Monday, April 18, 2011


My brother-in-law got me this awesome artisan bread book for Christmas, and I've been experimenting making bread the "old fashioned" way. (Wait until you see my post later this week about what I'm growing in my kitchen...I call it Dave.)

Anyway, I made this focaccia a few days ago and I LOVE it. Its a 2-day recipe, so make sure you plan ahead if you are making it for a special occasion. It keeps really well - I sliced it and have been keeping it in the fridge and grabbing a piece every time I go in the kitchen. Don't be intimidated by the semi-complicated bread recipes. They're not so bad.

You can do anything in the world for toppings, I used a combo of sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and rosemary with a pinch of cheddar cheese. Be creative - just don't overdo it. Its a focaccia, not a pizza.

For the biga:
1/2 c water, 55 degrees F
1 1/3 c bread flour
a pinch of instant dry yeast

Final dough:
2 c water, 86 degrees F
biga from the previous day
3 tbsp olive oil
5 c (plus 2 1/2 tbsp) bread flour
2/3 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tbsp salt

1. Make the biga the day before you want to serve the bread. A biga is a type of preferment (literally, PRE-ferment. What you're doing is fermenting some of the bread ingredients prior to making the bread). Put the water in a bowl and combine the flour with the yeast. Mix in with the water until it is totally homogeneous. Mix it well - this step is important. The biga should be stiff and slightly dry. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl (big enough for it to double in size) and refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove, and let it sit at room temperature for 10-12 hours (though, honestly, mine was a lot closer to 20 hours and it was fine).

2. The next day, make your final dough. Put the water, biga and oil into a large bowl and break the biga into lots of tiny pieces; this will take at least 5 minutes. Combine the flour and yeast together and add them to the biga mixture while stirring. Add the salt, and work the mixture with your hands for at least 5 minutes. Make sure the biga is completely broken down and a new, homogeneous dough is forming. The dough will be VERY tacky and wet, and lack structure. Cover the dough and let it rest in a warm place for 45-60 minutes.

3. Place the dough on a lightly floured countertop and fold it into thirds (this really doesn't have to be perfect - all this does is expel air out of the dough...but be gentle). Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit 10 minutes.

4. Uncover the dough and divide it into 3 equal size pieces. On a cookie sheet lined either with parchment paper or a lot of flour and cornmeal, place each loaf and lightly round each one. Next, stipple the dough with your fingertips (fingertips should be dipped in olive oil). Basically poke it a whole lot. This helps keep the bread from puffing while baking, but it also gives each focaccia a unique texture and allows it to hold toppings. While you're doing this, work on stretching the dough into roughly a 10x6 inch rectangle. Lightly cover the dough and let it sit for 30-40 minutes. When toughed, the dough should spring back halfway.

From Food pics

5. Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare the toppings for the focaccia.

6. 10 minutes before baking the bread, place an oven-proof dish with 3 cups of water in the oven (to produce steam while the bread is baking).

7. Uncover the dough and lightly stipple it again. Add the toppings. If you have a baking stone, slip the bread onto that. If not, just leave it on the baking sheet (I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you don't have a pizza stone, get one!).

8. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, then remove the water and bake for another 5. You want it browned and crisp, but not overdone. I actually took mine out a little early because I wanted the bread soft. This came out amazing. I served mine cut like breadsticks and with marinara sauce (served? who am I kidding? I ate it all myself!!)

From Food pics

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