Friday, July 26, 2013

Chillin' in the Kitchen: Homemade Focaccia Bread

We are bread-lovers in this house. Actually, anything from the carbohydrates category is going to fly over incredibly well here. Unfortunately, there are no real bakeries in town, so if we want fresh bread I'm going to have to make it at home. Thankfully, I've found a couple of fool-proof recipes to add to my repertoire and we can enjoy a nice piece of bread anytime we want. As a side note, I scored a really amazing deal on a bread maker a couple of months ago but it's still sitting forlornly in its box because all the recipes I've used in the past didn't need a bread maker and we like them so much that I haven't tried new recipes using our machine yet. Jeff says it's another gadget gathering dust, but I swear I'll use it one day! :)

I recently stumbled across a recipe for Focaccia and it is *so* easy to make, that I've made it a few times now - each time doing something differently - and it still turns out perfectly every time. I even let a friend try it and she said it reminded her of the bread she used to get from an Italian restaurant. Talk about ego booster! :)

This is the perfect recipe if you've never made bread, or are afraid to try making bread. It really is fool-proof and comes out delicious no matter what you do. I've tried it mixing herbs inside the dough as well as just on top, and you can't go wrong either way. Super light and airy on the inside with a crisp outside, this bread is perfect for anything from sandwiches to soaking up stew. It really is our new favourite bread!

Homemade Focaccia
adapted from The Paupered Chef
makes one 9 x 13 loaf

450g flour (I use all-purpose), plus extra as needed
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
14oz warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for coating pan
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp fresh minced garlic
1 Tbsp oregano

1. In a bowl, combine flour (450g worked out to be about 3C for me, but weighing it every time gives you best results), salt and yeast. Give it a quick stir to combine.
2. Add warm water gradually until combined. Water should not be too hot, or it will kill the yeast. Aim for it to be the temperature of your skin. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook and drizzle in water until all is incorporated. If you're mixing by hand, try not to over mix or dough will be tough. Dough will be quite wet.
3. Gradually add more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, until dough is less wet. You want it to be sticky when you touch it, but will still easily come off your finger. If it's too sticky, add more flour.
*Note: it is at this stage where you can add your herbs to the dough if you want a more strong herb-y flavour. Incorporate it into the dough before letting it rise.
4. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm area for 30-60 minutes (until it is double in size)
5. Grease a 9x13 pan with olive oil and dump the now risen dough into the pan. Spread it out so it covers the base of the pan and is as even as possible.
6. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat your oven to 425. Combine your olive oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic and oregano into a paste. (*Note: you can use whatever herbs you want, or no herbs at all...use what is in your pantry, or leave it plain for a more bready taste)
8. Uncover the dough and using your fingers, poke holes all over the top (so it looks like side of a golf ball). Spread the paste (if using) across the top and drizzle with more olive oil if desired.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. For a crispier crust, bake longer. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before slicing. Serve warm.


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