Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 2009 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Variations: Antipasto Focaccia; Raisin Focaccia
Making focaccia is a very easy way to begin making bread if you have never tried it before. It is a simple sheet of bread dough, baked in a sheet pan, dimpled with the impressions from your fingertips, optionally misted with water, to produce a crustier top crust, and then sprinkled with olive oil and coarse salt right before baking. The bread dough should be mixed to be extensible, so follow the mixing instructions for best results. The ideal thickness of the finished bread should be about 1-inch and it should have air holes with a thin upper and lower crust and should be tender inside.
It can also be baked with any topping desired, my favorite being grated Parmesan cheese added during the last five minutes of baking, sprinkled on top of a bacon and walnut topping! I have also added before baking, chopped dried rosemary, coarse salt and olive or even chopped olives with caramelized shallots, or a combination of chopped fresh herbs such as basil, thyme and sage. Halved cherry tomatoes, tossed with olive oil, sea salt and chopped fresh thyme also taste delicious. Because focaccia is a simple bread, the better the quality the ingredients, the better the resulting flavor!
BREAD RECIPE HELP
Kelly Says: "I just made this bread and it is BEYOND BELIEF!!!
Holy cow...it's just SO delish!
Really, it is the best focaccia I have ever eaten, without exaggeration!
I thought the kneading mode was quite inventive and I was surprised by how wonderfully elastic the dough was, even thought it was not mixed or kneaded for a very long period of time.
It gave NO resistance when I was stretching it into the corners of the pan...seriously, it was fab!"
When "kneading" the dough, the stretching and folding action helps add in air bubbles to the bread and stretch the gluten strands in the dough. This helps leaven the bread dough and also makes it more extensible, helpful for the later stretching steps in the recipe.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or more if needed; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim
2 cups whole wheat flour; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim
1 to 2 tablespoons reserved and chilled bacon fat* or unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons INSTANT active dry yeast
4 tablespoons good quality olive oil; more if needed
2 cups water at room temperature; about 70 degrees F
1 teaspoon honey, optional; helps with browning
A few spritzes of warm water mist
1 teaspoon coarse salt; I use Kosher Salt
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts, optional
1/2 cup (from about 6 slices) roughly chopped and lightly browned bacon
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese; I like to use freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Extra olive oil as needed
SARAH SAYS: Chop bacon and saute until lightly browned. Do not over-crisp the bacon, because it will get too hard when baked on the bread. Remove bacon, place on absorbent paper and blot off grease. *Reserve and refrigerate 1 to 2 tablespoons bacon fat.
Roughly chopping walnuts:
I always like to sift the flour, after measuring, by shaking it through a strainer first, to remove any lumps.
1. Prepare a 17 x 12-inch sheet pan by greasing with olive oil, including the sides, and line it with greased parchment paper that extends over both ends of the pan about 2-inches.
SARAH SAYS:Take care not to use an excessive amount of olive oil when greasing the pan.
Make sure you grease and press the corners and edges of the paper so it adheres to the pan. Set aside.
2. In a stand mixing bowl, combine the flours. Add in and then, rub-in the solidified bacon fat into the flour with your fingertips until completely incorporated.
Then, add the salt and yeast and mix.
Clamp the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and fit it with a paddle attachment, and mix on low until combined.
3. Stir the honey into the warm water.
With the mixer on low, immediately add the water / honey mixture slowly at the side of the bowl.
When all of the water has been added, mix on low speed for 2 minutes, until the dough is fairly smooth. The dough should be very sticky; if it isn't, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time with the mixer on low to correct.
4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil in the mixing bowl and mix on low speed for 15 seconds.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula dipped in water, to help prevent the dough from sticking to it. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes, uncovered.
Mix again, on medium speed for 1 minute, until the dough is smoother. The dough should still be sticky.
5. Grease a work surface and your hands with olive oil.
Work the dough by gently stretching it with your right hand, keeping it in place with your left thumb.
Then fold the dough in half and rotate it.
Repeat this stretching and folding about a dozen times, but make sure to stop before the dough starts sticking to the work surface. The dough will change from lumpy to smooth and elastic.
Cover loosely with a piece of greased plastic wrap and leave to rest for 40 minutes.
6. Place and gently stretch dough on the prepared pan, and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil evenly over the top of the dough.
SARAH SAYS: The drizzled oil helps protect the focaccia dough from tearing while stretching. If you get tears on the dough surface, then drizzle lightly with more oil.
Begin to stretch the dough into the sheet pan corners gradually, with short rests in-between, if the dough resists; do NOT force the dough to stretch. If your fingers stick too much to the dough, simply dip your fingertips in olive oil as often as needed.
KELLY SAYS: I found that this dough was wonderfully stretchy and elastic and filled the pan like a dream.
Dimple the surface with your fingers while you push the dough out into the baking sheet, but do not go so far as to degas the dough. When resting the dough, make sure you cover and seal the pan with a piece of greased-side-down plastic wrap.
7. OPTIONAL > For more flavor cover it with greased-side down plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 3 days. It will rise slightly.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator about 4 hours before the next steps.
KELLY SAYS: I skipped this optional Step #7 and went right to Step #8.
8. After the final dough stretch, spread the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and then sprinkle with bacon and walnuts. Press lightly on the bacon and walnuts to ensure they adhere to the dough.
Then, cover dough lightly with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until it just comes to the top of the pan. It will take an hour or more, depending on the temperature of the room.
Then, carefully remove the plastic wrap.
9. Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F about 30 minutes before baking.
10. Dip your fingers in olive oil and make many indentations in the dough at irregular intervals. Press down firmly, but gently. You don’t want to deflate the dough.
Spritz the dough heavily with warm water, and then, drizzle 1 or more tablespoons olive oil over the focaccia. Sprinkle with coarse salt and place it in the oven.
KELLY SAYS: At this time, you may also like to place an old baking sheet, with 15-18 ice cubes in it, on the bottom of your oven. If you have an electric oven, move a rack to the lowest position and put the baking sheet there.
The ice helps create a steamy environment and promotes a nice crust on your bread.
11. Reduce the oven heat to 450 degrees F, and rotate the pan half-way through baking. The final bread should be a light brown color on the bottom and top, taking about 15 to 25 minutes to bake.
About 5 minutes before it is done baking, sprinkle it with parmesan cheese evenly over the surface of the bread. Bake until the cheese is lightly browned.
12. Place the baked bread on a wire cake rack to cool for 5 minutes.
Then, unmold the bread by pulling on one end of the parchment paper, with the bread attached, to a wire cake rack to cool. Drizzle any left over olive oil / bacon fat mixture from the pan onto the surface of the bread.
SARAH SAYS: You can optionally let the bread cool in its pan, but the bottom crust will soften as a result.
13. Let the focaccia cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Focaccia bread is best eaten the day it is made. The bread freezes well for about 1 month. Reheat before serving.
Make the basic dough, and omit the walnuts, bacon and Parmesan cheese.
Add in 3/4 cup raisins.
1 tablespoon orange peel, optional
Sprinkle about 1/3 cup sugar on top before baking.
Raisin Focaccia and photos by Orange Piggy © Sarah Phillips