how to make focaccia
One of my culinary goals while living in Tuscany is to learn to make great focaccia.
I confess, I am more of a 'cooker' than a 'baker' and yeast doughs and breads are not a consuming part of my repertoire. But that doesn't mean it is going to stay that way. I mean to learn the yin and yang of yeast in 2010. Even if I have to throw the dough against the wall a few times.
This being my intent, in the last few months I have probably made focaccia 20 some odd times. I have used a few different recipes, combined them, retested them, made focaccia with too much salt and too little. Had super thick focaccia (in too small a pan?) and focaccia I find too flat and hard. Should I let it rise twice? Let it rise longer? Knead it more... or less?
One interesting thing I learned along the way is that focaccia isn't just focaccia. There isn't just one way to make it---better said, there isn't one be-all, end-all recipe that is the "official" focaccia. In fact, focaccia preferences change from person to person. Much like cookies, some prefer the crispy flat variety, while others like one with a lot of loft and chew. And that's not all. Do you prefer raisins or walnuts, chocolate chunks or toffee bits in you cookies? Do you drink it with milk... tea? coffee?
We all have our habits, our preferences, our 'mmmmm' moments that are different than the next guy. I like that about people.
How do you like your focaccia?
My 14 year old likes his thick, preferably with bits of rosemary and salt on top. He would gladly eat it with spliced garlic or caramelized onions baked into the crust. My other son is 13 and likes it mid-loft, high enough to cut for sandwiches and without all the extras. Salt for him, is key. James (hubby) likes his on the flatter, chewier side. Mario Batali (one of the handful of recipes I tried) has a recipe for a Sicilian focaccia that is to James liking. Me? I think somewhere in the middle, not too high, not too flat. A bit crispy around the edges but soft in the middle. I love to eat it plain, with a bit of new olive oil and course salt for dipping... or try this brilliant dip (a family favorite!).
This recipe is the one I have settled on. Will I tweak it later? Perhaps, but it works pretty consistently.
Focaccia 4 cups flour (save out 1/2 cup for dusting the counter-top) 1 cup water, warm 1 small pkg instant yeast 2 T olive oil (Mario puts up to 4T) 1 T salt (feel free to adjust) 2 tsp sugar toppings: brush olive oil over top and add [optional] toppings: kosher salt, Italian Herbs, chopped fresh rosemary, thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced garlic, caramelized onions...
let yeast rest 5-10 minutes in water, until dissolved/bubbles. Combine sugar, salt, 3 1/2 cups flour, olive oil in bowl (wooden spoon). Add water/yeast to combine. Knead for 10 minutes, until soft and pliable (I am still getting a feel for this). In oiled bowl, with oiled saran wrap, let rise in warm place for an hour. (You may punch down, shape the dough/put in pan and let rise again for another 30 minutes, under a towel. I don't always). Shape into focaccia rectangle---I push mine into a 9x13, then dimple it before drizzling with olive oil and salt. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.
One last thing. This really does well for the budget. I can buy flour here for pennies, and make loads of delicious focaccia. Being budget wise serves me particularly well, especially since I have growing adolescent mouths boys!