsp dried oregano
coarse salt for sprinkling, about a teaspoon
1/4 cup EVOO for pan
In a cereal bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and sugar. Let sit 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly and you can't see granules of yeast. While the yeast does its thing, zest the lemon and drain the olives into another small bowl and add the oregano. Mix together and let sit to combine flavors.
Measure the flour and sea salt into a large bowl. Add the oil to the yeast mixture, then pour over into the flour and salt, using a wooden spoon to make a shaggy, soft dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, about 5-7 minutes, until the dough comes together smoothly without sticking, adding up to another 1/2 cup of flour in the process. Flatten the dough as best you can on the counter, then pour the bowl of olives and seasonings over it. Knead it in gently, poking olives back inside as they fall out. It will look a mess, but somehow it works out okay. Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside, covering with saran wrap. There should be plenty of room for the dough to rise. Place the dough in the refrigerator and let rise overnight.
Two hours before baking (in winter; for summer, it will take less time to warm), remove the dough from the refrigerator. Add the 1/4 cup EVOO to a rimmed baking sheet, using your fingers to spread it evenly around and coat the corners well. Place the dough on the sheet, spreading and flattening it as much as possible. Don't worry if it doesn't reach the corners yet, it will relax more as it warms up. Let the dough soften for an hour, then spread and flatten again, working until the dough reaches the edges and corners of the pan. Let rest and rise for 30 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450º. Poke the dough with your fingers, making divots and dimples on the surface. Sprinkle it with the salt, if using, and more oregano, if you like. Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan and try to stop yourself from tearing into it with your bare hands. Or don't stop yourself.
To freeze, and foccacia freezes beautifully, cool on a wire rack completely. Slice bread into sandwich-sized rectangles or dinner-sized squares and wrap in aluminum foil. Reheat in the oven, inside the foil, for 10-15 minutes at 375º. If using a panini grill for sandwiches, let the bread come to room temperature and then stuff and grill it. The oils will pop out of the crust without any additional fat and give it a nice crisp texture.