Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Salted Foccacia Bread-- More Fun with Yeast!

 Hello, Everyone!  Hope you all had a terrific Thanksgiving with lots of family, friends, and food!  Isn't Thanksgiving great?  It's a holiday set aside to give thanks for every blessing around a table of dishes everyone looks forward to all year!  Now, that's a good day!  Of course, any holiday that involves people (which is most of them!) isn't going to be perfect, but still, it's hard to be grumpy when your plate is heaped up with mashed potatoes!
Anyway, I know my last post was a yeast recipe, but I'm having fun these cooler days with homemade breads.  Here's a recipe I developed for salted foccacia bread that is easy and makes three loaves.  They freeze really well.  Now, here's the thing, a loaf of homemade bread makes any meal a LOT better, so when you're busy with all the activities of the holiday season and dinner is soup from a can-- whoa!-- you have a loaf of homemade foccacia in the freezer!  Just heat and serve--you've got it SO together! You're Super Chef!

Salted Foccacia Bread
Flour (about 4 cups, but you can figure that out later)
2 pkg. active dry yeast (I like the "Rapid Rise" kind)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling later
1 Tbl. salt, plus more for sprinkling later
3 cups warm water (test with a drop on the inside of your wrist-- you shouldn't feel anything or just barely warm)
1 Tbl. sugar
Spray 3,  9-inch cake pans with PAM.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the warm water, yeast, oil, and sugar well. Go away for 15 minutes.  When you return, there should be lots of bubbles on the surface of the liquid.  Add about 2 cups flour and mix until smooth.  Add the salt and mix again.  Now keep the mixer on low speed and add flour until you get a very soft, sticky, stretchy dough.  It might take another cup or more.  A lot depends on the humidity, but just make sure you don't add too much flour.  A wet, sticky dough is best-- like it would barely hold it's shape if dumped out of the bowl.  Don't fret about whether the dough is the exactly right consistency.  Later, once you douse the whole thing in olive oil, all "problems" will vanish-- I promise!  Keep mixing the dough on low until it is smooth.  It will be extremely stretchy.  Remove the bowl, spray the top of the dough with a light coating of PAM, and cover with a piece of Saran wrap and then a tea towel.  Place in a warm place (at least 75F if possible) and allow to rise about 1 hour.  
After an hour, check the dough.  It should have risen to the top of the bowl.  If not, allow to rise a bit longer.  Remove the plastic wrap and stir down the dough with a wooden spoon that has been sprayed with PAM (dough doesn't stick so badly that way).  Put olive oil on your clean palms and separate three blobs of dough into the prepared cake pans.  Don't worry if they are super rough looking, but try to get about the same size blob into each pan.  Cover the pans with the tea towel and allow to rise again about 20-30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375F.
Now comes the fun part!  Put olive oil on your clean hands again and use your fingers to punch depressions all over the surface of the loaves.  Use a tablespoon to drizzle generous amounts of olive oil over each loaf.  I use about 1-2 tablespoons per loaf; be generous-- it's pretty hard to get too much!  Use your fingers to lightly rub the oil over the surface of the loaves.  Sprinkle each loaf with salt-- coarse Kosher salt is good if you have it, but sea salt is good also.  Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, until they are brown and beautiful!  Eat right away or cool completely, wrap well in aluminum foil and freeze.  
To reheat, unwrap and heat in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350F.
Too many bread posts?  Okay, okay, next post will be a super easy chicken Parmesan-- goes great with the foccacia bread! :)

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