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Italian Herb Focaccia

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Italian Herb Focaccia

I haven’t made focaccia for a very long time. This delicious flat bread can be baked in a shallow pan, which will yield a little more height, more interior crumb for dipping in EVOO. It can also be baked free form, directly on baking stone– it may not be as tall as ones baked in a pan, but more crusty for sure. Well, how to have the best of both worlds?

The magic is baking in a pan, AND in a high temperature oven (425°F–450°F, preheated at least 20 minutes), use baking stone (for even heat distributing) and water sprays (to create a baking environment similar to brick oven, producing crunchy crust). My focaccia this time turned out awesome. I think it was the best focaccia I’ve ever had (including store bought and restaurants)~ crusty with every bite, yet the interior crumb is very soft and fluffy for dipping in extra virgin olive oil, not to mention the wonderful aroma from the herbs.

I used Zojirushi bread maker to knead the dough as my KitchenAid stand mixer was dying on me. This is a relatively easy recipe because the ingredients are simple and the machine does all the hard work. It’s so easy that I think I will have my kids made the bread next time.

Italian Herb Focaccia Recipe (makes 1 large 9″ x 13″ loaf)

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups bread flour
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp salt
3 tsp dried Italian seasoning mix

Method (using Zojirushi bread maker for dough kneading):

  1. Add water and olive oil at the bottom of breadmaker loaf pan. Then add bread flour, covering the liquid. Make a indentation in the center and add yeast to the ndentation. Put salt and Italian seasoning mix at different corner. Select “DOUGH” course and press “START”.
  2. When the course finishes all cycles, remove dough to a greased large bowl. Cover bowl and rest in a warm place until the dough doubles in size. Meanwhile grease a 9″x13″ shallow pan with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough and stretch out slightly. Transfer to greased baking pan, stretch out the dough with fingers to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap, rest in a warm place until the dough doubles the height.
  4. Preheat oven to 425°F (at least 20 minutes) with baking stone positioned on upper 1/3 rack. Fill a spray bottle with some water.
  5. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil on top of the bread, then make dimples, 2 inches apart, with your finger. Sprinkle some ground black pepper and kosher salt on top.
  6. Quickly spray water to oven walls, about 2-3 spray per side. Do it quick before the oven loses its heat. Place baking pan and dough on baking stone. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the top is golden and crusty. Remove focaccia from the pan and cool on a rack.

Regina’s Note:

  • Dough rise: after Zojirushi finishes its dough course (including rise cycles), I took the dough out and rest dough in a bowl until it doubles in size. 2nd rest in greased baking pan is double in height– it takes a longer time but I think it makes very soft fluffy interior crumb.
  • Leftover focaccia can be frozen. Just wrap up tightly and placed inside an air-tight ziplock bag. When ready to serve, thaw in fridge slowly then fresh it up in the oven.
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I got a pizza stone last Christmas but didn’t really use it until I tried out this recipe. Instead of baking the bread in a pan, I baked it on the stone. The purpose of pizza stone (some called baking stone) is to create an oven temperature that is similar to a brick oven, which distributes heat evenly and thus producing better crusty breads. I just love the rustic look of the focaccia.

Sundried Tomato & Cheese Focaccia

Sun-dried Tomato & Cheese Focaccia

This is a good bread to serve with pasta, dip with extra virgin olive oil, or as panini sandwiches. The orange color is from sun-dried tomatoes. The asiago cheese smells wonderful but I think it’s a little too much (although I love asiago cheese:)) and covering other flavors. Also on the next attempt, I should add a little crushed red pepper to spice it up and some herbs (thymes, rosemary etc), or pizza seasoning, to compliment the flavor.

Sundried Tomato & Cheese Focaccia

Sun-dried Tomato & Cheese Focaccia

Sun-dried Tomato & Cheese Focaccia Recipe

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup grated asiago cheese + extra for sprinkles–> for next attempt: 1/2 cup for the dough, 1/2 cup for sprinkles
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes– chopped
5 cloves garlic– finely chopped
2 tsp yeast
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 tbsp for brushing
1 3/4 cup water

for next attempt try adding:
1 tsp crushed red peppers
1 tbsp chopped herbs/pizza seasoning

Method:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients (including cheese, tomatoes and garlic) in a stand mixing bowl. With the dough hook attached, turn mixer on low and slowly add water to form a dough.
  2. Slowly drizzle in 3 tbsp olive oil and continue kneading until the dough is elastic and pass the “membrane” stage.
  3. Transfer dough to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it prove until double in size. I prove the dough in the fridge overnight.
  4. Punch down the dough and let rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet or flexible cutting board. Place baking stone on the middle rack in the oven and preheat to 450°F.
  5. Transfer dough to a well-floured work surface. Gently pull and stretch the dough evenly into 10×14-inch rectangle. Brush the top with 1 tbsp olive oil and top with some extra asiago cheese.
  6. Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet/flexible cutting board which has cornmeal at the bottom. Cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Spray the oven walls with water. Work quickly so the oven doesn’t lose heat.
  8. Use finger tip to create dimples on the top of the dough.
  9. Carefully slide the dough onto the hot stone. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bread turns golden brown. Cool focaccia on a rack. This bread can be frozen– just wrap with foil/plastic wrap then store in air tight Ziploc bag.

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I love freshly baked focaccia– It is so good when you dip this Italian bread with some REALLY good quality extra virgin olive oil… Since this type of bread doesn’t require any starter (something required for making rustic bread and that I am hesitated to do) so I decided to give it a  try.

The result is very good considering my first trial. The golden crust is very crunchy as a result of spraying water 3 times during baking process. The aroma of rosemary is nice but not too over powering. The bread is soft overall except towards the edge where it got a bit dry. It took me quite some time to remove the bread as it stuck to the baking pan… next time I should just pour more olive oil to grease the pan instead of  using tablespoon. I would like to add some garlic too next time. I know I will make this bread again. The other note: This bread can be frozen and it tastes good too after heating up in the oven.

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Rosemary Focaccia Bread - ready to bake

Rosemary Focaccia Bread - ready to bake

Rosemary Focaccia Bread Recipe from The Waitakere Redneck’s Kitchen.


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