Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Easiest Bread Ever: Foccacia
I know you're thinking it's too hard. It's easy to just buy it. Granted, you will have an easier time if you have a stand mixer, but even if you choose to hand knead the dough, it's still an easy task. Not to mention you can get out any stress or tension from all that kneading! And trust me, once you start making your own bread, there's no going back! It's so easy, you'll be mad you haven't been making it all along! It's simple, easy to customize, and beyond delicious. Ask anyone who has ever had mine. They are all spoiled now. Even my husband says he is going to start making this bread! I like to throw in fresh herbs from the garden, but I'm telling you, dried herbs are perfectly wonderful in this bread. No need to splurge on buying fresh herbs if you don't grow them. Now here's my super simple, fool-proof recipe!
Herbed Foccacia bread:
1 tbsp honey or sugar
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp (or one packet)dry active yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt + extra for sprinkling on top!
2 tbsp olive oil + extra for basting bread
1 tsp dried oregano or a pinch from the garden
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp minced garlic (or garlic powder)
5-6 cups unbleached, all purpose flour (I like to do half whole wheat flour also. Makes it wonderfully nutty and adds nutrition!)
1/4 minced onion (optional)
6 or so cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)
Start by "proofing" the yeast, making sure it's still alive and active. You have no idea how disappointing it is to make a bread with dead yeast. Trust me, proof the yeast. To proof it, you put the sugar, warm water, and yeast into your mixing bowl and let it sit until it's poofy looking. You'll know what I mean when you see it. The yeast feeds on the sugars in the honey or the table sugar and get bigger. Once it's going, I like to add the salt, half the olive oil, and the herbs at this point. If you have a stand mixer, you will need to start the whole adding flour part with your regular flat mixing attachment, and then you'll need to move to your dough hook once it's nice and mixed. If you're using a wooden spoon, don't worry about that part. ;)
So now at this point, you'll start adding the flour, cup at a time. If you're using the onion and garlic option, you'll need to have them already cut up and sauteed a bit before this part. You'll need them to be going into the mixture at the same time as the flour so that they can be well incorporated. There is a good bit of variation in the amount of flour needed because it can depend on the exact amount of water you use, the weather, the way you hold your tooth, and whether or not the bread gods are smiling on you that day.. Anyway, just keep adding flour until it starts to form a ball in the center of the bowl. Then you'll need to keep kneading the dough for a while to develop the glutens, making a crispy outside and soft fluffy inside to the bread. I let mine go on the second setting in the mixer for around 5-7 minutes. Once it's nice and mixed comes the easy part- Cover the bowl and the dough with a warm, wet towel, and let it be.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450. Given about 15-20 minutes, the dough will have become huge and puffy, and you're ready to bake! I bake mine in an oiled, enamel coated dutch oven if I'm serving it immediately, because it makes the crust so perfectly crisp that it's irresistible! If you're baking it for later, you can bake it in two big loaves at the same time on a cookie sheet or whatever you want. Flatten and use your finger to create indentations all around the dough, so it doesn't puff up too much. I then baste it with olive oil, more kosher salt, and rosemary. Bake it for around 20 minutes, or until golden and lovely! It will make two large loaves or 8-10 individual sandwich sized rolls.
Enjoy your bread making! Mix it up! Love it and feel accomplished! :)