I absolutely love the smell of bread baking in the kitchen and so decided to take the plunge and attempt to host a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. In fact, it was Dorie that introduced me to the adventures of bread baking in 2007 as the first bread that I ever baked was her raisin swirl bread from “Baking: From my Home to Yours” and since it was a huge hit, I have never looked back!
So during the long holiday weekend that we had here, I set aside some time to bake up this bread (since it needed a 24 to 36 hour refrigerated rise).
The result? - sprinkled with some fresh rosemary, it was one delicious bread and a recipe which I will attempt again (though I may decide to give the Peter Reinhart focaccia recipe a try sometime in the future). I love the openness and air pockets which are characteristic of focaccia - it definitely gives the bread an artisanal feel.
Some disclosures on the slight variations I made to the method / recipe:
- Mixed up and kneaded the dough by hand (mainly out of necessity as I do not have a mixer to do the “heavy lifting”. However, to not overwork my poor arms I do follow Dan Lepard’s method of kneading where the dough is left for approximately 10 minute intervals between bouts of kneading - this allows the gluten to develop on its own.)
- Instead of slashing the bread before baking, I decided to just dimple it with my fingers (mainly because I could not find a knife sharp enough! :))
- Could not find a spray bottle for the water so ended up using the "throw - an- ice cube - into - a hot pan - at the bottom of the oven" method. I did this at the recommended timings given by the recipe. Hopefully the bread was not worse for wear.
Well… onto the recipe!
- 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 90°F)
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons salt
* Makes 3 focaccias
Whisk 1/2 cup water and the yeast together in the bowl of a mixer. Set aside for 5 minutes until yeast dissolves and turns creamy.
Pour 1 3/4 cups warm water into a large measuring cup, add olive oil, and whisk to blend; set aside. Whisk flour and salt together in a large bowl and set this aside as well.
Pour water-oil mixture over the yeast and whisk to blend. Add half the flour, and stir with a rubber spatula to mix. Attach dough hook, add remaining flour, and mix on low for 3 minutes or until dough starts to come together. If the dough appears dry and a little stiff, add a few drops of warm water, scraping the bowl and hook if necessary to incorporate the water and create a soft dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to mix for 10 minutes, scraping down the hook and sides of bowl as needed, until you have a soft, slightly moist, extremely elastic dough that cleans sides of the bowl. You will know that the dough is properly mixed when a piece can be stretched, without tearing, to create a “window”, an almost transparent patch of dough.
First Rise: Transfer the dough to a work surface and form into a ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it to cover with oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Second Rise: Fold the dough down on itself to deflate and let rise again until doubled and billowy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Shaping and Resting: Fold the dough over on itself again to deflate it (as you do this, you can hear the bubbles squeak and pop) and turn it out onto a work surface. Using a metal dough scraper or a knife, cut dough into 3 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball.
The dough needs to be refrigerated for between 24 and 36 hours. Place each ball in an oiled gallon-size lock-top plastic bag and refrigerate.
About 1 1/2 hours before you plan to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and take the balls out of the oiled bags. Place on a lightly floured surface, dust tops of balls with flour, and cover loosely but completely with plastic. Let rest 1 hour until dough reaches a cool room temperature and feels spongy when prodded.
- Herb-infused or other olive oil
- Chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary and/or thyme (2-3 tablespoons)
- coarse sea salt
Position an oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 450°F. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven and preheat it too; dust a peel with cornmeal. Or line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust the paper with cornmeal; set baking sheets aside. Fill a spray bottle with water and set aside as well.
Shaping the Dough: Use your palm to press down gently on each piece of dough, causing bubbles to appear on the sides, then slit the bubbles with a single-edge razor to release the gases. Gently pull and stretch each piece of dough into a 10 inch square, taking care not to overwork the dough or handle it too roughly - you don’t want to knock the bubbles you have worked so hard to create. Let the dough relax, covered, for about 10 minutes, then tidy up the edges with your hands.
Baking the Bread: Transfer foccacias to the cornmeal-dusted peel or the parchment-lined baking sheets. Using a single-edge razor to slash each square, cutting a tic-tac-toe pattern, or making 3 slashes in the center of the dough and enclosing them in 4 slashes to form a suare with open corners. Brush the foccacias with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh herbs and coarse sea salt, and put them into the oven.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden with a heavy speckling of small surface bubbles, spraying the oven with water three times during the first 8 minutes of baking. As soon as you remove the focaccias from the oven, brush them with a little additional olive oil and transfer them to a rack to cool before serving.
Storing: The focaccias are best the day they are baked, but once cooled, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Thaw the breads, still wrapped, at room temperature and warm them in a 350°F oven before serving.
*Contributing Baker: Craig Kominiak
To see how the other Baking with Julia participants got along, do visit the LYL section of the Baking With Julia website.