Thursday, June 5, 2008

garlicky olive focaccia

Disclaimer: I hate making bread. Yeast is always moody, rising always takes awhile, and kneading for 10 minutes just makes you get premature carpal tunnel. Yet here I am making focaccia...who would think?! However, today's crazily muggy weather must've helped out with the rising part, because I ended up with a beautiful loaf of crispy focaccia!

So there are a limited number of spices in my cupboard. In fact, I have a grand total of two spices. Being half Italian, naturally, these are basil and oregano. The recipe I used as a base called for fresh rosemary, so I just used 1 tsp. of dried basil instead. I also mixed in 2 generous tsps. of minced garlic to make the focaccia even more Italian-inspired. Whoa...did this all smell good or what. :)

So all of this gets happily mixed together and kneaded until super soft. Then you tuck it away in a well-oiled bowl, place it in a warm area while covered with a towel (muggy weather + top of hot oven = great rising conditions!), and say "goodnight" as your dough takes a half hour nap.

Nap time is a great time to make the focaccia topping. The following gets mixed up: thinly sliced sundried tomatoes, chopped olives, olive oil, salt, pepper, and, guess what? MORE garlic! When the dough is done rising, punch it down (get all your anger out!), and mold it into the shape you'd like. The delicious topping you just created is what goes on top of the molded dough...

Ohhh, looks good, huh? A humble baking sheet works just fine for cooking, though using a pizza stone would make the bottom crust extra crunchy. The dough can be molded as thin or thick as desired...but remember that a thick loaf will need to cook longer. You don't want to end up with doughy bread! :( Also, this recipe could easily be altered if you have different ingredients in your kitchen. Green olives and capers might be some delicious mix-ins, and pine nuts and carmelized onions would also taste amazing on top!

TA DA! Yum yum yum! While this focaccia is awesome eaten straight-up, I plan to make sandwiches out of it. My mom likes to make focaccia a lot, and she creates these crazy delicious sandwiches from them. All she does is slice the entire loaf in half, fills the insides with the goods (we like turkey lunchmeat, spinach, and swiss cheese), and heats it up in the oven until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is warm. And've got a great dinner sandwich that is even more delicious when dipped in soup! AND it's cheap, for all of you poor college students out there. ;)

Garlicky Olive Focaccia
Adapted from "Black Olive and Rosemary Focaccia"

For dough:
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
1 tsp. white sugar
1 (.25 oz.) envelope rapid rise yeast
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
2 3/4 cups bread flour (all-purpose works fine, too)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped

For topping:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/8 cup black olives, chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil.

Prepare dough: stir together the water, sugar, and yeast until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsps. olive oil, 1 tsp. basil, 2 tsps. garlic, flour, and salt until dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. gently knead in the black olives during the last few minutes of kneading. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Deflate dough, and press onto prepared baking sheet. Prepare topping: toss olives, sundried tomatoes, and garlic with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Season with basil, and add salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange topping mixture over the dough, lightly pressing tomatoes and olives into dough.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

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