Oct 12, 2009
Focaccia....A different way
Isn't that a beautiful thing? Savory sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, Italian spices, and rich olive oil drizzled on top of a flat yeast bread that's pillow soft in the middle and yet wonderfully crispy underneath. A perfect accompaniment to any Italian dish, oooooh, especially lasagna (eyes rolling in the back of my head). Normally, I'd supply a pic of the tasty dish that inspired this style of bread, but in this case, the Focaccia was definitely the "star" du jour.
Focaccia is an Italian yeast flat bread that is easy, quick, and the great thing is, like a homemade pizza, you get to choose the toppings of your liking. The dough doesn't need much kneading, very little really, and only requires a quick rise time compared to yeast loaf bread and is followed by a short resting time before baking. Traditionally, the dough is then shaped into a flat rectangle and then "dimpled" with your fingers, creating these deep dips and crevices that hold the yummy olive oil. Then it is baked in a very hot oven, either on a baking sheet or transfered via pizza peel directly onto a baking stone.
What makes this focaccia different, is that I experimented and used my (well seasoned) iron skillet instead of the usual methods. Basically, I used the same method that I use for corn bread, by liberally oiling the skillet and getting it pipping hot just before transferring the dough to it. So essentially, the dough "fries" on the bottom creating a crispy but moist crust, similar also to a deep dish pan pizza.
Unfortunately, I don't have pics of each step. (hey, I was busy making lasagna) But here is the recipe and I'll do my best to describe each of the steps.
2 1/2 -2 3/4 C Bread flour
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1 pkg Fast Rise Yeast
1 C Warm Water (110-115F)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil (you'll need more for drizzling)
Olive oil for drizzling on top....or, you can do it DD's way:
4 Tbsp salted butter (not margarine)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
Italian Seasoning Blend (oregano, basil, thyme or any combination)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (or sliced roma tomatoes), caramelized onions, roasted green and/or red peppers if desired
½ C Shredded Mozzarella or grated Parmesan cheese, if desired (however, I tend to skip the mozzarella because to me, that just makes for a sauceless pizza)
Liberally oil a glass bowl with olive oil and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, then sprinkle in the yeast. Stir to mix. Normally, I use regular granulated yeast, but in this case, I use the fast-rise type. For this reason, I do not dissolve the yeast in water first, I just throw it in with the flour. Also, you can use all purpose flour, but really, if you want the very best texture, use bread flour. It contains more gluten and will give you that "stretchy pull apart" bread.
Heat water and 2 tablespoons of the oil until very warm (110-115 F); Quickly stir into flour mixture until well incorporated. You can do this by using a strong wooden spoon or rubber spatula, or use a KA stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and set on speed 2.
Next, add in the garlic salt and then the rest of the flour, only 1/2 cup at a time, and only as much as needed to make a soft but not sticky dough. (It will take at least 2 ½ cups total, but not more than 2 3/4 cups). If using a KA stand mixer, use a dough hook and set the speed to 2. Add the flour only until the dough completely pulls away and "cleans" the sides of the bowl. (it will wrap itself up around the dough hook) You should be able to touch the dough with your finger and it not stick. If mixing by hand, you may need to dump the dough out onto a counter top and knead in the last addition of the flour with your hands. The hardest part is judging how much flour. Honestly, in my kitchen, sometimes it takes 2 1/2, sometimes it takes 2 3/4 it just depends on the humidity present.
When all is incorporated, knead the dough either by hand, or with mixer (on speed 2). It should only take a few minutes, until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil or grease a bowl. Put the dough ball in, move it around to cover all sides with the oil, then turn over and cover with a lightweight tea towel. Let rise in a warm place until it is double in size. This will vary depending on the type of yeast you used. About 30 min- if using fast rise yeast. About 45 min if using regular active yeast.
The important thing here is to make sure you set the bowl out of drafts and someplace warm....but not in your oven! I know that some people will turn their oven on, let it cool down and place the dough in to have a warm environment. But the problem here is, you are going to have to bake your focaccia in a very HOT oven, and shortly after you shape it. So for this reason, rising the dough in your oven is NOT recommended.
Instead, what I do, especially if my kitchen is cold, I heat up a large glass 4 C measuring cup filled with water in the microwave by itself for about 6-8 minutes. I move that to the corner of the microwave and quickly put my covered bowl of dough in there with it and close the door. This makes for a nice warm moist environment for the dough to safely rise. It works like a charm!
While your dough is rising, this is a good time to get all of your toppings ready. Also, especially if you are using fast rise yeast, go ahead and preheat your oven to 425F.
Most focaccia recipes call for drizzling olive oil on the dough, but I like a bit more flavor, so I take ½ tsp garlic, 4 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil in a small dish in the microwave, only enough to melt the butter. Stir and set aside to cool.
Next, to caramelize the onion, add slices of onion in a drizzle of olive oil in a small sauté pan and cook on medium to low until onion becomes soft and develops a bit of color. I will also slice my tomatoes and/or roasted peppers at this point.
Next, heavily oil your skillet with more olive oil. Or you could generously grease in with shortening. Set that into the hot oven, at least for about 15 minutes before you're ready to bake, getting it pipping hot.
When the dough is ready, gently stick your fist in the center and push down to let the air out. No need to "punch it" hard, just let the air out gently. Now, while the dough is still in the bowl, I just shape it into a flatter shape so that it comes up the sides of the bowl using my fist and then fingers. Of course, you could do this on the counter, but why make a mess somewhere else? I use my fingers to make the deep "dimples". Keep in mind of your pan size. I used an 8" skillet, which was almost perfect, I probably would have preferred using a 9", but it ended up baking beautifully.
Ok, take your skillet out of the oven, place the dough into the skillet and "dimple" the dough again if necessary, move the dough up the sides of the skillet also. (uhm, do I have to tell you to be careful because the skillet is hot?) Now brush or drizzle on the garlic butter mixture be generous, but you might have some left over. Sprinkle on your Italian seasonings, and then quickly add your toppings. You don't want to loose the heat of your skillet.
Bake for 15- 20 min for deep dish skillet style. If you've opted to go the traditional rectangle shape on a cookie sheet, you'll only need to bake it for 12-15 min.
When it comes out of the oven, I like to brush around the edges one more time with the garlic butter mixture.
Let it cool somewhat, then remove the focaccia with a large spatula and set on a flat cutting board. Slice using a pizza cutter into wedges. Never, never, EVER, slice your bread (or anything for that matter) while in your iron skillet. My grandma, god rest her soul, would turn over in her grave!
So there you have it. Easy peasy great tasting focaccia. I gotta tell ya, it was the best darn focaccia I've ever made...and I've made a lot of different versions over the years. I don't know what took me so long to figure this out, but I'm so glad I did!
One more thing...as you may have guessed, this basic dough recipe makes for some great pizza crust too. I've used it for both thick chewy crust as well as thin crust, each are equally awesome!