Wednesday, February 27, 2013

focaccia with coarse salt

Warning: The instructions look long, but trust me, this is not very complicated to make! 
I made this bread several weeks ago when I made the tortellini soup I recently posted about. The first time, it didn't turn out (it just never rose), but I've made it twice since then and it turned out much better. I'm not sure what happened the first time, but I figure it must have been something on my end if I've made it twice since then and it has been good. It actually tasted really good the first time, but was just too dense.
I've made another focaccia recipe before, but like this one a lot better. I haven't gotten it to rise quite as high, but it's more moist than the past recipe I've used, so I much prefer it to the old one. This bread is perfect for dipping in soup. The original recipe calls for adding rosemary, but I don't have any so I just used the coarse sea salt. It was a great addition to our soup dinner each time we've had it (even the first time, when it didn't rise still gave a good soft crouton effect ;)!) 
This recipe is super easy to make. I love the book I got this one from-everything I've made from it is so good, including a pizza dough recipe that is my new all-time favorite, and I'm going to share it soon.
Try this recipe! It's super tasty with soup, perfect for a warm winter meal. It takes a little forethought to plan it out because it rises overnight, but other than it is easy as pie! The directions look long and complicated, but really they are not at all. I've found this true for all of the recipes I've tried from her book. She is very thorough but her recipes are actually very forgiving.
For those of you who may find this helpful, I've jotted down the times on when I did each step-it might help you plan out when to start things. When I do this timing, my bread is done by 5:30PM.

From Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett

I N G R E D I  E N T S :
2 3/4 cups (13.75 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary needles (remove the stems), chopped fairly fine (I left this out)
3/4 tsp table salt
1 tsp. instant, fast rising, or bread machine yeast (I use bread machine yeast)
1 1/3 cups plus 1/2 tsp ice water, plus more as needed
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or other coarse crystal salt

D I R E C T I O  N S :
First rise (I do this right before bed, usually around 10pm): In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, rosemary (if using), table salt, and yeast. Vigorously stir in the water, scraping down the dough and mixing until the dough is thoroughly blended. Vigorously stir in 1 Tbsp, of the olive oil. If the mixture is too dry to blend together, stir in just enough more ice water to facilitate mixing, but don't over-moisten, as the dough should be slightly stiff. If too wet, stir in enough more flour to firm it slightly (I think the first time I may have added too much more flour and that's what went wrong, so add some but not too, too much). Evenly brush the top lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, you can refrigerate the dough for 3-10 hours (I did not do this). Then let rise at cool room temperature for 12-18 hours. If convenient, vigorously stir the dough partway through the rise (If I remember, I do this when I wake up in the morning, but I don't think it makes much of a difference).

Second rise (I do this after lunch, usually around 1PM): Brush a 15x10x1-inch (or similar-I use a cake pan that is a little deeper) baking pan with olive oil, then line the pan with baking parchment (I do not do this because the parchment paper I have cannot go up to the temperature she calls for baking at-so check your label. I just oil the pan by itself). Brush the parchment (if using) with olive oil. Using a well-oiled rubber spatula, turn the dough out onto the pan; try not to deflate it any more than necessary. Drizzle the dough with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. With well-oiled hands, lightly pat and press out the dough until it is evenly thick and extends to within 1 inch of the edges all around. Tent the pan with nonstick spray-coated plastic wrap (to do this, I usually place the dough in a cake pan that has enough height to where the plastic wrap does not touch the dough.  I spray it with spray, then pull it tight over the top of the pan so that it is just sitting on top of the pan but not touching the dough.)

Let rise using either of these methods: For a 2 1/2-3 1/2 hour regular rise (this is what I do), let stand at warm room temperature; or for an extended rise, refrigerate for 4-24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Continue the rise until the dough has almost doubled from the deflated size (If the pan has a 1" rim, the dough should be 1/4" below it.) Just before baking, with oiled fingertips, make deep indentations, or dimples, all over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with coarse salt. (I usually let it rise from 1-4ish. My dough never rises a ton, even though I do it for the full time).

Baking preliminaries (4:30PM): 20 minutes before baking time, place a rack in the lowest position in the oven; preheat to 500 degrees F. Place the broiler pan on the oven floor. (I place the pan on the very lowest rack and the bread is on the one above it).

Baking (4:50PM): Reduce the temperature to 475 degrees F. Add a cup of ice water to the broiler pan, being careful of splattering and steam. Bake on the lowest rack for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown, turning the pan from front to back for even browning about halfway through. Bake for 5-10 minutes more (or until the center registers 209-212F on an instant-read thermometer) to be sure the center is done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using wide spatulas, life the bread from the pan onto the rack to cool, or onto a cutting board to cut into servings.

If you use the same timing as I did, your bread will be done by 5:30PM.

Serving and storing: Focaccia is best when fresh. Cut into rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with additional olive oil or provide more as a dipping sauce, if desired. To maintain crispness, keep, draped with a tea towel, at cool room temperature for 2-3 days. It may be frozen, airtight, for up to 2 months, but should be crisped in a preheated 400 degree F oven before serving.

Variation: Fennel seed and oregano (or thyme) focaccia with salt-prepare the dough exactly as for the rosemary version except omit the rosemary. When garnishing with sea salt just before baking, also sprinkle the dough evenly with 1/2 tsp fennel seeds and 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves or dried thyme leaves.

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