Thursday, January 17, 2008

Susan: Cozy Breads For Cold Winter Days Recipe Roundup On FoodieView & Focaccia, My New Favorite Flatbread

My First Foray Into Focaccia

Up until the other day, I'd never made focaccia. When I decided to test my friend Stephen's
Quick Rosemary Focaccia recipe for an article I was working on, I realized that not only had I never made focaccia, but I'd never even eaten it. I know, I know, where have I been? I have no idea. Probably too busy eating pizza. You know I love homemade pizza. What I know is that after devouring large hunks of this rosemary focaccia for three meals in a row (yes, I ate it for breakfast, and no, I didn't have it with my meals, it was my meals), I am ready to embark on a focaccia making rampage.

Stephen warned me that focaccia purists may scoff at his crowd-pleasing, quick and easy version which is mixed in the food processor* and shaves hours off the traditional resting times, but I couldn't stop eating it. Warm from the oven, at room temperature the next day, or reheated in my
beloved little toaster/convection oven - this stuff is good.** It also freezes beautifully. And the smell of the rosemary-infused dough that permeated every nook and cranny of The Shack while it was rising was wonderful. I'm pretty sure I followed Stephen's recipe exactly, except I scattered a few handfuls of pecorino romano over the focaccias along with the rest of the rosemary just before baking. I also skipped the egg wash. Next time I'll try using only half the amount of yeast.

Apparently there are all sorts of ways to enjoy focaccia - not to mention all sorts of toppings you can put on it before baking. But so far I have yet to get past splitting a warm hunk in half and tucking in a couple of slices of Irish Shannon, my new favorite cheese.

As soon as I find some nice organic grapes I plan to try the focaccia recipe in Local Breads, my new favorite bread book by my favorite bread baker, Daniel Leader. Kevin made it last year when we each chose a different straight dough Italian bread from Local Breads and said it was the best focaccia he's ever tasted. I already have my eye on a couple of other interesting focaccia recipes in some of my other cookbooks as well, and one of these days I'll have to take the time to make a truly traditional version, such as this one by Dan Lepard, as demonstrated by Fanny on Foodbeam.

quick rosemary focaccia is just one of the recipes included in my Cozy Breads For Cold Winter Days article for the Recipe Roundup, a new weekly feature written by various food bloggers on FoodieView. I tried to offer something for everyone, from tasty quick breads that are ready in under an hour to impressive yeast breads that are perfect for beginners. Many of you will recognize some of my own favorite bread recipes. You'll find all of the FoodieView Recipe Roundups here, and you can subscribe to them via e-mail here.

FoodieView is a neat site run by some really nice foodies that makes "good food easy to find, whether you're dining in or dining out." Check out the restaurant guides for nine major cities (more will be added) or search through over 1 million recipes from places like Cooking Light, Eating Well, Gourmet/Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Food Network, Sunset, and Saveur. The neatest part about the FoodieView search engine is that you can narrow down your search criteria by ingredient, dish, cuisine, special considerations (gluten free, low carb, vegetarian, etc.), sources, and more, including famous chefs.

As for me, I'm off to check out
Michael Chiarello's Country Focaccia With Blue Cheese & Lavender Honey recipe, see if I can locate a source for organic semolina flour so I can try making Jamie Oliver's favorite focaccia, and work my way through some of the other 4,793 hits my FoodieView search for 'focaccia recipe' came up with.

Are you a focaccia fan? I'd love to hear about your favorite recipes and ways you like to eat it. I'm already drooling over the thought of focaccia sandwiches piled high with slices of juicy heirloom tomatoes from
next summer's garden. (It's gonna be a long six months waiting for them.) Beth tormented me the other night with a description of the dinner she'd just made: lamb burgers with blue cheese and shallots on homemade focaccia. Yum.

Stephen's Quick Rosemary Focaccia Ready For The Oven

Move over
pizza. There's a new flatbread on the farm.

* A word of warning: This is a soft and sticky dough, especially if you haven't added quite enough flour to it. Do NOT reach into the food processor bowl and try to grab the finished blob of dough with your bare hands while the blade is still buried in it. Yeah, ouch. Not that I think you would ever do anything that stupid.

** A technical note about Stephen's recipe: It makes two 8" - 10" round focaccias. I didn't realize until they were ready to go into the oven that there was no way they were both going to fit on my baking stone at once. Fortunately it's winter, so I just popped one into the oven and set the other out on one of the chest freezers on the covered porch next to the kitchen, protected by a large upside down bowl since
Smudge the cat (who lives on the porch) was very interested in it. If it had been summer things would have been a little tricker, as I don't usually have enough space for an entire unbaked focaccia in my fridge. If both won't fit in your oven at once and you don't have a cool spot to put the second one while the first one bakes, you might want to halve the recipe.

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where you're allowed to eat rosemary focaccia and chocolate cake for breakfast.

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Anonymous _gryffinnoir_ said...

I've never used an egg wash on focaccia. Interesting. My favorite why of eating focaccia is to dip the slices in balsamic vinegar and a fruity extra virgin olive oil. And you are right, as a sandwich bread with garden tomatoes, pesto and bocconcini is it marvelous.

Here in Vancouver we have a bakery called Terra Breads who make an apple focaccia with slices of Granny Smith, caramel brushed over the apples and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

1/18/2008 4:46 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

oh my heavens. I haven't made focaccia in ages though I do make homemade pizza quite regularly. I too use the shortcut (heaven forbid) processor to speed up the entire process. Never mind :) ... to me focaccia and rosemary go together like waves and the ocean; like birds in the air; like tomatoes and bocconcini! Yes!

Diane at Sand to Glass

sample of Diane's Flickr photos

1/20/2008 8:24 PM  
Anonymous courtney said...

Oh I love focaccia, and think that I might have to make that instead of the sandwhich loaf I was going to.

One of our favorites is focaccia (especially one with cheese on top) with leftover roast pork loin sliced thin with bbq sauce and good sharp cheddar cheese, then grilled on a sandwich press (or in GF grill which is what we do because I am cheap).

1/21/2008 2:11 PM  
Blogger BC said...

I make Schiacciata - squashed fatbread - with slivers of ham and cheese inside two layers. I love the Italian flatbreads. Here's a picture and recipe

1/22/2008 7:53 AM  
Blogger BC said...

... um, that would be flatbread, not fatbread...

1/22/2008 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Food's answers and questions said...

What an awesome post. I will be consulting this page now for years to come:) Thanks for sharing!!

1/22/2008 11:33 PM  
Blogger Lucia said...

I've made foccacia using Kevin's recipe for scacciata all'uva.

Instead of grapes I just sprayed it with olive oil 'fleur de sel' and rosemary. The smell coming from the oven was divine and it didn't last 'till dinner time... :)

I'm trying this recipe on saturday.

1/24/2008 11:02 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

Yum, just found this blog and I am forwarding it on to my awesome bread baking hubby!!

1/28/2008 2:57 PM  
Blogger Mary Luce said...

So I tried it last Saturday. I halved the recipe since there was only three of us at home.
My kitchen robot didn't work as well as I expected, so I just dropped the dough in a bowl and mixed it all by hand.
I messed up with the water volume and had to add flour, but in the end I got precisely what I expected: a thin crust bread with a soft chewy interior and a delicious smell and flavour :)

1/29/2008 4:37 PM  
Anonymous jenni said...

I made this last night (minus the fresh rosemary, because it's winter and my plant is dead. :-(). It was very straightforward. I added one additional tablespoon of flour to the food processor to make the dough ball actually spin. The resulting bread is delicious.

1/30/2008 7:39 AM  
OpenID cerddinen said...

My husband and I went to Italy (with the family) a few years ago. After spending a week in the Tuscan region. Their bread does not have much salt in it. It was wonderful, but not lots of flavor.

Anyway - the last three days we were in Italy, we were in the Cinque Terre region and the bread there was DIVINE. Especially after coming from the Tuscan breads. Actually, it was Focaccia. And it looked EXACTLY like this recipe.

Since coming back we haven't been able to find Focaccia that is even close (Doesn't it always happen that way). I can't wait to try this!


1/30/2008 8:11 AM  
Blogger Archana said...

First, lovely mouth watering pictures. Just today i was thinking of making foccacia bread. Never made it before and was looking for recipes for the same. On reading the recipe, it sounds so much similar to our indian bread - NAAN, except that foccassia is topped with herbs and NAAN may or may not be topped with some indian spices and herbs.


1/31/2008 9:34 AM  
Blogger Jonica said...

Actually I have a few questions for all the bakers here on this site....I am just starting to get back into kneding dough to make bread lazy and used a bread machine....but, I grind my own flours and then put them in freezer bags and store in the freezer. Am I doing this wrong? I am wondering if this is why my dough is not rising as well as it should? I also put the yeast in the fridge. Please let me know if I am doing this right. I was told by someone at my church that flours should always go into the freezer. Along with coffee. Now, I am kind of wondering and I can not seem to get answers too much. Any help or just point me to specific books or websites and I will be grateful.

2/07/2008 2:16 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

I have a question not related specifically to this bread but bread in general. Every bread I make, regardless of the recipe turns out very dense. My husband would prefer a lighter, airier bread. How do you get this effect? Is it recipe specific or something I'm not doing right in the process? Do I need to knead it more or let it rise more?

2/10/2008 5:41 PM  
OpenID cerddinen said...

YUMMY!!! We made the focaccia and it was all that we hoped for except, we don't eat bread that fast in my house. So, by the time we got around to eating the 2nd loaf (a day and half later) it was not as good. Sigh... SO, my question is. Should I freeze the dough to bake another day or should I bake the dough and freeze the bread for another day. Either way, how should I treat the dough/bread when I am ready to bake/consume?


PS - I don't have a dough blade for my food processor - how long should I use my dough hook on my kitchenAid mixer?

2/11/2008 2:58 PM  
Blogger Farmgirl Susan said...

Hi Everybody!
Thanks for all the great focaccia eating tips and ideas. And it's great to hear about your focaccia baking success - thanks for taking the time to write and let us know.

Hi Jonica,
I apologize for not getting to your questions sooner. The freezer is a good place to store flours, especially if they're whole grain as yours are (hats off to you for grinding your own wheat!) because the freezing temperature will keep the natural oils from going rancid.

If I have the space, I keep my 50-pound bags of organic all-purpose and organic bread flours (both white flours) in the freezer. Even if the flour isn't whole grain, they'll stay fresher in there.

I also keep my instant yeast in a jar in the freezer, and it stays good for months. I buy yeast in one pound bags at the supermarket for about $3.00; I've never had good luck with those little yeast packets, and even if you end up throwing out half the one pound bag, it's still way less expensive.

The only thing you have to keep in mind when storing your flours in the freezer (and I'm thinking this may be your problem) is that when you take them out, they won't seem frozen, but they'll literally be about zero degrees F. If you use such cold flour when mixing your dough, it's going to make the dough a lot colder than if it was at room temperature - which means your dough will take a lot longer to rise, or may seem like it isn't even rising at all.

An inexpensive instant thermometer can solve this problem. You can check the temperature of the flour, of the water, of the mixed dough. Ideally you want the rising dough to be between 70 and 75 degrees F. If your flour is very cold, you can compensate with hotter water (though be sure not to make it so hot you kill the yeast). You can also pull out your flour a few hours before baking - or even the night before to let it warm up.

Hope this helps. Happy baking!

Hi Cerddinen,
I'm so glad you enjoyed the focaccia! I rarely make only one loaf of bread at a time because baked bread freezes so beautifully. And focaccia freezes well, too. So I would recommend baking the entire batch and simply freezing what you don't eat that day. You could certainly freeze the finished dough, but it's easier to just bake it all off at once.

Day old focaccia and other crusty breads can also be reheated and 'refreshed' in the oven, I use a little toaster/convection oven. Breads with crisp crusts can be brushed or spritzed with water before reheating to help crisp the crust back up.

As for mixing the focaccia dough in the food processor - I just used the regular 'S' shaped blade. I'm not sure if there are special dough blades for food processors or not, but you definitely don't need one for this recipe. As for how long to mix the dough in a KitchenAid, I'm afraid I have no idea, though it probably wouldn't be very long.

Hope this helps. Happy baking to you, too! : )

2/17/2008 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heartland Mill, Inc. sells an organic semolina, in case you haven't found a source yet. Thanks for your wonderful blog.

2/22/2008 3:37 PM  
Blogger Jonica said...


Thanks for the help. I did buy a small thermother and that is what was going on. Gee, after all these years at my grandma's knee...anyway. Thanks for your help. Now, I am off to the library to see if I can find a low fat recipe for croutons. And planning my garden as it is warming up nicely here in Maryland.

3/28/2008 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to try baking your Honey wheatberry bread recipe and wondered if anyone had ever made it in a bread machine? Just wondering!
an avid baker

8/24/2008 5:36 PM  

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