Quick Bites from Pender

Best Ever Focaccia Bread – Recipe

In Recipes on February 6, 2010 at 5:01 am

foccacia-stack

I’m gonna tell you what I did and how I did it, but you should know up front:  I won’t do it that way again.

Some things should be made with white/unbleached flour — the processed stuff.  I know this.  And yet, despite this knowledge, I occasionally jump on the whole wheat bandwagon with hopes of producing a healthier baked good with whole grains AND a soft crumb.

Well, that didn’t happen this time — and, as 40 approaches, I think I’m old enough to declare this lesson learned:  No more whole wheat croissants, no more multigrain pancakes and, after this, no more whole wheat foccacia.  EVER.

foccacia-fold

herb-oil

I can be a bit dramatic at times.  I know.  Howard knows.  Tell us something we don’t know — please.

But, at the end of the day, the result of this whole wheat incorporation attempt was just OK — and that isn’t good enough for what I consider to be the best foccacia recipe IN THE WORLD.  When you make it with white/unbleached bread flour, it’s foccacia the way the Ligurians intended:  soft, honeycombed with holes and full of herbed olive oil without being greasy.

To make the original recipe, simply use 5 cups (630 g) of unbleached/white bread flour and omit the whole wheat.

Once the dough is made, it is refrigerated overnight, or for up to 3 days.  In this house, we split the dough into 2 smaller pans and bake some into bread for sandwiches or soup, and the other half into a pizza crust — all baked in our counter-top convection oven.

My herb oil contained thyme, smoked paprika, garlic and fennel seeds — a nice combo, as long as you go easy with the smoked paprika.

oiled-pan

Best-Ever Foccacia Recipe (especially if you don’t use whole wheat flour like I did)
adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Yield:  1 sheet pan (17” x 12”)

Unbleached/White Bread Flour 3½ C 430 g
Whole Wheat Flour 1½ C 200 g
Instant Yeast 2 t 6 g
Salt 2 t 14 g
Olive Oil 6 T 85 g
Water, room temperature 2 C 480 g
Herb Oil (see below) ½ C 60 – 120 g
Olive Oil (for the pan) ¼ C
Coarse Salt TT

C=cup     T=tablespoon    t=teaspoon     g=grams

TT=to taste

Add the flours, salt and yeast into the bowl of a standing mixer.  Mix on low speed until combined.  Add the oil and water and mix on low speed until the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball — aka shaggy mass.  Switch to the dough hook, and mix on medium speed (ONE notch above low) for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and sticky.  It should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom.

Sprinkle a 6″ square of flour on the counter.  Use a scraper to transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour, then dust the top of the dough liberally.  Pat the dough into a rectangle and rest it 5 minutes.

Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size.  Fold it into thirds, letter style, back into it’s original rectangle shape.  Mist with oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest 30 minutes.

Repeat the stretch and fold 2 more times, allowing the dough to rest for 30 minutes in between.  After the last fold, allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour.  It will swell, but not necessarily double in size.

Line a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper, drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil and spread it with your hands.  Gently transfer the dough to the pan using your oiled hands and scraper.  Spoon ½ of the herb oil all over the dough.

Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to fill the pan.  Avoid tearing or ripping the dough.  If the dough becomes to springy, allow it to rest 10 minutes before continuing.  Fill the pan as well as you can, keeping a uniform thickness.  Use more herb oil as needed to coat the entire surface of the dough.

Loosely cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 3 days.

Remove the pan from the fridge 3 hours before baking. Drizzle with additional herb oil as desired, and dimple it in.  (It looks like a lot, but use as much as you want, the dough will absorb the oil as it bakes — don’t skimp, pimp that foccacia with oil — that’s why it tastes soooo good.)  Cover again, and allow to proof at room temp for 3 hours or until the dough doubles in size.  Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.

Preheat the oven to 500° F with the rack in the middle.  Place the pan in the oven, then reduce the temperture to 450° F.  Bake for 10 minutes; rotate the pan 180°, then bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and transfer the foccacia from the pan to a cooling rack.  Peel the parchment from the bottom of the dough.  Cool 15 minutes before serving.

foccacia-dimpled-oil

Herb Oil: Warm 1 cup olive oil to 100° (I usually use ½ olive, ½ veg oil).  Add ½ chopped herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc) in any combination.  Add 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and 2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves.  Other suggested additions include paprika, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds (1 teaspoon of each) and 1 tablespoon of minced dried onions.  Cool.  Remove garlic pieces before using.  Store unused oil in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Last note: I just learned that commercial whole wheat flour is the processed stuff with the germ and bran added BACK in — how can that make sense?  Either from a production, or a health standpoint?  Food producers are driving me crazy, and this foccacia is making me thirsty…I need a drink.

Best-Ever Foccacia Recipe

Yield:  1 sheet pan (17” x 12”)

adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Unbleached/White Bread Flour

5 C

420 g

Whole Wheat Flour

2½ C

210 g

Instant Yeast

2 t

6 g

Salt

2 t

14 g

Olive Oil

6 T

85 g

Water, room temperature

2 C

480 g

Herb Oil (recipe below)

¼ – ½ C

60 – 120 g

Coarse Salt

TT

C=cup     T=tablespoon    t=teaspoon     g=grams

TT=to taste

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  1. I have been wanting to make Focaccia forever but am a. scared I’ll fail miserably and b. scared that if I don’t I’ll eat them all in one sitting!
    haha. Really though – this is giving me the extra motivation I need…your photographs are so beautiful. Note taken on the whole-wheat…but I still love my multigrain pancakes 😛
    Beautiful blog, btw.

  2. Your foccacia bread is artisan bread making and so expensive to buy. I need to try this way, the fermenting stages. I have some sprouted lentils that I made for a bread and after I make that, I want to do white foccacia for a treat.

  3. I have to agree – there are times when only white will do 😀 Great post and fantastic photos!

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