Monday, April 27, 2015

DB: Focaccia Bread

One of my favorite things about going to Italian restaurants is the complimentary bread.  I am addicted to the stuff.  What is it about taking some crusty, salty bread, and sliding it through some olive oil and herbs that's so incredibly satisfying.  Oh, and if it's straight out of the oven, it's truly every man for himself because I devour the stuff like I haven't eaten in years.

The fact that I'm a carbaholic probably doesn't help the situation.  But hey, at least I'm honest.

When it comes to bread, I'm a lover of it all.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I have my favorites, but I'm not going to turn bread of any type down.  One type I have a weakness for is focaccia.  There's something so addicting and satisfying about this bread; it's crunchy, crispy outside that's sprinkled with a healthy dose of salt and then break through the crusty to a fluffy, chewy center.

Oh my gosh.  Pure heaven.

While I'm all for indulging and eating more than my share at a restaurant, this is one bread I've never had the guts make it at home.  I'm not really sure why I've been so intimidated by this bread.  Maybe because I am so obsessed with it I'm scared I'm going to mess it up.  And well, that would be a tragedy.

But, this month for our Daring Bakers' I finally had to face my fears and attempt to make one of my all time favorite breads at home.  For the month of April, Rachel of Pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy.  They challenged us to try our hands at making Focaccia from scratch.

All I can say is Thank You, Rachel and Sawsan.  I finally faced my fears and succeeded.  I made a basic focaccia bread and it turned out just as good as the bread I enjoy in the restaurants.  And it was a lot easier than I thought.  Which, is great but dangerous at the same time since I can now whip up a batch any time I want!

Now that I've finally made my first batch at home, I can't wait to try all the different variations I've been eyeing and bookmarking for years!  Lookout, there may be a whole lot of bread coming to the blog in the future!

Focaccia Bread

Ingredients:

1 3/4 Cups warm water
1 Package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
5 Sprigs fresh rosemary leaves; chopped and divided
1 Tbsp sugar
5 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Course sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

Combine water, yeast, 2 teaspoons rosemary, sugar and half the flour in a large bowl and mix to combine.  Using a mixer with a dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed and add the remaining flour, salt and 1/2 cup olive oil.  Once the ingredients come together, increase the mixing speed to medium and allow to knead for about 5-6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft.  If the dough is still sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it comes together.

Lightly oil a large bowl.  Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size.*

Pour the remaining 1/2 up olive oil on a jelly roll pan and spread to coat.  Place the dough on the pan (or divide and bake in 2 smaller 9x13 pans), using your fingertips begin pressing it out until it reaches the edges of the pan.  Be sure the dough fits the entire pan, stretch gently during the process to ensure it fits.  Spread your fingers and press the tips into the dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

About halfway through the rising process preheat the oven to 425.

Brush the dough with the olive oil on the pan, sprinkle generously with sea salt and the remaining rosemary.  Place in the preheated oven and bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

*To make ahead-follow all instructions as usual.  After the dough has risen, place all the dough in a large bag (or divide in half and place in 2 separate freezer storage bags).  Place in refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

If the dough is frozen, remove from the freezer the day before baking and allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator or a few hours at room temp.  Then follow the recipe accordingly.

Recipe source: Handle the Heat

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