Friday, April 15, 2011

Herbed Focaccia Bread

Back four and half years ago I had one goal in the kitchen when we got married.  I desperately wanted to master yeast bread.  I had visions of going back in time, living off the land, using the resources of good, wholesome ingredients to create yummy, delicious and nutritious food, like homemade bread.  I think I was trying to summon my inner Laura Ingalls.  But what did I know. Lo and behold, four years later yeast breads are some of my favorite things to make, hence it’s own tag (BREAD).

Yeast is daunting. It shouldn’t be. It’s not that hard and you do not need a bread maker to make yummy bread. I have a post coming on my tips for making yeast work for you. You to can conquer yeast if you so desire. I hope you will try, there is no comparison to the taste of homemade versions and store bought bread. Homemade is so much better it just takes a little patience and time.

This week I was lucky enough to have my blog friend Jackie visiting. I had her over for dinner with her friend Emily, whom I’ve met a couple of times and love, and what else to do but woo them with homemade bread.  Seriously this is one of my favorites and for all you recipe followers out there…I didn’t follow this to a T and it still turned out so delicious.  I’ll note my changes below.  It was the perfect accompaniment to our yummy Cheese Manicotti and spinach salad, especially when served with the leftover herb oil. Bread and oil, yes please!


Herbed Focaccia Bread

(adapted from Annie’s Eats)


5 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
6 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups water, at room temperature
¼ to ½ cup herb oil (recipe below)

Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil and water and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. (You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.) I didn’t need any additional flour.

Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 6 inches square. Using a scraper or spatula dipped in water (I used my hands), transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle. Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.

Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size. Fold it, letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil (I used olive oil Pam), again dust with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Let rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour and cover. After 30 minutes, repeat this one more time. (Now is a good time to make the herb oil)

Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.

Line a 17×12” sheet pan with baking parchment (I DID NOT line my paper and was fine b/c you put oil down) and proceed with the shaping and panning (instructions below).

This is where I really deviated from the plan.  I didn’t read through the recipe first so I didn’t have the time to proof the dough overnight (basically that stops the rising process) and I didn’t have time for it to sit for 3 hours on the counter after it proofed in the fridge.  Instead I had 2 hours until dinner time so I just left it covered on the counter, said a prayer, and went on with my day. I resumed with the recipe as follows below with the shaping instructions.

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

Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking.

Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple it in. (I used half and then served the bread with the other half..YUM!)(You can use all of it if you want; the dough will absorb it even though it looks like a lot.) This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough a thickness of about ½-inch. 

Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of nearly 1-inch.

Preheat the oven to 500° with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Place the pan in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450° and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown.  The internal temperature of the dough should register 200° (measured in the center).

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack. (I left it in and let it cool. ONLY because I tested it and I was able to lift it up.  Taking it off the pan is probably a good idea) If the parchment is stuck on the bottom, carefully remove it by lifting the corner of the focaccia and peeling it off the bottom with a gentle tug.

Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.  I CUT it RIGHT away…who can resist!

Shaping Focaccia:
Drizzle ¼ cup of olive oil over the paper and spread it with your hands or a brush to cover the entire surface. Lightly oil your hands and using a plastic or metal pastry scraper, lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangular shape as much as possible.

Spoon half of the herb oil over the dough. Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it simultaneously. Do not use the flat of your hands – only the fingertips – to avoid tearing or ripping the dough. Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface. Dimpling allows you to de-gas only part of the dough while preserving gas in the non-dimpled sections. If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for about 15 minutes and then continue dimpling. Don’t worry if you are unable to fill the pan 100 percent, especially the corners. As the dough relaxes and proofs, it will spread out naturally. Use more herb oil as needed to ensure that the entire surface is coated in oil.

Herb Oil:
Warm ½ cup olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan. Add about 4 tsp. of dried herbs, such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or sage. Add about ¾ tsp. of kosher salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and 1-2 finely minced cloves garlic. You may also add paprika, ground cayenne pepper, fennel seeds or onion powder to taste. Allow to remain on low heat for about 1-1 ½ hours to allow the oil to become infused with the flavors.

Store any leftover herb oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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