Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Baking with Christine: Part One-Perfect Focaccia

    My girlfriend, Christine, created a list of ten breads that we have to bake together. We made our first bread off the list a few weeks ago. I strongly recommend baking with someone, it helps past the time as the bread is rising, the other person can help read the ingredients, or get something for you when your hands are covered in flour and dough. At the end of the baking you can share a slice of the bread you just made together.

    It was a perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside focaccia layered with herbs. It was extremely close in taste to the great Bread and Bagel focaccia of my childhood (read about it here.) If only it was their actual recipe!

    The bread is a tad technical but still easily in reach to those who are just starting out. The hardest part will be the actual kneading of the dough but do not worry it is within reach. Without further ado here is the recipe to make your very own focaccia and be transported to an Italian Villa.



   Supplies:

  • A baking stone or a baking sheet 
  • A baker's peel or strong metal spatula 
  • Parchment paper that is heavily floured'
  • Rolling Pin

   Ingredients:
          For the Dough

  • All Purpose Flour - 1 1/4 cups
  • Durum Flour - 1 cup and three tablespoons
  • Instant Yeast - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Water, room temp - 1 1/4 cups
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
  • Salt - 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Fresh Herbs of your choice - 1 cup (Use a medley or just one herb, remember to remove any hard stems.)
          For the Topping
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon
  • Course Sea Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
Steps 
  1. In a bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, durum flour, and yeast. Add the water and oil and with your fingers mix until just uniformly combined. Don't worry the dough is supposed to be very sticky. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. 
  2. Sprinkle the salt on top of the dough and mix it in with your fingers. Put the dough on an unfloured counter and began to knead. For ten minutes squeeze the dough between the thumbs and fingers of both hands moving down the length of the dough. When you get to the end of the dough flip and repeat the process. Do not add any flour even though the dough will not really stay together. As the dough is worked it will become smoother but still pretty sticky. Use your bench scraper to bring the dough together when needed. 
  3. Put the bread in an unoiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise a little for 30 minutes. 
  4. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter with an oiled dough scraper. Dust lightly with flour and gently deflate the dough but not completely deflate the dough. Fold all four sides to make a tight package, return it to the bowl, cover, and allow to rise for another thirty minutes. 
  5. Repeat step four but let sit and rise for two to three hours, until doubled instead of thirty minutes. It will spring back when touched. 
  6. Put the dough gently onto a floured counter and flour the dough well. Tuck in the sides of the dough. Flour again and cover with plastic wrap to rest for 10 minutes. With generously floured hands, stretch the dough into a 11x6 inch rectangle about an inch thick. Transfer the dough to floured parchment and flour the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll out one-quarter of a long side into a thin flap, the flap should be large enough to cover the unrolled portion of the dough. Use flour to keep the dough from sticking. Brush off extra flour and brush lightly with water. 
  7. Wash the herbs and arrange them close to each other on the unrolled portion of the dough. Fold the thin portion over the herbs. Tuck the edges of the dough under all around the dough. Dust the top with flour and roll the dough a little but do not let the herbs break through the top of the dough. Roll both directions to keep an even rectangle shape.
  8. Dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2 hours or when pressed lightly the indentation slowly fills in.
  9. The oven should be preheated to 450 F 1 hour or so before baking with a baking stone/baking sheet set in the upper third and pan set on the floor of the oven.
  10. Brush off any flour from the surface of the dough. Brush on the olive oil and press with your finger slight indentations into the dough. Scatter the sea salt on top of the dough.
  11. Use a baker's peel to slip the bread with the parchment onto the baking stone/baking sheet. Toss 1/2 cup ice cubes into the pan on the bottom and quickly shut the oven. Bake for ten minutes, remove the bread from the parchment, turn it around, and set back onto the baking stone. Bake for about five minutes more or until golden.
  12. Remove the bread from the oven with a baker's peel and let cool on a wire rack until warm.
  13. Serve and enjoy with friends and family. 
Enjoy this recipe and tell me your results. 

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