I’m so sorry to anyone who’s read this post in the past couple of days, something went wrong internally and the recipe looked like a jumbled mess! We’re back up and running properly now!
This week I’ve received results from all of you who completed the survey I posted. Thank you to all of you who took a couple of minutes out of your day to fill this out, I really appreciate the valuable feedback! In keeping on track with these results: today’s post is a couple of simple, savory recipes you can tackle yourself that won’t leave you strapped for time or overwhelmed with complicated instructions. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you already know my favorite foods are those that triple as suitable for all three meals of the day. Bread dipped in stuff is probably my most favorite of all. If you want to try bread baking at home but feel intimidated by lack of bread knowledge: focaccia is the best one to start with. This recipe is very forgiving in the dough preparation as well as the baking. A little over here, and little under there, no problem. The method is simple and there’s no need for three hours of proofing, waiting, wondering. Focaccia is Italian of course, but I recently learned that the popular flat, tree designed Fougasse of Southern France is actually a version of focaccia, rather than a different type of dough all together. As with flatbreads the world over such as pita, naan and laffa – every culture has it’s version of essentially the ‘same thing’. There are a few basic types of breads and the rest are variations of these.
1 cup good quality olive oil
3 TB sesame oil
2 TB dried chili flakes (whatever your favorite is, there are many types!)
-Place 3 or 4 TB of the olive oil into a heavy bottomed sauce pot and turn the heat to medium-high and toss in the dried chili flakes.
-Allow the chilis to heat up and begin sizzling. Once sizzling turn the heat to medium and allow to release vapors and odours for about 1 or 2 minutes, then add all the remaining oils and keep over medium heat for 4 more minutes.
-Take the pot off the heat and let the oil cool to room temperature.
-Pour into a well cleaned and dried glass jar and keep in a cool, dark place until needed.
This oil is one of my all time favorite condiments and is used in literally thousands of dishes around the world. Anything from bread dipping to scrambled egg topping, from Chinese dumplings to Vietnamese noodle bowls, it lends the perfect toasty-scented spicy kick to any of your favorite foods. The sizzling of the flakes to release those vapors and oils, and the addition of sesame are what lend the rich earthy scent and flavor, it makes quite a big difference than just simply warming some oil with chilis.
Chili, Garlic + Herb Focaccia: yields one small baking sheet, serves 4
3 slightly heaped cups bread flour (or approx. 430-450g)
1+1/2 TB sugar
3/4 TB salt
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 lrg cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 TB olive oil, or homemade chili oil if you like it hotter
14 g (or 2 pkgs) active dry yeast
325 ml water, warm but not hot (100-110F)
The weight of your flour varies slightly depending on factors such as the level of humidity at your location, but the average weight of one cup of flour is 120-125 g. For this bread you can be slightly over or slightly under and the focaccia will turn out just as delicious. What you are looking for is a dough that is quite sticky but still pulls away from the sides of the bowl a bit. If the dough looks too runny add a little flour, if it comes together in a tight ball it’s too dry, so add a little water. Part of learning about each bread type is knowing what the consistency of the dough should look like, each one is different. For example: a baguette or other crusty bread will have a tighter, drier feel to the dough, while ciabatta or even focaccia will have a looser, wetter feel.
-Place the flour, sugar, salt, chopped herbs and garlic, and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer (yes, you can do this by hand if you prefer), and mix until ingredients are evenly distributed.
-Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, stir lightly to incorporate well, and add to the bowl with the flour.
-Using the dough hook attachment (or a wooden spoon to start, and then your hands) blend the dough until it comes together nicely. This is a not a bread recipe that requires substantial kneading to develop the ‘window effect’ gluten development… it just needs to come together to a somewhat smooth, evenly mixed dough.
-The dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl a little bit and hold together in one mass, but will still be sticky to the touch. To pick up the dough, oil your hands first.
-Remove the focaccia dough from the bowl onto a very well oiled baking tray (the one you plan to bake the bread on) or onto any other large flat surface if you plan to bake on a pizza stone.
-Oil the top portion of the dough too, and allow to rest at room temperature until doubled in size. Again, variances may occur depending on the air temperature of your location, but the dough will need anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to double. Keep an eye on it every few minutes. This recipe is heavier on the yeast so it’s faster than some other bread doughs when rising. Preheat your oven to 425F at this time, so that it’s ready to go once the dough has proofed.
-Once the blob has risen take your well oiled hands and spread the dough outwards using your finger tips creating dimples while you go, so that it spreads out to the edges of the pan and has been deflated mostly but not flattened completely. If you are baking the focaccia on a pizza/baking stone (which I do recommend) you will need to transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper so that you can slide it onto the stone.
-Oil the top of the dough again with olive oil or your homemade chili oil, sprinkle with some coarse salt. Press a few sliced olives into the dimples if you wish, and allow another 12-15 minutes of rising, until the focaccia has a little of it’s volume gained back. Be careful during both stages of rising that you don’t over rise it. The yeast only has so much oomph to lend, so it’s important that you don’t forget about it and triple it in size accidentally. If this does happen: scrap the dough and start again.
-For the second proofing, just before baking, you don’t need the dough to quite double in size again, just a little puffiness added to it and then toss it in the oven. There will be an additional rise once the hot air from the oven expands the dough.
-Bake until the whole thing looks nice and golden, and then remove from the oven onto a wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes.
As with any bread dough (quick breads and yeasted breads alike) you want to be sure you leave adequate resting/cooling time outside the oven before diving into it. This cooling time allows for the crumb on the inside to set up properly so that you don’t end up with gummy weirdness. Do not be tempted to slice into a freshly baked loaf that’s just been pulled out of the oven. You won’t be glad you did.