Focaccia

Every once in a while I crave something that takes longer to make than my craving will last.  Focaccia is not one of those things.  Yes, you have to wait for the dough to rise and you have to bake and cool it, but so what.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The main difference, and secret to Focaccia, is that the dough is really wet.  When compared to pizza or pullman dough, Focaccia dough is a shaggy mess, with sometimes twice the liquid.

I’ve tried a couple of recipes and I like this one the best.  It’s a little sweeter and less dense.  I grabbed it from an old issue of Fine Cooking and made some adjustments.  Here’s the recipe:

1 lb 9 oz bread flour

2 1/2 cups cold water

7 tsp sugar (1 oz)

3 1/2 tsp kosher salt (1/2 oz)

1 packet instant yeast (1/4 oz)

extra-virgin olive oil

Add all but the oil to a stand mixing bowl.  Mix on low with the dough hook until the dough starts to come together and smooths out, about 7 minutes.

Transfer to an oiled bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles.  Use a dough scraper, you’ll still get it all over your hands, but it helps.

The next step is to stretch the dough in the bowl.  You’re going to do this 4 times, so it helps to think about the dough in quadrants at this point.  Grab one quadrant edge and stretch it out, then fold it over on to the top.  Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat 3 times.  Add a tablespoon of oil to the top of the dough package and flip it over.

Set the bowl in a warmish spot in your kitchen and let the dough rise to double.  It can’t be above 110 degrees or the heat will kill the yeast.  I usually heat the oven for 5 min and then turn it off.  This provides enough heat to rise the dough without doing any damage.

Line a 1/2 sheet pan with parchment paper and add 3 tbs of oil.  Once the dough has risen, scrape it out of the bowl onto the sheet pan.  The dough needs to fill the sheet pan, so start stretching it out with the tips of your fingers.  If it’s giving you a hard time, walk away for 10 min.

Once the dough reaches all four corners, drizzle 2 tbs of oil and put it back in the warm spot you found earlier.  You’re going to have to wait for a second rise.  This time, look for the dough to have risen above the sheet pan edge but not drooping over.

Heat the oven to 450 and bake for 15 minutes.  Check half-way though to see it it’s baking evenly.  If not, rotate the sheet pan.  It’s done when the top is a brown and the bottom looks the same.  I’ve made the mistake of baking a focaccia with a lightly golden top and a fairly raw bottom.  Be sure to check the bottom.

We should talk about toppings.  What do you have?  This is a common theme, but make this focaccia your own.  As you can see by the pictures, I’ve added some sauce (see the previous post), sliced shallots, rosemary, and some cooked sweet Italian sausage.

The only advice I’d offer here is when to put on what toppings.  Dried herbs, olives, sauce, anything that can burn during baking, should be added when you dimple the dough, but before it rises in the sheet pan.  Sausage, shallots, course salt, nuts, and soft cheeses, should be added just before the dough goes in the oven.  Just one rule: don’t add too many toppings.

Once the focaccia is done, let it cool and slice it up.  I ate the focaccia here as dinner one night.  It’s great along side pasta or soup.  Slice it in half for sandwiches.  If it goes stale, dice it for croutons.  I don’t see that happening though.  This focaccia is really hard to keep your hands off of.

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