Thursday, July 14, 2011

Easier Than You'd Think: Focaccia, Baby, Yeah! (And a bit of an overshare...)

[The content of this post has been approved by my husband. Because he is, ultimately, quite lovely and generous.]

I've mentioned before that my husband is the official bread-baker in our house. His baking exploits have sort of taken the backseat lately, however, because we've been busy and because, in his own words, I "yelled" at him. Now, let's clarify this for you readers: I'm not a yeller. And, honestly, I would never have expressed myself in a manner that could have even been construed by any stretch of the imagination (or wounded pride or bruised ego) as "yelling" had I known it would mean that I would be deprived of the fresh artisan bread to which I've become accustomed over the last year and a half.


We have two children under the age of two. I stay home with them - both a blessing and a curse, the latter of which I am not allowed to complain about often because, at the end of the day, it's my choice to spend this chunk of my life with them every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and I've made my bed, et cetera.


In the evenings, and on weekends, when there are two adults around to run our household and care for our littles... I find myself frustrated when my husband and I have conflicting priorities in terms of where our time and energy should be spent. More plainly: I should be in charge and he should do whatever I say and if I don't say anything he should read my mind.


So sometimes when our house is a mess and laundry isn't done and our daughter hasn't been outside to run around in several days and our son hasn't been bathed all week and I haven't had a moment alone since I can remember, for instance, when my husband opts to devote several hours of the weekend to bread-making rather than, say, cleaning, folding laundry, taking the girl to the park, giving the boy a bath, or just chilling with the kids in the family room while I go run an errand or work out or shave my legs... I might get a little ornery. I might express my dismay. I might speak in a curt tone. I might communicate in a distant-cousin-of-the-yell-type-manner.


There has been no whole wheat sandwich bread in weeks. No pugliese. No ciabatta. No pizza. No brioche. No focaccia. I think he misses baking but is holding out just to prove a point.


I can prove a point too. I can rear the children, get all the housework done, AND bake bread.*


I just can't bring home the bacon.

[humble silence]

sliced focaccia

Well, that was fun! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. So cathartic!

Now a bit about this focaccia: It's just lovely. More simple and rustic than the amazing focaccia that my husband makes (per the tutelage of Peter Reinhart), but there are trade-offs in baking and what this lacks in terms of depth and richness and volume is made up for a thousand times by being super easy and relatively quick to make. Which is good for me because one of the reasons I am not the bread-baker in the household is that I am not especially patient in the kitchen. (I am reluctant to let time do the work because I don't trust time. I'm a bit of a control freak, you see. (See above.)) It's also just-plain-and-simple tasty. I mean, it's homemade bread. Yum.

As far as toppings go, the possibilities are endless. I made a grape focaccia, with halved black grapes, a dried bouquet garni spice blend, and a heavy dose of flaky salt, inspired by this one. It was everything I'd hoped for and more, but I can't wait to make it again and try more traditional toppings or maybe even go the thick-crust pizza route.

Grape focaccia collageplated focaccia close-up

Please go do the same. You'll impress yourself and your friends.

Easy-Peasy Whole Grain Focaccia
Adapted from Good to the Grain
Yield: Three 9"-flatbreads; about 12 "side" servings or 4-6 pizza servings total

About 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided, to oil bowl and pans
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast [or 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast]
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups kamut, spelt, or whole wheat bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons table salt (or 1 tablespoon kosher salt)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

Lightly coat a large mixing bowl with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and set it aside.

[If you are using active dry yeast, mix it with the warm water and honey in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside, allowing yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it bubbles. This is not necessary with instant yeast. Whisk flours and salt together in mixing bowl and then add the yeast-water-honey mixture before using electric mixer; then proceed with recipe as written below.]

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, instant yeast, and salt. Add the warm water, honey, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using your electric mixer, beat on low-medium speed until everything is combined. Swap in your kneading attachment and knead on medium speed for about 3-5 minutes, until a supple and elastic ball of dough forms. (Alternatively, knead by hand on a floured surface for about ten minutes.) You might need to add more flour to make it less tacky, one tablespoon at a time. I did not need to.

For the first rise, put the dough into the oiled bowl, turning it so that the dough is coated with oil. Cover with a towel and leave for about two hours, until doubled in bulk.

After initial rise, generously oil three 9-inch round pans with olive oil. (About one teaspoon per pan will do.) Cut the ball of dough into three equal pieces and gently, slowly stretch each piece with your hands to fill the baking pans. (You could just make one portion at this point and cover the remaining dough tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for a few days. Pull it out of the fridge about two hours before you want to eat it, allow it to come to room temp, stretch it into oiled pans, let it rise a second time, and then bake it. I did this and it tasted just as good three days later.) Cover the pans with a towel and leave to rise for an hour. About 20-30 minutes into the second rise, remove towel and gently dimple the focaccia with your fingers. (Or find someone with v. short fingernails to do this for you!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once the dough has completed its second rise and is adorably puffy, drizzle each focaccia with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle each with salt, herbs, spices, tomato sauce, cheese, and/or whatever toppings you choose.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees after 10 minutes. It will be golden brown when done and the circumference will be just barely crisped. Allow the focaccia to cool slightly before removing from the pan, slicing and serving. These were best right out of the oven but not bad the next day, microwaved for about 20 seconds.


1 comment:

  1. I have been meaning to make focaccia for such a long time but as I'm sure I have told you before I hate my oven.

    I was hoping those grapes were olives at first b/c I love an olive but grape sounds wonderful too. Like you, I enjoy a salty bread.