Monday, July 5, 2010

Tomato Basil Focaccia, Garlic Herb Sourdough, and Sesame Braided Challah--all in one holiday weekend

Along with several other breads made--and quickly consumed by friends--this holiday weekend, I made Bread Nut Bakery's first focaccia.  Focaccia is an Italian flat bread that is usually topped with a combination of olive oil, herbs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.  The ingredients in focaccia dough are very similar to pizza dough: yeast, flour, salt and a surprising amount of oil.

Focaccia is a fantastic bread for those just starting to make their own breads--or in my case--those who want to make bread quickly, without the daylong proofing times characteristic of sourdough breads.  If you make the focaccia thick enough to slice widthwise, it's a bread for grilled vegetable sandwiches, which is how my focaccia bread was happily consumed on Saturday.  I chose fresh tomatoes and fresh basil (from my garden) along with some minced garlic for my toppings.  Here's the recipe:

Tomato Basil Focaccia
Adapted from Local Breads by Daniel Leader

Makes 6 individual focaccia loaves

1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 medium roma tomato, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
  1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast and the water until the yeast dissolves.  Let sit for ten minutes.  After ten minutes, add the olive oil to the yeast mixture.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.  Add the yeast-oil mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until blended into a dough.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 12 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in volume.
  4. Uncover the dough and divide it into six equal parts.  Use your fingertips to shape each piece into a round, flat loaf and arrange loaves on two greased baking sheets.  Brush the loaves with olive oil and lightly press the toppings over the top of the dough.  Cover the baking sheets with palstic wrap or a toil and let rise again for 30 minutes. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Position one oven rack in the upper third of the oven and one in the middle.  Bake the focaccias until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Switch the baking after 10 minutes of baking so the breads bake evenly.  Enjoy!
Below are two more of this weekend's other breads: Sesame Braided Challah (which made amazing French toast!) and Garlic and Herb Sourdough.

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