Saturday, July 15, 2006


Many times, the recipes that I decide to try are foods that I've eaten at restaurants and love. That was the case when I decided that I needed some focaccia.

If you've ever eaten at a Macaroni Grill, then you have tried this bread. Brought to your table hot from the oven and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it's one of the most welcome greetings I can recall among many restaurants.

It's salty and tastes of rosemary and wonderful, fragrant olive oil. The olive oil that you dip it in is like butter for a baguette and works perfectly.

And the variations are endless. Use a variety of herbs, or try any of the following as a topping:
1. thinly sliced tomato or reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, or oven-dried tomatoes
2. caramelized onions
3. pitted black or green olives, or tapenade (black olive paste)
4. freshly grated parmesan cheese
5. thinly sliced mushrooms
6. strips of marinated, grilled, or broiled peppers
7. thin slices of prosciutto (added toward the end of cooking to prevent them from drying out)

Two things that occurred to me as a typed the recipe below:

First, do they really need to say "try not to tear the dough?" It reminds me of exercise videos where the perky blonde says, "don't forget to breathe!"

And Second, if you haven't gone out and gotten kosher salt yet (even after listening to AB go on and on about it, not to mention every other food show of that channel), go do it now. Invest the $2.50 on it and you'll be glad you did.

from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, here is the recipe for Focaccia:
Makes 1 Focaccia

Time: About 3 hours, largely unattended

If you make a thick-crust pizza, dimple its surface with your fingertips, sprinkle it with olive oil and salt, and cool it until just warm or at room temperature, you have focaccia. Of course you can make more complex focaccia than that, just as you can make more complex pizza.

1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough (to follow), made with an extra tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse Salt
Herbs (optional, add hardy herbs, such as rosemary at the beginning, fragile herbs such as sage or basil toward the end of cooking)

When the dough is readyj, knead it lightly, form it into a ball, and place it on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour and cover with plastic wrap or a towel; let it rest for 20 minutes.

Use 1 tablespoon of the oil to grease an 11x17-inch jelly-roll pan. Press the dough into a small rectangle and place it in the pan. Let it relax in the pan for a few minutes. Press the dough to the edges of the pan. If it resists stretching, stretch it gently, then let it rest for a few minutes. Sometimes this takes a while, because the dough is so elastic. Don't fight it; just stretch, let it rest for 5 minutes, then stretch again. (Just a note, I had NO problem with mine stretching to the desired time, without waiting.) Try not to tear the dough.

Cover the dough and let it rise for at least 30 minutes or until somewhat puffy. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Uncover the dough and dimple the surface all over with your fingertips. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Place in the oven, lower the temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden. Remove and cool on a rack before serving. Cut focaccia into squares and serve with meals or as a snack. Or cust squares in half horizontally and use to make sandwiches. Focaccia, well wrapped (first in plastic, then in foil), freezes fairly well for 2 weeks or so. Reheat, straight from the freezer (unwrap, remove plastic, and then rewrap in foil), in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 cups (about 14 ounces) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 to 1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 teaspoons salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.

Proceed with any pizza recipe below, or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost in a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

To make this dough by hand: Combine half the flour with the salt and yeast and stir to blend. Add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add remaining flour a bit at a time; when the mixture becomes too stiff to stir with a spoon, begin kneading, adding as little flour as possible[md]just enough to keep the dough from being a sticky mess. Knead until smooth but still quite moist, about 10 minutes. Proceed as above.

To make this dough with a standing mixer: The machine must be fairly powerful or it will stall. Combine half the flour with the salt, yeast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 cup water; blend with the machine's paddle. With the machine on slow speed, add flour a little at a time, until the mixture has become a sticky ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl (switch to the dough hook if necessary). Knead for a minute by hand, adding as little flour as possible, then proceed as above.


Michelle said...

Focaccia bread is so good! Your picture makes it look especially divine - with the perfect color and all those little rosemary flecks!

Dawn said...

I agree! I really like good focaccia bread! And I have to admit, my camera couldn't really capture the color of the focaccia, so I had to adjust for color in Photoshop once I had the picture. I revert to my argument that all apartments come equipped (standard) with poor lighting!

Nerissa said...

Mmmm... I love focaccia! It's so good with balsamic vinegar-extra virgin olive oil as a dip. Yum!