I'm a week behind on my blogging, but last week wrapped up Week 13 (believe it or not!) in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, baking up some seriously good focaccia.
I'm baking my way through Peter Reinart's award winning book along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:
- Pinch My Salt BBA Challenge page—master resource for the challenge
- Buy the Book Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
- List of Breads See what's coming up.
- Blogroll See who's baking. Great list of some amazing foodie (and not-necessarily-foodie) blogs.
- Flickr Group Photos, photos and more photos!
- Twitter Search for #BBA to find challenge tweets.
So do you feel a little "eh" about focaccia? I did. It *looked* good at the grocery deli, but it never seemed to live up to my expectations. I'm here to tell you that this focaccia will change the way you feel about this bread.
This is a two day bread with the lion's share of work happening on day 1. The ingredients are about as basic as it gets: bread flour, salt, yeast, water and olive oil. Lots and lots of olive oil. More about that in a minute.
This is a very wet dough, so I let the Kitchen Aid do my mixing, and it worked perfectly. After the dough becomes smooth and silky, you scrape it out on to a bed of flour. This bread utilizes the "stretch and fold" method for developing the gluten, as opposed to traditional kneading. Because the dough is so slack, it's the best way to handle it - and it's super simple.
Pat the dough into a small rectangle. Stretch the dough from each end to twice it's size then fold one end back over the dough a third of the way in, then fold the other end over the top of your first fold, back into a rectangle. It's a basic letter fold. You let it rest about 30 minutes and repeat the entire process two more times.
After the third stretch-and-fold, you let it rest a full hour. At this point, I went ahead and put the dough on the parchment-lined sheet. I'd read this tip on twitter from some fellow BBA bakers. By putting the dough on the pan BEFORE you let it ferment, you keep it from degassing and it's a lot easier to handle. This dough is gorgeous—soft, silky and pliable—but would be cumbersome after the ferment.
Here's where the herb oil comes in, one of the best things about this bread. Peter Reinhart gives a basic recipe for herb oil: Warm 2 cups of oil to 100°F and add your choice of herbs. You won't use all of it for this recipe, but the oil will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I only made enough for this recipe, about 1/2 cup. I added a whole mess of herbs: oregeno, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, rosemary and probably a few others. I just went to town.
After the dough sits an hour on the pan, pour or brush 1/4 cup of the oil over the bread and dimple the top with your fingers, giving it the signature focaccia shape. So ends day one. Cover your bread and pop it in the fridge for an overnight rest. You can even let this go up to 3 days.
On day 2 (or 3 or 4), pull out your pan and drizzle even more herb oil over the top. Repeat the dimpling, pushing the dough to the edges of the pan as you go.
After 3 hours, you're ready to bake.
This smells SO good as it's baking. After it finishes baking, you're supposed to immediately remove it from the pan and wait at least 20 minutes to slice and eat. WRONG. There's no way I could wait that long. I think I made it 5 minutes — long enough to take a couple of shots of the baked bread.
Wow, was this good. So flavorful and soft. Now, this might not be YOUR idea of focaccia and it certainly looks different from that shown in the book. I don't know if mine rose more than it should have, but mine is about twice as thick as the image in the book. His clearly has more oil as well. I thought I made a 1/2 cup, but maybe it was less. Maybe he used more than what was listed in the printed recipe. Regardless, it was delicious.
The only changes I would make is either halving the recipe or making it in two pans in order to get a thinner bread. I would also experiment with different toppings, as the possibilities are endless! You can even make a sweet version. Check out Allen's grape and walnut version over at Eating Out Loud—gorgeous!