Friday, January 23, 2009

Recipes: Herb Focaccia

This is really tasty bread, and not that hard as far as homemade bread goes.  Don't be discouraged by the number of steps.  Most of the time is spent letting is rise. I got the recipe from my Aunt Karen, who is a wonderful cook.  It makes two sizable loaves, so the first time I made it I froze one and it kept pretty well. 


2 cups lukewarm water

1 tspn. sugar

1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

1 1/2 tspns. salt

4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached flour

5 tbsps. (for dough) plus 1/3 cup (for herb drizzle) olive oil

Cornmeal, for dusting

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt (optional)

1. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and set it aside for 5 minutes to dissolve. Note: If the yeast doesn't begin to bubble within 5 minutes, repeat the process with fresh ingredients. 

2. Add the salt, 3 cups of the flour, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and beat the ingredients with a wooden spoon for 100 strokes. Set the dough mixture aside for 10 minutes. (I just used my Kitchen Aid and mixed for about a minute.)

3. Add the remaining flour about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough is too stiff to be stirred, turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Using floured hands, knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes, using more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.  (Again, I just kept mixing in the mixer and added the flour with it running.  You know when it is enough flour when the dough isn't sticking to the sides of the bowl.)

4. Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the bottom of a large mixing bowl, roll the dough around in the oil to coat it, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. 

5. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead it for 1 minute, then cut the dough in half and knead each half into a rectangle. Flatten each one and set them aside on a floured surface to rest for 10 minutes. 

6. While the dough is resting, lightly oil a large baking sheet, then sprinkle on a light coating of cornmeal. 

7. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Press and stretch it into oblong shapes, about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick, leaving 2 inches between the loaves. Brush the tops of the loaves with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Set the dough aside to rise for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 400° F. 

8. In a measuring cup, combine the 1/3 cup of olive oil with the garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and stir. 

9. Dimple the loaves with your fingertips, then spoon the oil-and-herb mixture over them, dividing it evenly. Sprinkle the loaves lightly with coarse salt, if you like. 

10. Bake the focaccia on the center oven rack until the tops are golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack. 

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