CHARLOTTE – Making bread is one of those things that patience, passion and accuracy will pay off a one of life’s little treats. Pulling apart a warm piece of bread, having the steam release and aroma rise into your senses, dipping in oil or spreading good butter- need I say more? A few things to discuss about baking- while cooking can be experimental, baking is a science. Recipes that work well are formulas, so following the instructions, methods and timing are essential for excellence. Another item to address is the tools create the taste and integrity of the item- for this recipe, that would be the baking stone and the stand mixer. You can create this without either, but it is more consistent with both. I will address both ways to create in the method! Btw- this recipe goes with any Italian or Comfort food dish (maybe look at one of my previous recipes and use that…) Enjoy~
Spring Focaccia Bread (yields 4-6 servings)
Prep Time: 45 Minutes | On the Table: 3 hours
1 1/3 cup Warm Water (about 110°F) | 2 teaspoons Sugar | 2 ½ tablespoon EVOO
1 (0.25 ounce) package active-Dry Yeast | 4 cups Bread Flour | 2 teaspoons Sea Salt
½ medium Onion- julienne | 1 teaspoon Sugar | 1 teaspoon Oregano, fresh | 1 Lemon
1 large Red Pepper | 10 Garlic Cloves, cut in half | 2 tablespoons canola oil
2 Roma Tomatoes | ½ cup Kalamata Olives, pitted | 1 tablespoon Basil, fresh chopped
Sea Salt and Fresh Milled Pepper | 6 anchovies filets (optional) | 1 tablespoon EVOO
To start, place your warm water, yeast and sugar in a stand mixer bowl, or a large stainless steel bowl, agitate and let stand for 10 minutes. After the timer rings- add in ALL of the rest of the ingredients for the bread and mix on low for 1 minute and medium for 5 minutes. If you want to go old school by hand- follow the same steps, however, you will want to mix this together by hand in the bowl- once it comes together you will want to kneed for 10 minutes by pushing the dough ball away from you, turning 1/4, then repeat- you may need to add a small amount of flour as you kneed to keep from sticking on your solid surface. It’s a good little upper body workout! Once the dough has come together place back into the bowl or your stand mixer bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place (out of direct sunlight) for 2 hours, or overnight.
For the toppings- cut your red pepper in half, top to bottom. Scoop the seeds and innards out then cut each ½ into pieces. NOW- in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, place your onions, red peppers and garlic cloves and sauté until you have a small amount of golden brown around the edge of the garlic cloves. Mix in the sugar, the juice from the lemon and the oregano. Pull of the heat and set aside. Slice your Roma tomatoes into ¼ inch thick.
Once your dough has doubled in size- remove cloth and punch down the dough. This releases much of the CO2 in your dough. Round the dough with your hands. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with your baking stone in the center of the oven. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a large sheet pan upside down and place into your oven.
If you would like a round focaccia, find a large pizza pan or cake pan, if you want a rectangular, find a 10×14 sheet pan. With a touch of flour, roll the dough to your desired shape. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the shape that you wish, sprinkle with semolina if you have it. Place the dough on top of the parchment paper. First, sprinkle the onions and peppers onto the dough, stud the garlic cloves into the dough, randomly top with the tomato slices, sprinkle with basil, fresh salt and pepper- and don’t forget the anchovies if you dare!
Here is the tricky part: Carefully pull the rack out of the oven ½ way and transfer the dough onto the stone or inverted sheet pan. The parchment should stay with the dough!! Bake for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown throughout. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before enjoying!
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Chef Glenn is a corporate chef based in Waxhaw- please send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org