Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I had just returned from my mother's house where we had watched TV chef, Michael Chiarello, construct a picnic sandwich using a home made focaccia.
The day was cold and windy, and the thought of the smell of hot and yeasty baking bread wafting through the house was all I needed to consider making my own focaccia. I planned to be working at home the rest of the afternoon anyway, and so what if I had no yeast? There was pizza dough in the freezer.
Focaccia, the flat oven-baked Italian bread, is thought to have originated with the Etruscans or the Greeks. The word, focaccia,comes from the Latin panis focacius--bread baked in the fireplace.Focaccia is baked in either a round or oblong stretched into shape in an oiled pan. It can be thick or thin and soft or crisp. The dough's distinctive top is dotted with one's fingertips to create wells in which the fruity olive oil pools. It is usually topped with herbs, such as rosemary and salt. This rustic dish emerges from the oven golden and delicious perfect for snacks, lunch, picnics, or a great accompaniment to dinner.
Making focaccia differs from pizza in that the dough rises three times before it is baked. Carol Field, in her book, The Italian Baker, explains the origins of both beautifully. When I removed the pizza dough ( about one pound) from the freezer I put it in a bowl rubbed with oil to defrost and come to room temperature since its first rising took place before going into the freezer.
The next step is to knead the dough lightly until smooth on a flour-covered work surface. Roll or stretch dough out to approximately 12 x 10 inch rectangle, brush off any excess flour and transfer to an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Brush top with olive oil , cover and let rise about 20 minutes.
Now the fun part. Press your fingers into the risen dough to make even indentations all over. Brush with additional olive oil--be generous here--sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt. Let rise again for about 20 minutes.
And try to wait until the focaccia cools down a bit before tearing into it!
After making the savory focaccia, I came across an article online--sorry, I don't remember where--and I just had to try the sweet focaccia mentioned in the article.
This time dried fruits that I had on hand--1/4 cup each of dried cherries, cranberries, and apricots, and chopped rosemary were kneaded into the dough after it defrosted; put in an oiled bowl and brought to room temperature.
The rimmed baking sheet was coated with some oil and butter this time and dough rolled out and fit into the pan. The dough was brushed with melted butter, covered, and set to rest for about 30 minutes.
The dough was then dimpled as before and baked in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until golden. I didn't have time for a third rise, but I don't think it mattered.
When the focaccia came from the oven I brushed it with melted butter and sprinkled it with demerara sugar.
Although we ate some of this when it came out of the oven, I think slices of this sweet focaccia might be nice for breakfast or a brunch as well as with some after dinner cheese.