Easiest and Best You’ll Ever Make
(Recipe from Milk Street)
I recently made this recipe and gave a few pieces to a friend to try. Her family loved it. I had frozen some a few months ago and took out a couple of pieces for dinner and it was still absolutely delicious. It’s a recipe suited to Fall harvesting of tomatoes and herbs.
This is a somewhat unusual way to make Focaccia Bread. Take that leap of faith and trust the recipe. You will not regret it. I have used different toppings and slightly different herbs from the Milk Street Recipe. You can make changes, as well, to suit your own tastes and preferences. The original recipe is from Bari, Italy. Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion to cut the bread without compressing it. This bread freezes well.
A couple of notes: Don’t disturb the bread as it rises. Just leave it in a corner somewhere until the rise time is finished. When transferring the dough to the baking pan, handle it as little as possible. You don’t want those lovely air bubbles to go away. Don’t use a glass or ceramic pan. The bread won’t brown and crisp up as much. Also, this is cooked in a very hot oven and glass may shatter.
3 2/3 cups bread flour ( I use King Arthur or White Lily)
5 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 cups water at cool room temperature
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt, divided
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Several small peppers (orange, red, or green), seeds removed and cut horizontally to form flowers
Green stems of several scallions or chives
Basil or Parsley leaves
(You can substitute other salad type vegetables to your taste. Original recipe uses olives as a topping but I don’t like them so I don’t include them.)
In a stand mixer with the dough hook, mix the flour, yeast and sugar on medium until combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer on low, drizzle in the water, then increase to medium and mix until the ingredients form a very wet, smooth dough, about
5 minutes. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for
Meanwhile, coat the bottom and sides of a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; set aside. (Use the largest bowl you have, you will need it. This dough rises a lot.)
After 10 minutes, remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the dough, then knead on medium until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes; the dough will be wet enough to cling to the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the dough into the oiled bowl.
Dip your fingers into the oil pooled at the sides of the bowl and dab the surface of the dough until completely covered with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 5 1/2 to 6 hours; during this time, the dough will double in volume, deflate, then rise again (but will not double in volume again).
After the dough has risen for about 5 1/2 hours, place a baking stone in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Mist a 9-by-13 inch metal baking pan with cooking spray then pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the center of the pan; set aside.
Prepare your vegetables. Make sure vegetable are dry. Take the grape tomatoes, cut in half and mash lightly with a potato masher. (I create my design now so I know exactly where I will be placing my vegetables when the time comes.). If you don’t wish to make a design, you can simply scatter vegetables over the bread dough at the appropriate time.
When the dough is ready, gently pour it into the prepared pan, scraping the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula to loosen; try to retain as much air as possible in the dough. Do not spread the dough with a spatula as this will cause it to deflate. Set aside for about 20 minutes. (If you are not creating a picture, add vegetables, olives, etc. to the top of the dough now.)
Finish prepping vegetables and herbs. Take the herbs you have chosen and mince them. You can use dry herbs instead of fresh or a combination. The herb flavors are your choice. I really like rosemary, oregano, and parsley in combination.
After 20 minutes, create your design on your bread dough. You can just place the vegetables gently on top of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil over the top of the bread dough. Sprinkle evenly with the herbs. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 teaspoons of salt and the pepper over the dough. Place the pan on the baking stone and bake until golden brown and the sides of the focaccia have pulled away from the pan, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Using a wide metal spatula, lift the focaccia from the pan and slide it onto the rack. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
We can rarely wait the 30 minutes before test-tasting. After all we want to be sure it’s good before we serve it to anyone else.
Fall is definitely not far off and this recipe is a wonderful way to utilize some of your garden’s produce.