We had a spring snow yesterday. All the weather people were saying it was going to be another doozy, like the last one, so everything was cancelled and/or closed. Well …. we did get rain, snow and wind, but it was nothing like what all the “experts” were predicting. In fact, based on the predictions, it was really a bit of a disappointment. However, it was a good day for baking. We had spaghetti for dinner, and usually I make my famous garlic cheese bread to go along with spaghetti, but because it was such a good day for baking, and I had the time, I decided to take advantage of it and made some garlic, herb and tomato focaccia instead, or as it is known in Italian, focaccia al aglio e pomodori. I warmed up the house and had a delicious homemade bread instead. It was a win/win.
I love breads of all kinds, and I love to bake breads too. But baking breads, particularly yeast breads, can be time consuming. Making and baking the bread is not the time consuming part. It is the time needed to allow the dough to rise, and often breads need two rises before baking. But because everything was cancelled for the rest of the day, I actually had time to bake some bread without being hurried. From start to finish, it took about 3 hours to make this delicious focaccia, but it was well worth every minute.
Focaccia is an Italian flatbread. It is very versatile and lends itself to many different toppings. Focaccia with Caramelized Onion Marmalade I thought a garlic, herb and tomato was a perfect choice to accompany our spaghetti dinner.
Focaccia with Garlic, Herbs and Tomatoes
1 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup flour
Whisk the yeast and the water together and let it stand for about 10 minutes, then mix in the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes. You will have a very soft, sticky “sponge”.
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
3 TBSP olive oil
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp salt
Mix the yeast and the water together, again, letting it set for about 10 minutes. Mix in the sponge and the olive oil, using a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, and work it in to the sponge mixture until all the flour has been incorporated. Dump the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface and start kneading the flour into the mixture until all the flour has been mixed in and you have a dough ball. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Once the dough forms into a ball, place it into a bowl that has been lightly oiled. I like to rub the olive oil all over the dough as well to help keep it moist. Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 1/4 hours. This is for the first rise.
After the dough has doubled in size, place it on an ungreased baking sheet and press the dough out to fit the baking sheet with your hands. If you need to, let it rest for about 10 minutes so the dough can relax, and then start again. Once you have filled the baking sheet, let the dough rise again, for another 45 minutes.
While the dough is rising for the second rise, chop the tomatoes and herbs.
2 TBSP olive oil
1 lb ripe tomatoes, medium dice
1 TBSP garlic
1 tsp each fresh basil, oregano, thyme and sage, chopped fine
Saute the garlic and tomatoes in the olive oil in a hot skillet for about 5 minutes to let the tomatoes cook down and concentrate a bit. Then let the tomato mixture cool.
Preheat the oven to 425* F.
Once the dough has risen for the second time, dimple it with your fingers and spread the tomato mixture evenly over the dough. Then sprinkle the herbs over the tomato mixture.
Bake the focaccia for about 25 minutes. Use a spray bottle to spray the inside of the oven 3 times within the first 10 minutes of baking. This helps “crisp” up the dough. Once the focaccia is lightly golden brown, remove it and let it cool before cutting. Then …… Mangia!