Post # 186 Fun with Flour

November 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

One of the first posts I made on this blog was about flour, called “Flour is Scary Stuff.”  Flour is still scary stuff, but if you practice with it, it’s gets less so.  I don’t know why, but people get very intimidated by this white powdery stuff.  Add water to it, and it can become a slurry that will remove bee stings from human flesh, a paste to attach wallpaper to walls, or a sauce to add to foods to make them taste savory or sweet.  Add less water and some leavening and you can make bread.  Add less water and no leavening and you can make bread, but it’s a flat bread, like a tortilla, a cracker, or naan.  Add a couple of eggs and some sugar and you get one of my favorite things, cake!  Yay cake!

One product that people use to show their mastery of flour is bread.  For some reason, when someone says they can make bread from scratch, people sit back in amazement, allowing themselves to be impressed by this accomplishment.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t be impressed, but baking bread is one of those easily learned tasks that grows better with repetition.  There are thousands of kinds of bread, it being one of those products universal to all cultures.  Due to my travels, I’ve tasted hundreds of different kinds of breads, baked with dozens of techniques, and ending up with a bazillion textures and flavors.

Bread making can be as easy as dumping the ingredients into a bread machine and switching it on.  I can be as complicated at mixing, kneading, refrigerating, rolling out, adding butter, folding, chilling, rolling out, folding, rolling out, chilling, rolling out, folding, rolling out, folding, chilling, rolling out, cutting, shaping, rising, baking, then cooling.  By the way, we just made French croissants.  The ingredients can be as few as four (flour, water, salt, and yeast) to as many as you can imagine to include fruit and nuts and herbs and spices.

Today, however, we’re going to learn how to make one of the easiest breads to make.  It’s also one of the most impressive to look at.  It’s an Italian bread called focaccia.  Partner/spouse and I go the rounds about pronunciation on this one.  It’s mostly commonly pronounced FO-COTCH-CHA, while I heard it pronounced FO-CA-CHEE-A when I was in Naples, Italy.  It don’t matter how you say it; it just tastes good.

Focaccia is a flat bread that can be used as a side, as a pizza base, or as a sandwich bread.  Unlike regular pizza crust, which doesn’t use leavening (making it rise), focaccia does use leavening so it makes a higher, lighter pizza crust.  My favorite way to eat it is jamming it into my face.  It’s basic form is a round, flat bread with olive oil and salt on top.  However, it can be topped with anything you like.  I’ve seen herb mixes, single herbs, olives, sun dried tomatoes, pepperoni, parmesan cheese, etc.  The process for making it is insanely easy and can be done relatively quickly, for bread.

Focaccia Bread

  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp (or one full packet) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup very warm water (not boiling or steaming as it will kill the yeast)
  • 2 cup AP flour
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In a small bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water.  Let stand until creamy, about ten minutes or so.  In a large bowl, mix flour and yeast mixture.  Add more water, one tablespoon at a time until dough pulls together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for about 90 seconds.  Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough so evenly coated.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rest in a warm place (your off oven is perfect for this) until dough had doubled in volume, about 30 minutes or so.  Take bowl out of oven, and preheat to 475.  That’s kind of high, but will form a wonderful crispy crust.  Deflate the dough by turning it into itself, then turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Gently knead for about a minute, then move to a baking sheet lightly spread with olive oil.  Pat the dough into a large round about ten inches across.  Use your fingers to poke large holes into the dough to give it its characteristic rough, pebbly surface.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Bake for ten to twenty minutes.  Ten minutes will make a softer bread; twenty minutes will make a crispy bread.

Optionally, at the last stage, you can add other toppings as discussed above, or use your imagination.

Take care and Enjoy!

focaccia

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