focaccia

I love fresh baked bread.  One of my recurring dreams when I first started P90X and put myself on a very strict low-carb diet was breaking a freshly baked white baguette in half, breathing in the delectable aroma rising from the warmth inside, then tearing into the baguette like a rabid animal.  I’m not even kidding.  I missed bread so much that some days, it was the only thing I could think of. Thankfully those days of low-carbness are behind me and I can now enjoy a variety of breads.

One of my favourite breads is focaccia.  Done right, it’s simply magical.  Put a loaf in front of me with a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and I’m a happy gal. I used to be intimidated by making focaccia at home, but I tried it out a few years ago using one of my mom’s staple cookbooks – the Company’s Coming series on Breads.  What I love about the Company’s Coming series is that the recipes are classic and easy to follow.  I’ve made many different baked goods since the 90’s using these trusty cookbooks.

So when does the sudden desire to make focaccia hit me?  During the long weekend when another heat wave is supposed to hit.  I’d been avoiding my oven for most of the summer – it’s the last thing I want to turn on when it’s sweltering in my apartment.  But darnit all, I really wanted to make some bread so I decided to just suck it up and go for it.  Plus, I decided to double the recipe to make two loaves because if I was going to turn on the oven, I was going to make the most use of it.

This particular recipe is a good base and provides five different topping options.  What I did was use the base recipe and add a few touches of my own, such as adding dried herbs into the dough itself instead of using it just as a topping.  I also used a flavoured olive oil that I picked up from Oliv Tasting Room (shallot & garlic) to give the bread an extra kick.

The dough is accented with all of the lovely herbs.  It’s really quite easy to work with.  I made the two batches separately because I find kneading a large portion of dough to be difficult.

I let the dough rise for an hour and a half in the oven.  A trick I learned a while ago is to set the oven to the lowest temperature, turn it on for 30 seconds, then turn it off.  The residual heat will provide a nice, warm environment for the yeast to work its magic.

The fun part is shaping and topping the loaves.  I opted to use a baking sheet and make two separate rectangular loaves instead of the round loaves suggested in the recipe.

Thirty minutes later it’s golden brown perfection.  I let the loaves stand for about 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

What better way to highlight the focaccia than with Mark’s specialty – olive oil-poached garlic pork burgers with arugula.  Mmmmm.

Focaccia (adapted from Company’s Coming)
**original recipe can be accessed here

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 8g active dry yeast
  • 3 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried oregano

Topping

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp course ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary

Stir sugar and warm water together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle yeast over top and stir gently.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Stir to dissolve yeast.

Measure flour, salt, thyme and oregano into a large bowl.  Stir.  Make a well in centre.  Add yeast mixture to well.  Stir with spoon until mixed. Make a well once more.

Add olive oil and remaining water to well.  Stir.  Turn out onto floured surface.  Knead for 8 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, then with a damp tea towel.  Let stand in oven with door closed for 1 to 1.5 hours until double in size.  Punch dough down.  Place on greased baking sheet.  Press out into a rectangle.

Make dents with finger on surface.  Drizzle with olive oil, allowing it to pool in dents.  Mix rosemary, thyme, oregano, and pepper.  Sprinkle over top.  Let stand, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Bake in 400F (205C) oven for about 25-30 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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