For the month of April, Rachael of Pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise (from The Daring Bakers) took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch. I’ve always loved the focaccia at Macaroni Grill restaurant and this one was very close to theirs.
This was my first attempt at focaccia and I think it went well. The dough came together nicely and didn’t end up splattered on the wall when I mixed it, so I considered that a success. Here’s the risen dough – you can see the nice specks of dried herbs scattered throughout:
I went fairly strictly by the instructions, although instead of kneading it by hand, I used the Kitchen Aid. It works well that way and I can do other things while it mixes. I found I had to add several tablespoons of extra flour while it was mixing, as it was very sticky and wasn’t coming together into a nice dough ball. After rising, the dough was beautiful and patted out nicely onto the parchment paper.
The instructions said to bake at 450 for around 15 minutes and then put under the broiler until it becomes golden brown. I found that even at 12 minutes, it baked and browned entirely too quickly and didn’t need the broiler. Maybe it’s my new oven, but next time I’ll turn down the temp to 400 and keep my eye on it. The edges were too dark for our tastes, but as soon as they were cut away, it left a beautiful and very tasty focaccia bread.
Bret made a pot of his famous spaghetti sauce and we enjoyed the bread along with it. I had it the next day with some leftovers and it was still delicious. I think next time I will add more and different toppings – some of The Daring Bakers’ variations included potatoes, thinly sliced tomatoes, grilled onions and different kinds of cheeses. I will definitely make this again and experiment with baking temperatures and toppings!
***We really enjoyed this and it was a fun baking experience! Makes a huge slab of focaccia. I changed the recipe just a bit for our tastes.
1 1/4 C. milk, slightly warm to the touch
1 tbsp. (one packet) active dry yeast
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. grated parmigiano reggiano
Pitted, slice black olives
Rosemary, if desired
In a bowl, mix the milk, yeast and sugar – set aside.
In a mixer bowl, stir together the flour, salt, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, 1 tbsp. of the parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix in the vegetable oil, then add the milk-yeast mixture. Put dough paddle on mixer and turn on medium for 7-8 minutes, checking to make sure the dough is smooth and elastic. Add a tablespoon or so of flour if the mixture is too sticky to form a dough ball (although it’s supposed to be a little sticky). (If you prefer, knead by hand on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes).
Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl, turning to coat it with oil. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
Center your oven rack and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Punch dough down and placed on a greased baking sheet or parchment paper. Pat into a 1/2″ thick rectangle or any shape you desire. To give the dough the dimples effect, use your fingertips, pushing gently all over the surface of the dough.
Brush top of dough liberally with olive oil, put the toppings on, and sprinkle generously with sea salt and the remaining parmesan. Allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the sides begin to brown. If you wish, before it’s completely browned you can place under the broiler until the top becomes golden brown. Serve warm.
Tips and Stuff
If you use toppings, such as potatoes or tomatoes, be sure and dry them very well after slicing so they don’t make the dough wetter.
Watch the bread carefully after about 10 minutes of baking. It will brown quickly.
Best served fresh and warm. If you don’t use immediately, I recommend letting it cool, then freeze it until you need it.