It is usually easier for me to bake bread from scratch than to buy it.
I am often ridiculed when I say that. But with this statement, I obviously do not mean that handing a cashier a loaf of bread and a credit card is really difficult, and kneading bread and waiting for it rise and bake take less time than swiping a credit card.
What I do mean is more nuanced. I don’t like to keep bread in my home, because I will eat it. I will eat it so fast. My dog stealing any carbs I leave on the counter (once, pushing two stove burners from “off” to medium heat, in his trail) is evidence of what a treat it is to have bread around here. And when I do eat bread, I prefer for it to be really good. I am busy (see, e.g. ages since last blog post), and I sometimes don’t eat at home for several days in a row, and aligning fresh, delicious bread with when I will be home to eat it, can be tricky. Throw into the mix that my carb-stealing dog also has been somewhat of a jerk when I go out to run errands, and is a sweetheart puddle of napping pupper when I’m in the kitchen….
It’s just easier to make sure I always have an unexpired package of yeast and a lot of flour in the pantry. It doesn’t immediately turn into bread, but it’s just a few steps until the kitchen smells like YES.
So for the last Cooking Club I hosted at my apartment (Hostess: me; Theme: Tastes of DC; Date: 07.30.17), I meant all day to run out to get a fresh baguette for my dish, which was a sauce, or a dip (depending on how thick you make it). But there was never a good time, and I found myself with two hours to go before CC kick-off, with nothing to showcase Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce.
So, I turned to The Internets to find an easy bread, that would be delicious, but that wouldn’t need a ton of work or rise time. I somehow got my heart set on focaccia, but most recipes (including my own) called for two long rise times. I was completely shocked that I ended up using a recipe from The Goop. It was my first visit to that site, and may be my last, but thank you for the focaccia recipe, Gwyneth. Here it is with my pepperoni sauce (/spread):
This focaccia, like all focaccias, and frankly 99% of breads in my opinion, is a great vehicle for red sauce. Here it is with some of the reserved sauce from my Healthier Chicken Parmesan.
One tip on this recipe. The dough may be more like a batter than a traditional bread dough when you transfer it to the pan. That’s not a problem! Check out this fancy action shot of that transfer in my kitchen. I have owned my cast iron skillet for less than a year, and always forget I have it. It was perfect for this recipe.
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- .5 t sugar
- 1.5 c warm water (100-110 degrees)
- 3 c flour
- 1.5 t kosher salt
- extra virgin olive oil (make sure you have at least .25 c available)
- sea salt (for topping)
- In a liquid measuring cup (like a Pyrex), combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water (measure the temperature of the water before adding it to the Pyrex).
- Let the mixture "proof" (= get bubbly and fragrant) for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl (if you plan to use a stand mixer, you don't need it yet for this step), mix together the flour and kosher salt.
- Add the yeast mixture, and mix with a spatula to combine.
- Mix the dough until it comes together, for a minute or two.
- Take another large bowl (a stand mixer bowl, if you will be using one), and pour olive oil quickly and evenly around the rim, so it drips to the middle and coats the inside of the bowl. This is easiest when your olive oil has a pour spout on it. If you think this step may be difficult to measure and you can see yourself accidentally pouring in the whole bottle, pour some olive oil in a small bowl and heavily paint the bowl with the oil, using a pastry brush.
- Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl, and knead the dough a bit so it incorporates the oil, using your hands or a stand mixer. Don't force all of the oil to incorporate; you may have some oil left in the bowl when this step is over.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it somewhere warm. Let the dough rise for an hour. It's ok if there is extra oil pooling on the dough or in the bowl.
- Coat a large cast iron skillet with olive oil (if you have extra oil that has pooled in the dough bowl, you can use that), and transfer the prepared dough to the skillet. Spread out the dough evenly in the pan, drizzle very lightly with more oil, and let it rise for 30 more minutes.
- When it's time to bake the focaccia, heat the oven to 425.
- Use your fingers to make indentations on top of the dough, and then sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden.
- When it's done baking, you loosen the edges with a plastic knife, you should be able to pop the focaccia out in one piece. Place it on a large cutting board, and set out a serrated knife, a cloth napkin to hold the bread while cutting, and dipping sauces. Enjoy your freshly-made focaccia!
Adapted from: http://goop.com/recipes/focaccia/