Saturday, August 28, 2010

forgiveness in the form of Focaccia.

I have a confession to make. It's something I could only trust with you, so I hope you can keep a secret. Four weeks ago, I came home from my amazing trip to Europe. I took my clothes and shoes out of my suitcase, put them back in their usual place in my closet. I gently arranged the coveted teas I brought back from Paris on my kitchen shelf, alongside my freshly dried chili pepper flakes brought back from Barcelona. I ate a lot of chocolate, which I managed to sneak through customs in the airport, along with a whole box of heavenly French macarons that, on a side note, John and I polished off rather quickly.

And then. I found myself in my kitchen, and I began to cook. It had been awhile, and I realized right away how much I had missed it. Don't get me wrong- it was so nice being with friends, sharing good wine and laughs and recipes from their kitchen. But back at home on my own turf, I took one loving glance at my Le Crueset pans and my favorite bread knife and my Kitchenaid mixer, and I knew it was all over from there. Oh reader, I made so many things. I made a gorgeous plum torte, a french apricot tart with a creamy vanilla filling, three pots of spicy chicken noodle soup, a pot of lentil sausage soup, a pot of fennel vegetable soup, a roast chicken, two loaves of foccacia bread, and Panzanella salad with grilled bell peppers, onions, crusty bread, and tomatoes. I made zucchini fritters, fig ice cream, chicken stock, and heirloom tomato salad. Hell, I even made a loaf of oatmeal sandwich bread.

But the problem is, dear reader- the reason I am telling you all of this- is that I made all of that wonderfully delicious food, and I didn't blog a single one of them. Not only that, but I never even gave you one photograph from my travels to enjoy while you waited! And there were so many things to show you- like the one of the best cafe creme I ever had, in a bistro in Paris; or the one of John eating a really, really good carne empanada, at the unbelievably amazing La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, Spain.

So, I'll admit it. I have been a complete and utter slacker, in every possible way. I have been a slacker in the way of chicken noodle soup, zingy and warm from suprising ingredients like lemon and cinnamon; and I've been selfish, ever so selfish, keeping all those wonderful recipes to myself. I didn't even share the fig (fig!) ice cream with you, and it's because of my guilt that I am here to offer you my humblest apologies, in the best way I can; I am here to offer you the recipe for my Tomato-Rosemary Focaccia Bread.

I know. I know what you're thinking. That you're not so easily bought. That you're forgiveness is worth far more than one stinking recipe for bread. But that's because you don't know how perfectly delicious my focaccia bread is. And how suprisingly easy it is for you to duplicate. You'll have to make it yourself to fully understand, and that's why I'm hoping you will. So if you haven't given up on me yet, and you're still reading this, than please, for crying out loud, just make the damn bread. I promise it won't dissappoint, and you'll be so happy when it comes out of the oven, golden and speckled with rosemary and tomato and fragrant from yeast and garlic and salt, that you'll forget all about my horrible, selfish ways. Perfectly crunchy on the outside with a soft, chewy crumb in the inside, this bread is the perfect accompaniment to any meal, anytime of the day; but I personally think it's best eaten straight from the pan, when it's still warm from the oven.  Anyway, you decide, and in the meantime, I'll leave you with the photographs I promised I'd show you, and I hope that you'll forgive me.

a cafe creme (espresso w/milk) at a French bistro.
Near the Louvre museum in Paris.
The best carne empanada I've ever tasted.    

My personal fave: chili's, and lots of them- at La Boqueria Market in Spain.

Mushroom varietals at La Boqueria.

Tomato-Rosemary Focaccia Bread

On a side note (because there's always a side note, isn't there?): This recipe is adapted from a March 2002 issue of Gourmet magazine, but their version called for more flour, and in my opinion, the dough came out far too dry- which is why my version starts off with less flour, and you can just add more if your dough needs it.  I also added the garlic and tomato- but if you're not a fan, there's no reason why you couldn't omit them. I've made this recipe dozens of times without the tomatoes, and played around with a few more herb combinations, which I encourage you to do. This is just my personal favorite combination at the moment. Whatever you do, promise me you will add the rosemary. It's a must.
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (may need a bit more depending on how dry/moist your dough is) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 extra tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon course sea salt
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary, plus extra 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 large tomato (or two small tomatoes) cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
Another note: I use a KitchenAid stand mixer to bring my dough together, because it's easy and quick; but if you don't have one, you can certainly do it with your hands and knead it the old-school way. 

  1. Stir together 1 and 2/3 cups lukewarm (105 to 115 degrees) water and yeast in a bowl of mixer and let stand until creamy/foamy, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add flour, starting off with just 4 cups, and adding more, a 1/4 cup at a time, if your dough seems too wet. Add 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary and 2 1/2 tablespoons table salt and beat with paddle attachment at medium speed until a dough forms. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough at medium-high speed until the dough is soft, smooth and sticky, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour. Knead dough for 1 minute- your dough should feel slightly sticky- then transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise, at room temperature, until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.
  4. Press dough evenly into a generously oiled 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Let the dough rise once more, covered completely with a kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  6. Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then drizzle evenly with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary.
  7. Lay tomato slices evenly on top of dough, making sure not to let any slices sit too close to the edge of the dough (their juices will run off the sides of the bread and create a mess, and trust me you don't want that). 
  8. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt and the sliced garlic evenly over the top of your dough.
  9. Okay, here's the important part: Bake in the middle of the oven, for about 6 minutes, until lightly browned, then turn the oven down to 475 degrees. Bake until golden and cooked through, about another additional 15-20 minutes.
  10. Immediately place focaccia onto a rack using two spatulas, or inverting a rack over pan and flipping the focaccia onto the rack.

1 comment:

    Thats the feeling i get when i look at this picture of 2 hands holding the shaped bread dough. Its very spiritual and conforting. Bread is the staff of life, and yet it is nothing until two hands make it into something that nourishes and nutures us. Love it and you...................