When Phil and I sat down to plan the menu for our recent reception, the first thing he suggested was focaccia. Why? Because it is a crowd pleaser and I can make it in my sleep. But Sally’s mind works in mysterious ways. Instead of sticking with my tried and true recipe – the focaccia I blogged about when the Bewitching Kitchen was only 5 days old – I decided to try a completely new recipe. What enticed me was its overnight rise in the fridge and with it, the promise of a sharper, more complex flavor. Big risk? Maybe. But, I am here to share with you great news: I like this version even better than “the old one”. The texture turned out perfect, and the taste was just the way I like it, with a very subtle hint of sourness, but mild enough that the focaccia paired well with all sorts of cheeses and dips. The recipe published in Fine Cooking, comes with a big name behind it, Peter Reinhart. He knows his way around bread, and this formula proves the point.
OVERNIGHT HERBED FOCACCIA
(adapted from Peter Reinhart’s recipe, through Fine Cooking)
1 lb. 9 oz. (5-1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour
2-1/2 cups cold water (about 55°F)
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar (1 oz.)
2 tsp. table salt or 3-1/2 tsp. kosher salt (1/2 oz.)
1 packet (1/4 oz.) instant yeast
10 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Dried Italian herbs (I used Pasta Sprinkle mix from Penzey’s)
Sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling
The day before baking, mix the dough and let it spend the night in the refrigerator. Combine the flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast in the large bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment, not the dough hook). Slowly mix until the ingredients form a ball around the paddle, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium low for another 3 minutes. Stop the machine to scrape the dough off the hook; let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then mix on medium low for another 3 minutes, until it’s relatively smooth.
Coat a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and rotate the dough to coat it with the oil. Hold the bowl steady with one hand. Wet the other hand in water, grasp the dough and stretch it to nearly twice its size. Lay the stretched section back over the dough. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat this stretch-and-fold technique. Do this two more times so that you have rotated the bowl a full 360 degrees and stretched and folded the dough four times. Drizzle 1 Tbs. of the olive oil over the dough and flip it over. Wrap the bowl well with plastic and refrigerate it overnight, or for at least 8 to 10 hours.
Shape the focaccia: Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator and start shaping the focaccia 2 to 3 hours before you intend to bake it. The dough will have nearly doubled in size. Cover a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat and coat the surface with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Gently slide a rubber spatula or a dough scraper under the dough and guide it out of the bowl onto the center of the pan.
Drizzle 2 Tbs. of the olive oil on top of the dough. Dimple the entire dough surface, working from the center to the edges, pressing your fingertips straight down to create hollows in the dough while gently pushing the dough down and out toward the edges of the pan. At first you might only be able to spread the dough to cover about one-half to three-quarters of the pan. Don’t force the dough when it begins to resist you. Set it aside to rest for 20 minutes. The oil will prevent a crust from forming.
After letting the dough rest, drizzle another 2 Tbs. olive oil over the dough’s surface and dimple again. This time, you will be able to push the dough to fill or almost fill the entire pan. It should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. If it doesn’t stay in the corners, don’t worry; the dough will fill the corners as it rises. Cover the dough loosely with oiled plastic wrap, put the pan on a rack to let air circulate around it, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s about 1-1/2 times its original size and swells to the rim of the pan. This will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. Thirty minutes before baking, heat your oven to 475°F.
Bake the focaccia: Just before baking, gently remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle a few pinches of salt and dried herbs of your choice over the dough. Put the pan in the middle of the hot oven and reduce the heat to 450°F. After 15 minutes, rotate the pan to ensure even baking. Set a cooling rack over a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment (to catch drippings). Use a metal spatula to release the dough from the sides of the pan. Slide the spatula under one end of the focaccia and jiggle it out of the pan onto the rack. If any oil remains in the pan, pour it evenly over the focaccia’s surface. Carefully remove the parchment or silicone liner from beneath the focaccia. Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
to print the recipe, click here
This dough was a pleasure to work with! I highly recommend this recipe if you have yeast-phobia, because it is simple, straightforward, and it will work perfectly no matter your skill level as a bread baker, I promise. If I had extra time, I would have made a rosemary-infused oil, but the dried herbs worked very well. You can use dried oregano, dried thyme, or get a mixture ready to use as I did. Fines Herbes, Herbes de Provence, they can all work well topping the focaccia.
SO, WHERE IS THE THRILL?
Did you call me, Mom?
The Saturday before our reception was one of my busiest cooking days ever. Still, when I took the focaccia out of the oven, I decided to do a quick run to the recycling center, to dump our glass waste. Buck is my buddy for these outings, the only one who likes to ride in the car with me (Oscar has the shakes whenever faced with a drive). Got there early, no one around, so I mentally patted myself on the back: “Great job, Sally, you can park right by the glass container spot, in and out in 30 seconds. You rock!” So I got off the car and left the engine running, my handbag inside with Buck. Rush out, rush back, done! Done? Not so fast. It was more like “rush out, rush back, shock and horror! The doors were locked! Buck must have jumped on the switch when I left and locked them. If you lock one side from the inside, both doors get locked. I know, perverse technology. Big, huge shiver up and down my spine. The drama unfolded as I entered the recycling office in complete panic, barely able to form complete sentences, begging to use their phone to call for help… This HUGE guy sweet as a teddy bear said “maybe I’ll be able to help you….” – and he comes out with a bunch of gadgets worthy of a professional burglar… a little inflatable black plastic bag that he pushed through the door and pumped just enough to get a little opening, then a big wire – he manipulated it like a pro to hit the control to bring the window down. Of course, Buck is going NUTS inside, in complete disapproval of that humongous human being next to his Mom and messing with the pickup truck….
My life doesn’t have that many dull moments, I tell ya! It was a wild, wild ride…. So, my advice for you: never ever EVER leave your car running with a dog inside. Lesson painfully learned, but with a happy ending. All things considered, it could have been much worse…
We are ready to party! What about you?
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