Thursday, December 11, 2008

Parmesan Focaccia

In my Italian feather bread post, I mentioned I bought two books when learning of my love of bread baking. One is obviously Beard on Bread, as I mentioned. The other was Flavored Breads: Recipes from Mark Miller’s Coyote CafĂ©. It contains a plethora of yummy, flavored breads, including a few focaccias.

One of the first things I wanted to do when expanding my bread making repertoire was to learn how to make pizza dough. Homemade pizza really is the best and though the pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s is awesome, it’s a big sticky and hard to get out of the bag. And since I’m making almost all my own bread anyway, why not? I tried the Asiago Focaccia recipe this summer, replacing the asiago with sharp white cheddar. It was, to say the least, amazing. This time I decided to try it again, but make it more like pizza dough. My first loaf was gigantic and could only be bread.

This time came with a bit more trouble. My plan was to have the dough made and ready to go on Tuesday, when my husband and I invited our friend Mike over because his wife Carrina was out of town and I wanted to save him from a night of eating hot dogs. I figured since I had made pesto, homemade pesto pizza would be the natural thing to do. Unfortunately for me, the dough was not cooperating. After an hour, it still hadn’t doubled in bulk. So I just left it, hoping it would rise eventually and made pesto lasagna instead (which was really awesome, by the way, but used a bunch of non homemade things and was so last-second-thrown-together, so I left it out of the blog).

So I was waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally, it had doubled in bulk. I punched it down for its second rising and what do you know? 30 minutes wasn’t enough time. So I left it for a few hours and then stuck it in the fridge. Last night we ate leftover lasagna and the dough just sat. Finally, today I decided I would check it out. And it worked! Somehow it all worked out in the end and it was beautiful and tasty. I figured I’d share this story because not everything in the kitchen is going to turn out perfect or go exactly the way the book says it will, but it can still work out in the end. Cooking and baking are adventures. That’s why I love it so much.

I replaced the asiago, a semi hard Italian cheese, with parmesan. You often see them blended together because they’re natural partners. I just happened to have an awesome block of parmesan in the fridge (thanks again Trader Joe’s!) and went with it. The recipe calls the chopped garlic to go on top of the focaccia, but I blended it in as it was destined for pizza and not just as bread on its own. Normally I do like to finish off my breads my hand, but because of all the additions to the dough, this one was done entirely in my mixer.

Parmesan Focaccia modified from Asiago Focaccia from Flavored Breads:

Makes one super gigantic loaf or two smaller ones.

1¾ c. lukewarm water
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. active dry yeast
3¾ c. bread flour (I replaced ½ c. with whole wheat for a nuttier flavor)
2 tsp. salt
2 c. grated Asiago (or Parmesan or Romano) cheese
10 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (do I even need to say I used at least 12?)

Combine the water and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer or a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture, stir in, and let sit for 2 minutes.

Add the bread flour. Mix with the dough hook (or knead by hand) for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is silky and elastic. Add the salt and continue mixing or kneading for 1 minute. Add 1½ cups of the Asiago cheese and mix for 1½ to 2 minutes longer, or until evenly distributed. I added all the cheese here because of its pizza status. I also then mixed in the chopped garlic and mixed for another 1½ to 2 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (or clean, dry and oil the mixer bowl) and cover in plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until approximately doubled in volume. Punch down the dough and let rise for 30 minutes longer.

Turn over a baking sheet and sprinkle with corn meal. I used two since I made two rounds instead of one. Place a baking stone on the middle rack in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. I don’t have a baking stone, so I just warmed up my baking sheet for a couple of minutes in the hot oven before transferring the dough onto it to bake.

Place the dough on a well-floured work surface. Gently pull and stretch the dough evenly into a 14 x 10-inch rectangle or a 12-inch circle. I divided the dough into two and made two circles about 10”. I wanted it to be thinner than regular focaccia. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and the chopped garlic (if you haven’t already mixed them in). Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 15 minutes.

Using a spray bottle, spritz the oven walls with water. Work quickly so the oven does not lose heat. Using a finger tip, create dimples in the top of the dough. Slide the dough into the hot stone (or warm baking sheet). Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the focaccia turns golden brown. If doing the two, 12 minutes should be enough if baking one at a time. Transfer the focaccia to a rack to cool.

I snagged a bit and it was delicious, so pizza time it was. For the pizza we used:

4 Tb. pesto
¼ ricotta cheese
1½ c. mozzarella cheese
½ c. cheddar cheese
¼ yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 fully cooked TJ mango sausage, sliced

Spread the pesto over the dough. Dot with ricotta and cover with the other cheeses. You just need enough cheese to cover the top entirely. Use as much or as little as you like. I love cheese, so there’s lots of cheese. Sprinkle with the onion and sausage. Bake for 5 minutes and then stick under the broiler for about 2 minutes.

It was so delicious. I wanted to eat all of it at once, but didn’t. The dough worked perfectly with the pesto and the whole thing was a garlic delight.

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