Focaccia

Focaccia sounds impressive but that is only because of the Italian name. In reality, it’s just bread with a wet dough and some olive oil that you bake flat. It is a staple in my house because you can put anything on it or in it, so it is a great way to use the bounty I get from my CSA. I usually divide my dough into two loafs so I can make two different kinds. In this post I will make a vegetable and herb loaf, and a cherry chocolate loaf because cherries, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini are in season.

I am going to walk you through two modified versions of Paul Hollywood’s focaccia recipe from How To Bake and tell you where you can ignore his instructions and calls for special ingredients or equipment. If you are feeling apprehensive about making this bread or leave this post with no plans to make bread in the future, please leave a comment or contact me and let me know why. If I can offer you any support or encouragement, I will. I feel that strongly about homemade bread and how much joy it will bring to your life. If there is enough interest, I will even figure out how to make a video or something to show you just how easy and fun making bread can be!

NOTE: the instructions look long, but that’s only because it is two recipes in one.

Chocolate chip cherry, and vegetable foccacia

Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia Two Ways

500 grams of all purpose flour

10 grams salt

10 grams instant yeast

140 ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading and oiling

+/- 360 ml water, cool to the touch, but not cold

1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup cherries, halved and pitted

2 tbs sugar

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Small zucchini, sliced very thin (I use a mandolin)

2 tbs flake salt (do not substitute any other kind of salt here, it will be too salty)

Put cherries in a small bowl and mix with one tablespoon of sugar. Put tomatoes and zucchini in a bowl and mix with 1 tsp of salt.

Lightly oil a large bowl and set aside. If you have a clear proving container, use that instead. If you don’t know what that is, don’t even worry about it because you don’t need it.

Put flour, salt, yeast, 40 ml olive oil, and 340 ml of water in a large mixing bowl and mix it with your hand. If you have a stand mixer, use a dough hook on low. If you’re using your hands, congratulations, you are doing this the fun way!

I am a righty and have found the easiest way to mix dough is using my left hand to brace and turn the bowl, while using my right hand to mix the dough. This keeps my left hand clean so I can add more water, answer the phone, or shoo Taco off of the counter when I need to.

At this early stage, the dough should feel super gluey and unmanageable. It will look rough and will stick to anything it touches. Keep mixing by pushing and grabbing the dough, periodically pushing the back and sides of your hand against the inside of the bowl to knock dough off of you and to make sure all of it is getting manhandled.

As you work the dough, the texture will change. It will start sticking to itself and pulling away from you and the bowl. This means you’re a witch! Just kidding. It’s science. You’re tangling up gluten proteins so that they bind to each other! The longer you knead, the stronger the gluten bonds become.

When your dough starts to form, it is time to add more water. Focaccia is a soft dough with a high water to flour ratio. Add a little water at a time until your final dough is soft enough that it will not stay in a formed ball if you pick unit up, but will droop (not ooze) between your fingers. At this point, it is time to focus on kneading.

You can knead your bread in the bowl, or on an oiled, flat surface. If you are using a stand mixer, you can let the dough hook do the kneading for you – just keep running your mixer on low.

Kneading is soothing and you can’t really do it incorrectly short of tearing it. Pick your dough up and slap it onto the counter, pound it, squeeze it, or give it the old fold/squish/turn. Keep working it until the “windowpane phase.” This means you can stretch a piece of your dough until light is visible through it. This takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon your kneading technique. Once you get there, put your dough in the bowl you oiled earlier and cover it with a tea towel for about an hour or until your dough has at least doubled in size. No go do something else for a while.

When your bread is done proving, oil two baking sheets. If you have two that are small enough to fit on the same rack, use those. You can also use one large one, but that can be a little tricky considering your dough will grow.

Oil your work surface and gently tip your dough onto it, handling it gently to avoid knocking any air bubbles out of it. Cut it in half with a large knife or a dough scraper.

Set one half aside. Gently fold chocolate chips in the other half, being careful to keep as many air bubbles as you can in the dough.

Gently pull each loaf into a flattened shape (go for a rectangle/oval, but it definitely doesn’t have to look symmetrical) that is about 1/2 inch thick and place it on the oiled baking sheet.

On the off chance you have two large brine bags or proving bags, place the baking sheets with your loafs on them inside the bags, ensuring the dough doesn’t touch the inside of the bag. Seal the bag and let your dough rise for another hour.

If you don’t have a large, food grade plastic bag, just spread a thing layer of olive oil over the top of it and don’t worry about it. This is just to keep the dough from drying out. You can also spray it with a misting spray bottle. Mine does double duty as a Taco repellant.

While your dough is rising for the second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Let rise for an hour. Your dough is ready for the oven when it is about double in size and the dough springs back quickly when you poke it.

When the second rise is done, deeply dimple each loaf with your fingers, poking straight through to the tray without tearing it. Drizzle each loaf with 25 ml olive oil. Top the plain loaf with tomatoes and zucchini and sprinkle with remaining tbs of salt. Top the chocolate chip loaf with cherries and sprinkle with the remaining tbs of sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. If both won’t fit on one rack, bake the veggie loaf first, then the cherry loaf because you knocked more air out of the cherry loaf and it would benefit more from a longer second rise. The cherry loaf will brown much more quickly than the veggie because of the sugar.

Pull your bread out and place the loafs on cooling racks. Drizzle 25 ml olive oil (yes, again) on each loaf. Let cool. Slice into whatever size pieces you want. Best served within a day.

Enjoy!

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