My friend Astrid gave me a bread baking class for my birthday – I couldn’t have gotten a better birthday present! I am trying to master the art of bread baking now for a good 6 months or so and still haven’t found the perfect recipe for a Sourdough Bread. I am pretty close to the perfect loaf – but with all the influencing factors like weather, oven steam, yeast etc. its almost impossible for the home baker to turn out the “perfect loaf”. They all do taste great though, so far I must have eaten approximately 20 of my own loafs – much to the dismays of my husband who would rather have me bake chocolate chip cookies, but still they don’t turn out picture perfect!
I have found a complete new admiration for Artisan bakers. Even in the bread baking class the Sourdough rolls didn’t turn out very well. But what did come out great was the Focaccia Bread. I liked it so much that I had to bake it myself at home and it turned out great. Since you will end up with much more Focaccia than you can eat in one sitting with your pasta, I turned the rest of it into an Italian Mozzarella/Tomato/Basil Sandwich topped with this unbelievable house made garlic spread. Its pretty much a pesto but with way more garlic and a combo of basil and parsley.
You can keep the Focaccia well wrapped up in the fridge for 1 or 2 days but then it gets dry which will work well for making breadcrumbs for topping home made Mac and Cheese or you can also make Croutons out of the Focaccia. The below recipe is for a Rosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread; I divided the dough and also made one with Garlic and Sun dried Tomatoes which was really really good. The tomatoes though burned a little bit, maybe fresh tomatoes would be better or you watch the tomatoes and when they start to get dark cover the focaccia with foil. The recipe said to bake the bread at 450F, maybe a little bit lower would be better for the Tomato Focaccia.
- 3 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons instant dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 pounds, 8 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon salt
Garlic Basil Spread:
- 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic (I think a little bit less would also be ok)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (you could also go with 1/4 cup parsley leaves, 1/4 cup basil leaves and 1/2 a cup fresh small arugula)
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan (or tasty grated cheese you like, I used a 4 cheese blend)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture is foamy. If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start again with a new batch of yeast, if possible from a different glass/pouch since yours might have gone bad if it doesn’t foam.
- Add the sugar, 2 pounds of flour, and salt and mix by hand or a stand mixer for approximately 5 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic. Add remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Form the dough into a ball, transfer to an oiled large mixing bowl and turn it to coat the dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. The dough may be made up to this point, punched own and kept covered and chilled overnight. Allow the dough to return to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe
- Preheat oven to 450F and place a rack in the center. Press the dough evenly into a well-oiled rimmed baking sheet and let it rise in a warm place, covered loosely for 1 hour or until almost doubled in bulk. Combine 1/3 cup oil, garlic and rosemary leaves in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
- Using your fingertips, dimple the dough evenly across the surface to make 1/4inch deep indentations Using a pastry brush, coat the focaccia with the her oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the to is golden brown. Allow the focaccia to cook in the pan on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature, or split for sandwiches if desired.
Garlic Basil Spread:
- To make the Garlic Basil spread, combine the garlic, parsley, basil, pine nuts olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and pulse to form a paste.
- The spread can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.