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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Focaccia - it seems to be all the rage among "Artisinal" breads at the supermarket lately. You can find loaves in nearly every supermarket bakery. But what is it?

Simply put, Focaccia is an Italian country style bread. Originally, it was any bread that was used to test the temperature of a brick oven (the name comes from the Italian for "fireplace"). Today it's a particular type of bread that comes from Genoa and features a dimpled surface, olive oil and herbs. It's a great bread to use for bruschetta or simply to warm and dip in a good olive oil with a meal.

This version was presented in Cook's Illustrated and features a "no-knead" approach to the bread. I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised at the result because at a few points in the process my confidence lagged that this would actually produce an edible loaf. Lo and behold, it did!

The key with this is not to be intimidated by the rather watery dough. I'm still a chicken when it comes to really messy bread dough - although I'm getting better. This dough is not the easiest to handle but with a little bit of patience and courage you can turn out a nice loaf of Focaccia!


Biga

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup warm water (100-110°F)
1/4 tsp. rapid-rise or instant yeast

Dough

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for processing
1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110°F)
1 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary leaves

To make the Biga: Combine flour, water and yeast in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until it forms a mass and no dry flour is left. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight (at least 8-24 hours). Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. If storing, allow to stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before continuing.

To make the Dough: Stir flour, water, and yeast into biga with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt over dough and stir thoroughly until incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Spray rubber spatula or bowl scraper with non-stick cooking spray. Fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Turn again and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Repeat folding and rising process 2 more times (total of 3 30-minute rises).

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and place baking stone or sheet pan on rack. Heat oven to 500° at least 30 minutes prior to baking bread.

Gently transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Dust top of dough with flour and divide in half. Shape each piece into 5-inch rounds by gently tucking under edges. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons of olive oil each. Sprinkle each pan with 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Place each round of dough in pan, top side down. Slide dough around to coat bottom and sides and flip dough right side up. Repeat with second piece of dough and pan. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let dough rest 5 minutes.

Using fingertips, stretch dough to edges of pan. If dough resists or springs back, cover and allow to rest 5-10 minutes more.) Using a fork, prick top of dough 25-30 times, popping any large bubbles that have formed. Sprinkle dough evenly with chopped rosemary. Let dough rest until slightly bubbly, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Place pans in oven on baking stone or baking sheet and reduce temperature to 450°. Bake until tops are golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Switch pan positions at halfway point for even browning. Transfer pans to wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and place on wire rack. Brush tops of loaves with an excess oil in pans and allow to cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

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