someone asked me in the midst of the Atkins craze a few years back if, being the foodie that i am, i would ever consider doing a low-carb diet. my response was a loud outburst of laughter and then i answered with a heartfelt “no“. my reasons are twofold:
1) i really really don’t like to eat chemically altered food, and fake sugars top that list. i don’t trust things that emulate natural flavors. to me, sugar is sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation, not in a “substituted” form. i will choose a regular Coke over a ‘diet’ or ‘zero’ one million percent of the time (and i am not a big soda-drinker at all, so that’s where the moderation thing comes in). but things like splenda, sweet and low, and even stevia are big no-nos for me. low-carb things tend to use a lot of these fake sugars because they are free of calories– but the trade off is a truckload of chemicals.
2), i love pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread. a lot. again, i eat them in moderation and select the whole-grain options, but i just couldn’t see myself throwing them out of my diet. while we are on the topic of bread– there are few things in this world that i love more than a fresh-out-of-the-oven roll or loaf of bread. as my mother has always said, “bread is just a vehicle to get the butter to your mouth”, but i believe the opposite. the bread itself is the prize.
this brings us to the delicious recipe of the day: homemade rosemary focaccia bread. for those of you who are so unfortunate as not to have tasted this kind of bread, it is full of olive oil, topped with big flakes of sea salt, and fresh rosemary. it is the perfect bread for panini sandwiches, or to dunk in a little bit of table-olive-oil before an italian feast– or really just to eat on its very own. it has a rich flavor and a dense consistency, and almost nothing in the bread world can beat it. so i say “thhhbbbbbbtttt” to Atkins and invite you to enjoy this scrumptious recipe!
i searched far and wide for a focaccia that had the right balance of olive oil in the dough. some breads can get really soggy and (as good as olive oil is) when you can taste the actual oil instead of just taste the flavor, you know you went too far. this is adapted from Anne Burrell’s go-to recipe.
here’s what you’ll need:
-1 and 3/4 c. of warm water (warm to the touch– not boiling hot!)
-1 tablespoon of sugar
-1 package dry active yeast
-5 c. AP flour (all-purpose)
-1 c. good olive oil (1/2 c. for inside dough, 1/2 c. for top)
-1 tbsp. salt
-coarse salt (for the top)
-1 head garlic, in tact
-1 sm. bunch fresh rosemary
the first step is to proof the yeast, which should be nothing new by now (to all my trusty readers!). in a large bowl, dump the yeast, warm water, and sugar (to feed the yeast) and mix around gently with a spoon. this mixture needs time to rest (about 15 minutes) until you can start to actually smell the yeast activating.
while this proofs, you can start to get the dry ingredients together. combine your 5 cups of AP flour in a large bowl (sift it if you’d like) and add the 1 tbsp. of salt. mix well, making sure the salt is well dispersed. by the time the yeast is proofed, it should look like this! it smells to me like the beginnings of warm bread, or a yeast-y beer, and will have formed a layer of foam.
with the super awesome bread hook attachment to your hand/stand mixer, combine the flour mixture, yeast mixture, and 1/2 c. of your olive oil. if you don’t have a bread hook, a spoon and some patience will do just fine :). mix until the dough is no longer lumpy (could be about 4 or 5 minutes) and gets a smooth consistency.
if your dough is still a little sticky, you can always add a few more sprinkles of flour when you turn it out of the bowl on to a floured surface. knead the extra flour in a few times and you should be all set.
in the same bowl (wipe it out a little to get the excess flour off), coat the sides and bottom with the rest of the olive oil (about 1/3 c.). add the ball of dough back in to the oiled bowl, cover tightly, and let it rest for at least an hour. this is the first proofing. the dough will have about doubled in size when you check on it later.
after it has proofed once, dump the risen dough on to an oiled baking sheet (or something long and rectangular with sides like a jelly roll pan) and start to spread it out to the sides. this is where focaccia gets its signature “craggy” look– be rough with it when you spread it out! take your fingers and punch holes in it as you stretch it. if you don’t make actual holes, the dough will rise and smooth out. the goal is to puncture the dough. it should look like this:
now its time for the final proofing: take a tea towel and cover the pan. let it rise again in a warm place for another hour. when you check on it later, it will still be craggy but much puffier, like this:
now for the fun part– the topping. this is my favorite way to flavor the focaccia, but feel free to mix it up and add your favorite things! i reserved a few tablespoons of olive oil and drizzled it over the top of the dough. i then took an entire head of garlic (peel on) and sliced it in half across the center (like cutting a roll for a sandwich) and with the cloves exposed, rubbed them directly on to the focaccia dough. this adds a very mellow garlic note. next, take a sprig of fresh rosemary and chop it in to rough and pretty pieces. sprinkle this all over the top of the dough, pushing it in slightly. the last touch is a sprinkle of fresh sea salt. yummmmmm.
toss the dough in to a 425 degree oven for around 20 to 30 minutes, rotating every 10. the oiled baking pan almost fries the dough on the bottom and the screaming-hot oven crisps the olive oil on the top making it golden brown and delicious!
after it has cooled completely (if you can wait that long after being teased by the heavenly aroma for half an hour), either use the loaf immediately for sandwiches or anything else your heart desires, or seal it up very tightly in a ziplock bag for later use. the bread also freezes beautifully (i’d suggest cutting it in to sandwich size pieces first so you can just pull it out when you need it!) but will stay fresh for up to four days in the fridge.
now for my decadent masterpiece:
see? wasn’t that easy as pie? now i bet you will never go buy focaccia bread at a bakery again. plus, your kitchen will smell wonderful each and every time you make it yourself :)
stay tuned for my next post where i will showcase this beautiful bread as the base for a prosciutto pizza and a caprese panini.
firstly, let me apologize for my near month hiatus. there is really no excuse, so i will fabricate one. i got in a fight with this huge dragon and just now got out of the hospital. yep, that’ll do.
while the dough chills, get your “inside” cookies ready! we used the Oreos and Grasshoppers. but if you would like a different kind, go for it. you could even put in those fun sized candy bars.
so i hope you enjoy these as much as our arteries did :)